Who’s the Boss?

Practical Applications for Nonverbal Intelligence and the Emotional Indicators of Hooding

By David M. Schneer, Ph.D./CEO

3-Minute Read

Let’s say you walk into a meeting with people you don’t know. How can you tell who’s the boss? Well, if one person is reclining in their chair with their fingers interlaced and hands clasped behind their head—forming a cobra-like “hood” with their elbows—that is a safe bet they are the boss. The cobra hood looks like this.

Human hooding looks like this!

What does this mean?

This is a position of confidence and surety. When someone clasps their hands behind their head with their elbows stretched out on both sides, the person is very sure of himself. Oftentimes, the person will also extend their legs on the table with the soles of their shoes showing. It looks like this.

This person is signaling that they are in charge and know better. This is also a sign that the person is spreading out and taking up more space to look larger. Like the cobra does when it is threatened. This territorial display is designed to connote status and power.

Moreover, subordinates can often be seen hooding but when the real boss comes in, they will drop their elbows and straighten up in a nanosecond.

This gesture can also be a form of pacification, as the position of the hands behind the head and clasped can be soothing.

When I conduct focus groups and I see a respondent hooding, my research antenna rises. This is a sign that this person will likely try to dominate the group, and it is my job to mitigate it. I can do this in several ways. I can ask the respondent to hold their thoughts so that others can speak first. Or I can simply periodically ignore them. Either way, when I see this gesture, I know I will be in for a challenge!

Contact us today to see how we can help you or your organization become proficient at finding out what people are really thinking when they communicate with you.

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