A question about a stance

A man stands with his feet a little apart, his hands clasped behind his back. All things being equal are you more likely to interpret that stance as assertive, or passive?

Bonus question; if the person is a woman instead of a man, does the interpretation change?


That’s sort of how cops practice standing. Neither passive nor aggressive, but there. Soldiers and cops are well rehearsed at standing for long periods of time, in this very posture.

(It’s one of the things that gives away undercover cops in places like bars.)

I see it as a professional stance. Like the way a door man stands. Or a waiter at a fancy restaurant.

I would interpret it as a non-threatening but ready for action stance, if that make sense.

Non-threatening because hands are not visible. Ready for action because it is a “professional” stance, as @Grrr and @elbows describe.

My interpretation stands (heh) whether we are talking about a woman or a man.


Or royalty (when they’re not actually doing something ceremonial).

Passive, since that’s literally what I’d call the “at ease” position. Man or woman.

Waiting. (Any gender.)

What I’d think they were waiting for would have to depend on other context.

That’s the stance I assume when I’m in line at the pharmacy or the doctor’s office or somewhere where I don’t currently have anything in my hands. (I’m a guy.) Politely waiting for the next person to assist me.

Neutral, but alert.

I don’t know if I’d say “neutral,” it’s more “professional”, “ready and alert” waiting for something. I wouldn’t stand like that just waiting in line but I would when I am working the door at an event where I have to stand for a long while watching people.

It strikes me as inquisitive, but patient. A person standing like that is being observant, and is prepared to interact, but is awaiting some cue before they do so.

Sounds like “parade rest.” Slightly more relaxed but still alert.

I think it’s possible that I do it because my left hand twitches a little bit due to tardive dyskinesia, and I’m sensitive about it. (Which you had absolutely no way of knowing about. No offense taken, or intended.)

I quite often do, but I shift around between these stances: hands clasped in front, hands clasped in back, hands crossed, hands in pocket. Assuming, of course, I have no phone handy to play with. Hands clasped in back is what I may do to appear slightly more “friendly” and approachable, I suppose. It still feels in the ballpark of “neutral” to me.

I agree. Folded arms in front is often seen as unfriendly, defensive or hostile, while just keeping your hands by your side for any length of time feels unnatural: so hands behind the back makes one look more approachable or at least patient, without being proactively “hail fellow well met” (which some would find excessive).

Spent most of my life around military, it is at parade rest, ready and waiting but sort of relaxed. Are the feet turned out per military standards or just sort of slapped down on the ground? Could mean the difference between military, police and boy scouts =)

If I saw a person standing like this on the sidewalk or in a shop, I would feel a little wary of them. Why don’t they relax? Is something about to happen? Are they directing a heist? I’d better get out of here.

However if it’s a person who obviously works there, that makes them look more competent and approachable to me as a customer. They look like they have their shit together. Bonus trustworthiness points if it’s a woman.