How to demonstrate superiority with body language

Prominent male members of the British Royal Family are noted for their habit of walking with their heads up and chin out while gripping one palm with the other palm behind the back. This gesture is also used by the policeman patrolling his beat, the principal of the local school when he leisurely walks through the schoolyard, senior military personnel and others in positions of authority.It is a superiority/confidence gesture that allows the person doing it to express his vulnerable stomach, heart and throat regions to others in a subconscious act of fearlessness. It has been proven that if you take this position when you are nervous and in a high-stress situation, you can begin to feel relaxed, confident and even authoritative.

The palm-in-palm gesture should not be confused with the hand-gripping-wrist gesture which is a signal of frustration and an attempt at self-control. In this case, one hand tightly grips the other wrist or arm as if it is an attempt by one arm to prevent the other from striking out.

Interestingly, the further the hand is moved up the back, the angrier the person is becoming. It is this type of gesture that has given rise to the expression, “Get a grip on yourself.” Salespeople calling on a potential buyer who have been asked to wait in the buyer’s reception area often use this gesture. It is a poor attempt by the salesman to disguise his nervousness and anger. If this self-control gesture is changed to the palm-in-palm position, a calming and confident feeling can result.


In palmistry, the thumbs denote strength of character and ego. The nonverbal use of thumbs agrees with this. Exposed thumbs grasping jacket lapels are used to express dominance, superiority or even aggression. Thumb displays are positive signals and are used in the typical pose of the ‘cool’ manager in the presence of his subordinates.


There are thousands of hand gestures. How can you decide what your client’s hands are revealing? Divide hand gestures into three main groups and you will get a general idea of whether the customer is reacting in a positive, cautious or negative way to your sales call.

1. Open and relaxed hands, especially when the palms are facing you, are a positive selling signal.

2. Self-touching gestures, such as hands on chin, ear, nose, arm or clothing, indicate tension. Probing for difficulties, or simply relaxing the pace of your presentation may calm the client.

3. Involuntary hand gestures, especially if they contradict a facial expression, indicate the client’s true feelings. Watch for tightly clasped hands or fists.

Remember to avoid self-touching and involuntary hand gestures during your sales call. No matter how calm or positive your words are, if the client senses tension or a negative reaction, he will be on his guard and much less receptive to your presentation.

This is the last part of a series about using and interpreting body language in sales. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

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photo by Katrina Snaps

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