Head movements are thought to have been our first method of communication in ancestral times. This was because after studying people who were deaf, dumb and blind scientists observed these people also used these common gestures: the Head Nod as a positive movement and the Head Shake as a negative gesture (as mentioned in the initial chapter of this series, babies also use this to refuse drinking more milk or when being spoon fed). The Head Nod is also believed to be an ancient form of bowing down in submissive agreement with someone but symbolically stopping at the head. Apart from the Neutral head position where the head is perfectly centered, these are the 3 important gestures you should remember:
- Head Downwards/Shrug: By hiding the neck by lowering the chin to protect it, this facial gesture is a clear display of a judgmental, aggressive or negative attitude in the person. Additionally, this is a subconscious gesture we use when we know that we have deceitful or bad intentions, and therefore, should protect our vulnerable throats and necks from being attacked by the other person if they were to find out what our thoughts were. Shrugging our shoulders to protect our neck and throat, however, has a totally different meaning. We usually shrug our shoulders when we feel in danger, such as when someone is aiming a gun at us and we quickly display our palms to show we are honest and submissive while raising our shoulders to protect our neck. When we hear a balloon pop or a bomb go off, notice that our first reaction is to hide our neck inside our shoulders, as well as when a parent hits their child he/she will shrug as well. We even shrug in occasions like walking to our seats during a movie in the cinema – we will shrug our necks and raise our shoulders trying to appear smaller and stop ourselves from being attacked by the angry yelling crowd who we are walking in front of.
- Sideways Head: This is another head gesture that reveals the neck but carries a totally different meaning to the Head Upwards gesture. With the sideways head gesture, the person reveals their vulnerable neck and makes themselves smaller in a sign of submissiveness – just like the cowardly dog that puts his tail in between his legs, lowering his head and displaying his neck to the other dog as a way of saying “I’m at your mercy, I have no intent to attack you“. This sign of submissiveness has been exploited by century-old folkloric stories, such as those involving Vampires. We’ve all heard the stories about the vampire that sucks the blood of the helpless damsel’s neck. Not surprisingly, this submissive body language gesture can be found very often amongst women in intimate conversations with their friends or while flirting with men who find such submissive and non-threatening gestures attractive.
- Head Upwards: Characterized by a snobbish up-turned head with the chin pointing forward, this person has the appearance of slightly looking down at you over their nose. This head position is taken by people who feel fearlessness, arrogance or superiority. This is also a technique used to gain height, as well as reveal their throat as a way of showing they don’t feel threatened by the person they are talking to.