Head Gestures and Body Language

Oliver Jay

Head gestures reveal the way we see things and how we feel about them. As the sensory center of our body, the head turns towards the things we like, and away from the things we want to avoid. In these series about head gestures we’re going to explore body language signs that will help you understand the mood of others and their relative status by the way they hold their head.

Rules of the Thumb (Err… Head)

Understanding the body language of the head can be easy if you keep in mind these guidelines:

1. Our necks are vulnerable and important parts of our bodies; they hold our heads and supply them with vital bloodstreams through the carotid arteries. That’s the reason why we instinctively guard our necks when we feel vulnerable (physically or emotionally), or show them with pride when we feel secure, or when trying to impress.

2. In general, the higher the position of the head the higher the emotional condition of the person – I.e. Feeling better and stronger.

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3. Pointing with the head is similar to pointing with our finger, where you’re headed, literally, that’s where generally you want to be.

Head Gestures Part-2

With these notes in mind let’s explore some common head gestures. I’ll start from the top – ‘head in the clouds’ position, to the bottom – ‘I think I can touch my chest with my chin’ posture. Later on we will explore some specific non verbal cues of the head.

Keeping the head this high indicates a state of complete relaxation and perhaps even euphoria. Daydreaming, stargazing, ecstasy… You name it.


This posture often accompanied with the hands clasped behind the neck, supporting it as a pillow. You can sometimes see this kind of posture on business and office related photos: A man sitting with his hands clasping his neck and his legs lie on the table, relaxing without a care in the world…
Hardly the image I got from people working in the office… but I’m not here to judge…

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You can sometimes see someone throwing his head backwards and look to the sky – a signal of frustration, and perhaps a look for solution from above

Looking Down One’s Nose

The head is tilted back, the chin moves forward. This gesture often associated with aristocracy and arrogant characters. Signs: Head – raised and tilted back or to the side. Jaw – thrust forward. Eyes – Looking down the nose. It can be accompanied with a raised brow to create doubtful look or to ridicule. Hands – Can clasp the neck and spread to the sides in an easy manner.


You know the look… a very snobbish and cocky head gesture that shouts “you are inferior, bow down to me!” Well, maybe I exaggerate a bit, but you get the general idea…

It’s an annoying and dismissive posture. It displays superiority towards the people around, with maybe a little disdain or displeasure. This head gesture can be enhanced further with the hands clasped behind the neck and spread to the sides – to create a know-it-all gesture.

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Like many other gestures, in flirting it’s done more in playful and attractive manner, playing the hard to get. So how can you make the difference between true or fake attraction? Simply look at other signals you know and the context they appear in… remember that sometimes no really means no…The neck is one of the female’s attractive features. Exposing a long smooth neck with a dimple is a display to attract attention and show vulnerability, touching the neck can enhance this gesture even further.

This gesture can also be seen covering up insecurity, or hiding hurt feelings. It’s like saying nonverbally – “You didn’t hurt me at all, I still feel strong”.

Don’t confuse this gesture with the quick beckoning of the head, a gesture of greetings, just like Joey from “Friends” doing his “how’re you doing?”

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