Body language: Hands touching the neck

Rubbing the back of the neck

Ever seen two furry animals, like dogs, in a fight? If you have then you might have noticed that when they are about to attack each other, the fur over their neck stands on its end and makes the animals appear bigger. The bigger the animals appear the more they are able to intimidate each other.

There are special types of tiny muscles known as arrector pili that enable this fur-raising when animals are threatened and feel the need to intimidate. We humans also have these muscles and even though our fur is non-existent, we still have those hair-raising experiences. 

When we feel frustrated and angry, the arrector pili muscles on the back of our necks try to raise our non-existent fur pelt that results in a tingling sensation.

We satisfy this sensation by rubbing the back of our necks vigorously or slapping it. This gesture is done when we find ourselves in a frustrating situation or when someone gives us a ‘pain in the neck’. 

frustrated man

Say you’re working in your office on an important project. While you’re busy, a coworker comes by and tries to start a casual chat with you. You want him to leave because you’re busy but you don’t have the heart to tell him to buzz off because you think it might offend him.

At this point, you might start to rub the back of your neck in frustration. If he knows about body language and catches you doing this gesture then he’ll understand your nonverbal message and leave gracefully if he happens to be a decent human being. If not, he’ll stay there and keep blabbering till you are forced to verbalize your feelings.

Scratching the side of the neck with one finger

It is accompanied by a slight tilting of the head. This gesture is done when a person does something they believe is wrong, immoral or embarrassing. We also do it in situations when someone mentions something negative about us or when we’re caught in the middle of an embarrassing situation in public. 

The person doing this gesture is non-verbally telling himself, “I’m in deep trouble”, “I shouldn’t have done that” or “I shouldn’t have said that”.
woman scratching the side of her neck

Suppose you’re interviewing a prospective employee and you ask him, “Why did you leave your previous job?” He replies, “Well, my last boss was a jerk. I asked him for a raise and he declined.” After finishing the sentence, the look on your face tells the interviewee that you aren’t impressed by that reply.

At this point the interviewee, realizing what a stupid reply he gave, might scratch the side of his neck using his index finger. He’s thinking, “Oops, what did I say? I’m in trouble. I’m not going to be selected now.”

I was once watching a video of a fitness expert who was replying to emails from his fans. One fan asked him, “Hi! I tried the pull-ups exercise that you recommended. But after doing it for about a week, I pulled my stomach muscle and the doctor told me that I should discontinue working out. What should I do?”

As soon as the expert heard this, he scratched the side of his neck with his finger. After the gesture, the expert went on with his reply. 

Body language experts don’t miss these kinds of gestures. Obviously, if you tell someone to do some exercise and they get injured you might feel a bit embarrassed. You kind of take the blame for it on yourself. After all, it is you who recommended that exercise. You caused that injury. That’s why that expert did that gesture.

Touching the neck dimple

The suprasternal notch, also known as the neck dimple, is the hollow area between Adam’s apple and the breastbone situated at the bottom of the neck. Touching the neck dimple with fingers and covering it means the person is feeling insecure, uncomfortable or distressed. This gesture is commonly observed in women but men also do it sometimes. 

Women also do this gesture when they’re smitten. By doing this gesture, they’re unconsciously trying to protect their frontal body and neck.

If a woman is wearing a necklace, then she might touch or hold the necklace and use it to cover her neck dimple.

woman touching the neck dimple

Picture a woman whose son is undergoing a major operation in a hospital. As soon as the doctor comes out of the operating room, she touches her neck dimple and inquires, “How did it go, doctor? Is my son okay?”

Or picture this- a girl reveals to her friends that she’s getting married next month. All her friends may go like, “Awwww” while simultaneously touching their neck dimple. They’re all metaphorically ‘smitten’ by this overwhelmingly good news!

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