If you recently noticed someone sitting on their hands you may be wondering why and what it might mean.
This post will try to help you to figure out why someone might sit on their hands and to help you to understand it in the future.
So, why do people sit on their hands? There are a number of possible reasons. It could be that they are nervous, restraining themselves, they disagree with something, they don’t want to leave or it might be that they are cold.
When trying to understand why someone might be sitting on their hands it’s important to take a number of other considerations into account. You should observe other aspects of their body language, consider what happened when they did it, think about where it happened and think about what their normal behavior looks like.
Why someone might sit on their hands
There are a number of possible reasons that someone might sit on their hands and each of them will likely come with a number of other body language signals that complement the feeling.
Below, I will mention a number of reasons that someone might sit on their hands and I will also mention some body language signs to expect to see as well.
The reason that someone might sit on their hands could be that they are nervous. If someone sits on their hands at the start of an interview then it could be that it is their way of calming themselves down.
If someone is nervous then it is likely that they will show a number of other body language signals that I will mention below.
- They may rub their face, neck, upper legs, arms or hands often
- They might tuck their feet around the legs of their chair
- Their lower eyelids and jaw might appear to be quivering
- Their pupils might appear to be
- They might appear to be speaking at a higher pitch tone than usual or they might go higher pitch at the ends of sentences
- Their feet might appear to be facing the exit
- They might be tapping with their feet
- They might be glancing at the exit a lot
- They might be rubbing their eyes or blinking a lot
- They might have a dry mouth and appear to be swallowing a lot
- They might appear to sink lower and lower into their chair
- They could be ventilating their neck a lot
It’s important to think about what happened when they sat on their hands. If it was after someone said or asked them something that might make them nervous then it would be a stronger indicator that they did it due to nerves.
The reason that they might decide to sit on their hands could be because they want to restrain their hands.
There are multiple reasons that they might want to restrain themselves but it could be because they don’t want to draw attention to themselves or if they might be mad and don’t want to let themselves do something with their hands.
If they’re mad then they would show signs such as:
- Redness of the face
- Clenching of the jaw
- Pupil constriction
- Eyebrow furrowing
- Tightening lips
- Showing the teeth
- Tensing of the muscles
If it was because they don’t want to draw attention to themselves then it could be that they are nervous about something. If that is the case then they would likely be showing some of the signs of nervousness mentioned above.
The reason that they sat on their hands could be because they disagree with something that was said and they don’t want to give it away.
If this was the case, then they would likely have sat on their hands right after hearing something that they might disagree with.
Along with sitting on their hands they might also tighten their lips, contract their pupils and they might show some of the signs of nervousness such as tucking feet under their chair mentioned above.
They don’t want to leave
It could be that they don’t want to leave.
If this is the case then it would likely be the case that they are having fun/and or they are with people that they like.
In this case, they might also cross their legs to restrict themselves from leaving even more.
If they are enjoying themselves then they would likely be showing a number of other body language signals of enjoyment such as:
Genuine smiles where they open their mouths and show their teeth and crease beside the eyes
- Pupil dilation
- Continuing the conversation
- Feet pointing towards people they like
- Bumping their feet up and down (but not tapping with one)
- A change in vocal tone
- A lack of squinting with the eyes or rubbing of the face, neck or arms
- Showing their palms
It could just be that the reason that they are sitting on their hands is that they are cold.
If they are outside and it’s cold or if they’re inside and it’s cold then you should avoid making assumptions other than that they are cold.
This is why it’s important to consider multiple body language signals when trying to figure out how someone is feeling.
Other body language signs
When trying to figure out why someone might be sitting on their hands it’s important to consider other body language signs.
Below I will mention a number of other body language signs to look for in addition to those already mentioned.
- Playing with hair
- Slouching which can signal comfort or if they’re slouching a lot then stress
- Touching the neck often
- Covering the mouth often
- Rubbing the eyes or blinking frequently which signals stress and possibly that they don’t like something that they heard or was told
- Playing with jewelry which can signal that they’re happy or attracted
- Rubbing their hands up and down which signals that they’re stressed or cold
Consider when they did it
The timing of when they decided to sit on their hands could also be very useful information for you.
If they did it straight away then it would signal that they are nervous or it might be that they are excited to be with their friends.
If they did it right after something was said then it would suggest that they had some kind of an emotional response to what they heard.
Consider their normal behavior
It would also be helpful to consider what their normal behavior looks like.
If they normally have quite a reserved looking body language or if they tend to sit on their hands then if they do sit on their hands it wouldn’t necessarily suggest that something is wrong in that moment.
However, if it’s unusual behavior for them then it would more strongly indicate that something is emotionally different for them.
Consider the location
It would also be helpful to consider where they did it.
Obviously, if they did it in an interview then it would more strongly suggest that they are nervous.
If they were to do it around their friends then it would suggest that they don’t want to leave but it could suggest that they are feeling anxious there as well. This is why it’s important to consider multiple aspects of their body language.
Think about who is around
Thinking about who else is around could help you to get to the bottom of it as well.
If they were to do it around someone that you know that they don’t like then it would suggest that they are feeling some kind of anxiety or that they don’t want to draw attention to themselves.
What does sitting on your hands mean? It could mean that you are feeling nervous, you don’t like something that you heard, you don’t want to leave, they’re cold or that you don’t want to draw attention to them.
If you want to learn more about body language, a book I would recommend would be The Definitive Book of Body Language (on Amazon). It shows you how to interpret body language and understand people's true intentions.