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Elbow body language


Techniques > Use of body language > Parts-of-the-body language > Elbow body language

Size | Weapon | Prop | PointerSee also


When you think 'body language', the elbow is not usually the first thing you think of, and indeed there are less things they can say. The lesser-noticed parts, however, should always be watched, both individually and as a part of a wider cluster.


Elbows are often used as a central part of a size display as we push them outwards as we puff ourselves up to appear bigger larger than we are (much as birds stand their feathers on end).

Putting hands on the waist sends a stronger signal. More subtle is simply to expand the chest and push elbows slightly out.

This is usually done whilst standing and with the body stationery (it is difficult to run with elbows sticking out).

This can signify aggression, but may also be a more relaxed attention-getting pose (look at me!). This often is accompanied by a relaxed S-shaped body curve, with one foot pointing forward at the target person.


For those who have struggled in big January sales know (or any hurrying crowd for that matter), elbows can make excellent weapons. They are a pointed tool at the end of the powerful upper arm and a jab in the ribs can wind even a somewhat larger opponent.

In everyday language a symbolic strike towards someone (without hitting them) says 'I feel like hitting you' or 'I could hit you'. It thus can be a suggestion to desist from some undesirable behavior.


When seated, putting elbows on the table may indicate a relaxed state. The head may thus be propped up by cupped hands.


We tend to point at people and things in which we are interested in some way. The most obvious way is with the finger. We also do it with other parts of the body. One of the most subtle and subconscious of these is the elbow.

See also

Using Body Language, Arm body language

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