Step away from the coffee mug. Put the briefcase down. Leave the cufflinks alone, and for goodness sake, there’s no need to put your hands there. I am of course talking about the body language and tendency of many to block themselves off from the world, often subconsciously, by creating body barriers in front of them. You know what I mean – we’ve all done it. At parties almost everyone walks around with a glass or a bottle, even if they’re not drinking from it. Prince Charles plays with his cufflinks when he’s uncomfortable. And we all know someone in the office who uses their handbag like a security blanket.
This is all about creating a physical feeling of security. People who are anxious, nervous, or shy, often hug themselves with one arm or two. Stroking your own hair mimics the comfort of a parent soothing a child. Holding something in front of you whilst you speak to someone, or especially a group, is all about insecurity and trying to feel like a knight with a shield, ready to deflect, or hide.
People can create these barriers with props, or just with their hands and arms. Either way, it looks very negative; even if you fold your arms because its comfortable for you, or hold a cup of coffee because you’re at work and it’s the morning (what else are you going to do!?) it can and does look overly defensive.