Body Language Arms Folded (What Does Crossed Arms Mean?)

Body Language Arms Folded (What Does Crossed Arms Mean?)

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There are many reasons someone might fold their arms. I’m betting you’ve seen this somewhere and want to uncover the true meaning if that’s the case you’ve come to the right place.

The way people fold their arms can mean different things for such as self-hugging, protection, self-restraint, dislike, massaging, and keeping warm. The arms crossed or folded maybe a non-verbal cue that’s associated with negative emotions like anger or tension, while other times it may not mean anything at all it will depend on the context.

Why is context important to understanding body language? We will take a look into that some more below.

How Do You Read Arms?

Arms Folded Tightly

When you “read” someone’s arms from a body language perspective, you are looking at how they might be using gestures to communicate. For example, if someone has their arms crossed in front of them, it might be a sign that they are closed off or feeling defensive. On the other hand, if someone has their arms open and welcoming, it might be a sign that they are open and approachable.

Of course, it’s important to read the whole body language context – someone might have their arms crossed but also have a big smile on their face, which changes the meaning completely. Someone might have a “poker face” but their body language might be very animated and expressive. So, you can’t always read too much into one gesture – you have to look at the whole picture.

What Is Context In Body Language?

Context helps define the nonverbal cues you are analyzing. For example, if you see a person crossing their arms during an argument, this behavior may be seen as defensive or self-restraint. In other contexts (e.g. when the person is sitting down outside in the wind folding the arms could be to keep them warm.

All you really need to remember when it comes to understanding context is where the person is, what they are doing, and who they are with. This will give you factual data points that you can work with to try and figure out why a person would fold their arms. Next up, we will take a look at seven different reasons why a person might fold their arms.

6 Reasons A person Would Fold Their Arms.

Arms Folded Across Chest

The below are all context-dependent and no one gesture can mean anything definitively in body language – for a more in-depth understanding of body language and how to read non-verbal cues, I suggest you check out How To Read Body Language & Nonverbal Cues (The Correct Way).

  1. The person is closed off and not interested in what you have to say.
  2.  The person is unsure and may need more convincing.
  3.  The person is comfortable and confident.
  4.  The person is nervous and trying to make themselves small.
  5.  The person is angry and trying to intimidate you.
  6. The person is cold.

The person is closed off and not interested in what you have to say.

The thing to think about here is what is going on in the conversation. Are they in an argument or heated discussions? When we become closed off or fighting on the back foot, we will automatically cross our arms as a defensive gesture. This helps cover our vital organs and shows that we are standing firm.

The person is unsure and may need more convincing.

If you see a person fold their arm and you are in a negotiation, think back to what has just been discussed. Was there a price mentioned or some other detail? They may need more convincing or going over what has just been said.

The person is comfortable and confident.

Folded arms could simply mean a person is comfortable and confident. If they are in a bar with friends, it could simply be a way they display a relaxed mood.

The person is nervous and trying to make themselves small.

Sometimes when we are nervous, we will display this with our body language and try to make ourselves look small and unintimidating. This is a natural defense mechanism that is built into us. The thing to think about when looking at this person is what is going on in their life to make them want to cross their arms and look small.

The person is angry and trying to intimidate you.

Think back to when you were a kid: when were your parents or guardians angry with you, did they cross their arms? It’s the same in a work or school environment when someone is angry and wants to intimidate you, they may cross their arms and stare at you.

The person is cold.

When we are cold, we will automatically cross our arms to keep vital organs warm. If you are outside or in a room, check the temperature of the room – if not, are they displaying any other signs of being cold?

There are some other interpretations to folded arms we will take a look at them below.

Arms Folded Non-Verbal Cues.

Arms Folded Tightly.

Arms tightly crossed: This gesture typically shows that the person is not open to new ideas or change. They may be feeling defensive and we might see them use it if they’re being judged for something. It’s also often used as a defensive position when one feels their personal space is being invaded

When we think about body language, a good rule of thumb is that anything that is seen as compressing is negative, and anything that is seen as expanding is positive.

Arms Folded Across Chest.

The way your arms are positioned can often reveal how you’re feeling in a conversation. If you fold your arms across your chest, it might show that you feel intimidated or uncomfortable with the other person. This type of body language can also occur during stressful conversations or when someone is feeling defensive or guarded.

Arms folded across the chest are seen as self-protection.

Arms Folded Behind The Back

Arms Folded Behind The Back.

Someone with their arms folded behind them, especially behind their back, might be displaying a regal stance. However, they might just be relaxed. Arms folded or held behind the back can also give off the cue to leave them alone or give them space.

Folded arms and hands behind the back are both gestures that can say a person wants to be left alone.

Arms folded in front.

Arms folded in front of the body signal resistance to what is being said. It can also indicate an act of self-restraint.

When someone feels threatened, they might cross their arms in front of them to signal to others that they are angry. If you see someone with their arms folded and an angry face, this is usually a sign of self-restraint.

Frequently asked questions

What does it mean when their arms are crossed?

When someone’s arms are crossed, it generally means that they feel insecure or defensive about something. It’s a grip that people often take when they’re feeling stressed, and it’s considered to be a negative sign of body language. People usually cross their arms when they’re feeling closed off or unapproachable, so it’s often seen as a sign of defensiveness.

How body language can lead to miscommunication.

Body language can be a form of nonverbal communication. Examples of body language include facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, and postures. Arm crossing is one example of body language that can lead to miscommunication. When someone crosses their arms, they may be perceived as being closed off or uninterested in the conversation.

Is folded arms nonverbal communication?

Yes, folded arms is nonverbal communication.

What does it mean when you cross your arms while talking?

Crossing your arms while talking can mean a few different things. For example, you might do it if you’re feeling cold or uncomfortable. Or, you might do it as a way to protect yourself – like when you’re feeling defensive or closed off. Sometimes, crossing your arms can also be a way to show that you’re not interested in what the other person is saying. Whatever the reason, it’s usually best to avoid crossing your arms while talking, as it can come across as rude or unapproachable.

Is folding your arms rude?

No, folding your arms is not rude. It is actually a very common body language gesture that can convey a number of different messages, depending on the situation. For example, someone might fold their arms to indicate that they are closed off to what the other person is saying, or to show that they are feeling defensive. In other cases, folding one’s arms might simply be a comfortable position to take while standing or sitting. So, no – folding your arms is not rude in and of itself.

Is crossing your arms disrespectful?

Crossing your arms can be seen as a sign of disrespect, especially when done in front of someone who is in a position of authority. It can be interpreted as a way of shutting yourself off from the other person, or as a way of signalling that you are not interested in what they have to say. In some cultures, crossing your arms is considered to be rude and it is best to avoid doing it if you do not want to cause offence.

Can folded arms lead to good outcomes?

Yes, crossed arms can lead to successful results because it allows you to quickly see how they are feeling internally. You also can adjust them emotionally or physically and change their status if desired. There are other times when folded arms lead to good outcomes for example when children will sometimes fold their arms in class to show good behavior towards a teacher.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to folded arms and body language, can be a powerful tools for understanding and decoding the thoughts and feelings of others.

It is also a powerful tool for understanding and decoding your own thoughts and feelings. We always have to keep in mind that no one language is conclusive of anything.

We have to read in clusters and shifts in order to get a good interpretation of what is going on. Whatever the case we can learn a lot from the arms. I hope you have learned a little more about body language and the arms – until next time, thank you for reading and stay safe.

Phil Taylor
Phil Taylor Body Language Expert