If you have recently noticed someone wringing their hands together you might be wondering why and what it means. This post will try to help you to figure out why someone might be doing it and to make sense of it as it happens.

So, what does it mean if someone wrings their hands together? Hand-wringing is when someone holds their hands together and rotates and rubs them. It signals that they are feeling some kind of stress or nervousness in that moment.

When trying to figure out why someone might be wringing their hands it’s actually very important to consider what their other body language signals are showing. It’s very possible that someone could be wringing their hands but still be feeling perfectly fine.

Why someone might wring their hands together

There are a number of reasons that someone might start to wring their hands together and each of them will likely come with a number of other body language signals.

Below, I will mention a number of reasons that someone might wring their hands together along with the body language signals to look for.

Nervousness or stress

Hand-wringing could signal that the person is feeling stressed or nervous in that moment. The level of nervousness or stress will often go hand in hand with how tightly and vigorously they do it.

If stress or nervousness is the reason then it is likely that something will have recently happened that could cause them to become nervous or stressed. For example, they might have an exam coming up or they might be waiting on the results. Alternatively, it could be that someone that they find attractive just entered the room.

If it is that they are stressed or nervous then they will likely show a number of other body language signals that could also indicate that they are stressed or nervous.

Some of these signals would include:

  • Foot taping
  • Frequent blinking
  • Covering the mouth
  • Touching the front of the neck
  • Scratching or rubbing the back of the neck
  • Rubbing the nose
  • Rubbing the palms or arms
  • Rubbing the upper legs
  • Rubbing the eyes
  • Quivering under the eyes or jaw
  • A change in their vocal tone (usually it would go high pitch)
  • A lack of eye contact
  • Tucking the feet under the chair

Frustration

The reason that they started hand-wringing might be that they are frustrated about something.

However, normally they would do a different behavior to hand-wringing. Normally, they might slap the head, put their hands on their head or cover their head with their arms with the elbows pointing forwards.

It would likely also happen right after something happened that could cause them to get frustrated such as failing an exam.

Boredom

One reason that they might start hand-wringing is that they are bored and they are occupying themselves by playing with their hands.

If this is the case then they would likely show other signs of boredom.

These could include:

  • Pupil constriction
  • Pointing the feet towards the exit
  • Leaning with their lower bodies towards the exit
  • Glancing towards the exit
  • Leaning their face on the palm of one of their hands
  • Moving their feet around or foot-tapping
  • Slouching over
  • No smile and tight lips

Mirroring

When we are trying to fit in with a certain group of people or we are with a person that we respect we will often begin to mirror their body language.

By doing this we are able to get accepted into the group and make the other people more receptive to us.

If you notice that you or another member of the group started to wring their hands first then mirroring could be the reason.

As mentioned earlier, it could be that a person could be wringing their hands but feel perfectly fine. Mirroring is an example of when this could happen.

If they are mirroring then it is likely that they would be mirroring other behaviors.

There are many ways that they could mirror people but some examples are:

  • Having the same smile
  • Speaking at the same pitch or slightly higher
  • Crossing their arms
  • Crossing their legs
  • Standing or sitting with their feet apart
  • Putting their hands in their pockets
  • Yawning
  • Wearing similar clothes

Lying

If the hand-wringing came right after they said or were asked something then the hand-wringing would suggest that it made them anxious. If this is the case then the reason that they became anxious could be that they are lying about something.

If the hand-wringing came after you asked them a question then you should continue to ask them more questions on the issue, later on, to see if signs of anxiety-like hand-wringing come back.

If they do then it would be a strong indicator that they have some kind of an emotional problem with the question.

Look at the other body language signs that they are showing

As mentioned already, when trying to figure out why someone might be wringing their hands it would be helpful to consider the other body language signs that they are showing.

It’s possible that someone might habitually show a body language sign that doesn’t actually suggest what you might think it means. This is why it’s important to consider clusters of body language at a time.

Some other body language signals to look for in addition to those already mentioned would be:

  • Eyebrow furrowing (stress)
  • Squinting (stress, anger)
  • Tensing of the fists or jaw (anger)
  • Playing with jewelry (anxiety, attraction)
  • Pupil dilation (happiness, attraction)
  • Gazing (attraction)
  • Redness of the face (stress, frustration, anger)
  • Sweating (stress, anger, frustration, anxiety)
  • Proximity (attraction or lack of, fear)
  • Increased touching (attraction, high status)
  • Pointing with the index finger (dominance)
  • Showing the palms (signals comfort)

Think about where they are doing it

It would be very helpful to consider the location that it happens in when trying to figure out why someone might be wringing their hands.

If it’s in a more social setting then it could signal that they have some social anxiety or that there is someone in the group that they are attracted to.

If it happens in a business setting then it would suggest that something is making them anxious. Perhaps they’re concerned about getting fired or that they are nervous about giving a presentation.

Consider their normal behavior

When trying to make sense of body language signals it’s important to take their normal behavior into account.

If it is normal for them to wring their hands and they are not showing other behaviors that are out of the ordinary then it wouldn’t suggest that they are feeling more anxious than usual.

However, if it’s not something that they wouldn’t normally do then it would be a stronger indicator that something’s amiss.

Consider when it started happening

It’s also going to be very helpful to think about when they started to do the hand wringing.

If they started to do it as soon as they entered the interview room then it would simply suggest that they are nervous about the interview.

However, if they start doing it half-way through the interview then it would suggest that one of the questions made them nervous and you should ask them about that more.

If they were in a social setting and they started to do it when a certain person arrived then it would suggest that they had some kind of an emotional response to that person. They might be attracted to them or they might be mad at them.

Related

What does it mean if someone starts rubbing their hands together? If someone starts to rub their hands together then it would suggest that they are feeling some kind of anxiety, stress or nervousness.

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.