If someone recently touched you on the shoulder you’re probably wondering why and what it might mean. This post will try to help you to figure out why someone might touch you on the shoulder and to help you to understand it as it happens in the future.

So, what does it mean when someone touches your shoulder? It can mean that they find you attractive, that they are trying to dominate you, that they’re trying to reassure you or that they are mirroring your own behavior.

When trying to figure out why someone might touch you on the shoulder there are a number of things that you should consider. It’s important to consider the other body language signals that they are showing, when it happened and what their normal behavior looks like.

Why someone might touch you on the shoulder

There are a number of reasons that someone might touch you on the shoulder. When they do, it’s important to consider other body language signals that they are showing.

Below, I will mention a number of reasons that someone might touch you on the shoulder and I will mention body language signals that you should expect to go with it.

Attraction

One reason that someone might touch you on the shoulder is that they find you attractive.

If this is the case then they will likely show you a number of other body language signals that signal attraction.

  • Proximity

If they touched your shoulder because they are attracted to you then they would likely tend to stand at a closer distance than normal to you. People have different distances at which they feel comfortable which will be largely impacted by the culture that they are from. It would be helpful to observe how far they stand from other people so that you can figure out if they stand closer to you.

They might also tend to stand in your general area when they are not talking to you. So, you should consider if they tend to choose the seat next to you, if they decline to leave when you’re still around and if they tend to come closer to you as time progresses.

  • Eyes

If someone touches you on the shoulder because they find you attractive then it is likely that they would be giving you a number of signals with their eyes.

When we are with people that we find attractive it can actually cause our pupils to dilate. This means that they would likely tend to have dilated pupils when they’re with you. Although, our pupils will also dilate when we’re happy so it might just be that they enjoy being around you.

In addition, they would likely give a number of glances in your direction when they’re not talking to you and when you catch them doing it they might smile or look away quickly.

They would also likely hold their gaze with you for longer than they do with other people.

  • Feet

The feet can actually tell you a lot about what a person is feeling like. When people grow up they learn a number of ways to disguise their emotions on their face but they rarely consider what their feet might be suggesting.

When we are attracted to people or when we particularly like certain people it can cause us to point our feet in their direction. This means that when they are not directly in front of you they would likely point their feet in your general direction. In addition to that, you will likely find that they lean with their lower body’s in your general direction and face you with their upper body.

  • If it’s a woman

If it’s a woman that you think is attracted to you then there are a number of additional things that you should look for. She will often show her palms while stroking her hair when with you, talk to you more than others, laugh and look at you, speak at a higher pitch and would have more open eyes without much squinting.

  • If it’s a man

In addition to things already mentioned if it’s a man, he’ll probably speak with a deeper voice, talk to you more than others, get anxious if you’re talking to other men and might touch your feet with his when sitting with you.

Domination

When people want to show or impose their authority or status they will often touch things that aren’t theirs including people.

By touching people they will subconsciously be claiming that they have power over them and it could be what they were trying to do with you.

If this is the case then they will likely show a number of other signals that it was what they were doing.

They would likely take up more space than usual, touch other things that are yours and they would likely rest their hands and feet on things that aren’t theirs. They would also likely try to tell you to do things for them.

They would also likely show a number of other signals with their body language.

They would likely stand with their arms by their sides or with their hands on the back of their heads when sitting.

If they stand or sit in what would normally be considered a reserved position then they would also have their thumbs showing making it a more dominating stance. For example, if they stand with their hands in their pockets then they might have their thumbs showing.

They would also tend to stare at you for longer than is normal when talking to you and their words may be more directive. They would also typically talk with a deeper voice than they naturally would.

Their facial expressions would look bored. So, they wouldn’t smile much and when they do it would be with closed lips and may tense their jaws slightly.

They may also tend to point with their fingers, put their hands on their hips and angle their chin upwards.

They’re trying to reassure you

One reason that someone might put their hand on your shoulder is that they are trying to reassure you.

This would be more likely to happen if you show signals that suggest that you are feeling emotional or if you talk with them that they think you care about a lot.

This type of touching is more common with women than with men so it is more likely to be the reason if the person is a woman.

Mirroring

When we begin to develop feelings for people we actually will often begin to mirror their behavior. This is because it helps to build rapport with them and it shows that we are a part of their group.

If this is the reason then it would be likely that you will have touched them on the shoulder at some point.

They will also likely mirror other aspects of your body language. So, if you stand with your arms crossed then they might as well and they might copy your facial expressions.

Culture

It could be that they are from a culture where they tend to touch more. For example, in Italy, they tend to touch a lot when talking.

You should consider the culture that the person is from it might be that they are from a country where they do tend to touch more.

Emphasizing a point

It could be that they touched you because they were trying to emphasize a point that they were making.

If this was the case then they would likely have been talking about something that they were emotional about.

They would also likely have been talking at a higher pitch than usual, rubbing their neck, face, arms and legs a lot, faster breathing and sometimes wide-open eyes.

Think about where it happened

It can also help to consider where it happened.

If it happened where you work then it may have been that it was someone in a higher position was trying to highlight it.

If it was a friend in a social setting then it may have been that they were trying to emphasize something that they were trying to say.

If it was someone of the opposite sex then they may have been attracted to you.

But, in all of these cases, it’s still important to consider the other body language signals that they were showing to confirm what you think.

Think about what you know about them

It would also be helpful to consider the way that they normally behave.

If they haven’t touched you on the shoulder before and then they do it then it would suggest that something about their feelings have changed. It could be that they were in an emotional state trying to tell you about something or that they thought you were in an emotional state and they were trying to reassure you.

Watch how they interact with others

It would also be helpful to consider how they interact with others.

If they behave the same way with others as they do with you then it would suggest that they have neutral feelings towards you and the touch on the shoulder was to highlight what they were saying. But not necessarily, they might still be showing micro gestures that imply that they aren’t feeling normal.

If they behave differently around others then that would suggest that they touched you on the shoulder due to attraction, domination, emphasis or reassurance.

Related

What does it mean if someone touches your shoulder in public? There are many possible reasons that someone might touch your shoulder in public. It might be that they were trying to get your attention, they might have been trying to highlight a point or they might have even been doing dominating behavior.

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.

Author

I created and currently manage Body Language Central, one of the premier sources for body language-related knowledge. Body language plays a key role in our daily lives. I hope that my website can help condense the wide amount of body language information available and allow you to make full use of it in your daily life. You can read more about me and my website here.