The body language of submissiveness

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

The state of submission

When i talked about Body language earlier i said that body language can help you read the state of feeling of a person at a given moment. This means that if someone's feelings changed you can easily notice the change in their emotions by just watching for the change in their body language.

The state of submission is an emotional state where one person decides to submit to someone else because of believing that they are stronger, more capable or of higher authority.

Right before a fight the guy who gets into the state of submissiveness is the one who believes that he is going to lose no matter what actually happens in the fight.

Signs of submissiveness in body language

  • 1) Smiling: smiling is a very friendly gesture that helps humans bond and connect together. But when smiling happens in the wrong time then it could indicate submissiveness. The guy who smiles to an opponent right before a fight might be displaying signs of submissiveness. See Does smiling make you look weak & 5 Reasons an Angry Face Makes a Man More Attractive to Women
  • 2) Taking smaller space: One of the very common signs of dominance in body language is taking a bigger space. When a person feels dominant they will usually spread their legs and arms out so that they end up taking bigger space. If the person is standing then they will stretch their body in such a way that they will seem bigger. The opposite happens with submissiveness where the person tries to take the smallest possible space
  • 3) Tilted head: A tilted head is usually a sign of interest and it shows that someone is interested in having a conversation. But when the head is tilted in a situation that requires dominance then probably the person is being submissive. When someone feels dominant then their head is probably going to aligned normally with their spine. See also State of interest.
  • 4) Lowering the body position: Any gesture that lowers the body position in such a way that a person does not express their real height might be an act of submission. Slightly hunching the body or standing on one leg might be a sign of submissiveness. See The State of confidence.
  • 5) Opening your eyes wide: When a person feels more dominant they are less likely to open their eyes wide as they tend to maintain their eye slightly squeezed. People who keep their eyes wide open might either be agreeing with the other person or they might be displaying submissiveness. See also Eye Contact in body language.
  • 6) Folding the arms or crossing the legs: People fold their arms when they feel like protecting themselves from something. The same also goes for crossing the legs. People who feel afraid might fold their arms or cross their legs just to protect themselves from other people. See also State of unease
  • 7) Less eye contact: When a person feels submissive they might try to maintain much less eye contact or even avoid looking towards the dominant person altogether.
  • 8) Learning forward: People who feel dominant will stretch their backs backwards and so their backs will appear wider. People who feel submissive will sometimes lean forward so that they end up taking less space.
  • 9) Exposing the palms: Exposing the palms is usually a sign of honesty. It's not a direct submissiveness sign but it indicates that the person is not a threat. See Body language of the hands
  • 10) Supporting their weight on something: When a person feels dominant they will usually stand tall without needing to lean on anything. When a person feels submissive they might feel like supporting their weight by leaning on something

Don't get this wrong

Most of those signs can happen for reasons that have nothing to do with submissiveness and so don't judge yourself harshly if you did them. Look at the context of the situation and not just the gestures in order to understand what's truly going on.

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