Helen Mirren, the versatile British actress, gave a fascinating interview about the mannerisms she developed when she played the role of Inspector Jane Tennison on the series Prime Suspect. She commented on this in her book, “In the Frame: My Life in Words and Pictures”:
“Fresh from the costume fitting, where I had posed in front of the mirror assuming what I thought was a strong position — arms folded … I met with the woman in charge of Holloway police station. She gave me the most invaluable advice: never let them see you cry, and never cross your arms. When I asked why, she said, “Because it is a defensive action and therefore weak.” The police are masters when it comes to body language. She went on to tell me that, if you want to show power over someone, you should touch him or her lightly on the arm. Watch heads of state when they meet each other; they fight to be the first one to touch. Throughout Prime Suspect I don’t think I ever crossed my arms, and Jane Tennison only cries in private.”
Many of us have developed the habit of crossing our arms without thinking about the message it may be sending about our attitude – and potentially our leadership. The next time you catch yourself with your arms crossed, think about what that means. Even if this posture is simply more comfortable for you, try being conscious of the message you may be sending.