Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Body Language Analysis №4712: One Body Language Behavior you should almost Never display  — Nonverbal and Emotional Intelligence



Note the configuration of Elon Musk’s hand-arm display in the above picture. This is called a ‘Steeple’ — more specifically a ‘High Conventional Steeple’. 


This example is called a ‘High’ Steeple because it’s positioned relatively high with respect to the rest of his body — here at the level of his upper chest and even his lower face …

… and the term ‘Conventional’ Steeple applies here as a differentiation from other types of steeple displays (such as a ‘Pistol Steeple’, ‘Basketball Steeple’, etc.)

For the most part, few people ever use the conventional steeple (whether it’s held high, mid-level, or a low steeple) — but those who do use it, tend to dramatically over-use it.

Exceptions to this, are those who are extremely arrogant, narcissists, or sociopaths/psychopaths — or individuals who are taught to use it (or its use is modeled for them by a parent, influential authority figure, etc.) — and subsequently it becomes a default behavior.

A conventional steeple is an example of a body language behavior that’s not just alpha — it’s a hyper-alpha behavior.

To clarify — the term “alpha” can be used to describe an example of a behavior’s attempt at dominance — relative to other more submissive (beta) behaviors.

However, the term “alpha” can also be used in a more Gestalt sense — to describe a person’s rank in a given context/subcontext of society (as it’s perceived by themself/subjectively or by others).

Dominant, influential and powerful individuals very often have moments of less-dominant (even submissive), fearful, and acquiescing behavior. The opposite is also true with individuals who are otherwise not dominant, not influential, and who rarely wield power. 

Noticing these fluxes of behavior (changes you previously might have called subtle or not noticed at all) — will give you insight as to their underlying motives — and, thus, a tremendous advantage.

Displaying a conventional steeple may make you feel ‘in charge’, confident, powerful — and yes, it will make you feel ‘alpha’ — but also, if you have a reasonable level of baseline empathy, using it will make you feel arrogant.

If a person uses this nonverbal behavior often — and they don’t feel arrogant — with very high probability, their empathy is very low or nonexistent (i.e., a high-narcissist — or a sociopath/psychopath [APD]).

I recommend almost never using a conventional steeple.

If those who I teach insist on displaying a conventional steeple — I advise them to use it for (literally) just a second of their speech/talk/discussion (when they’re saying the most important word of the most important sentence of the most important paragraph).

Otherwise (if people over-use this body language — and since it’s so potent, this is an extremely easy thing to do) it may make you feel confident and puffed-up, ….

… and while those who like you/your agenda will continue to like you and advocate for your cause — those who don’t like you will dislike you even more.

And crucially, it will have a similar rapport-destroying and influence-diminishing effect upon those who are ‘on-the-fence’ regarding you/your ‘leadership’ and/or your plan/agenda.

So while using the conventional steeple (all but very sparingly) may make you feel (temporarily) powerful — but why [insert rhetorical vocal tone] use a behavior that works against you?


Looking at Musk’s face, note his left eyebrow is elevated. He’s questioning and/or not believing what he’s hearing.

He’s not turning his torso or lower body toward the speaker, just his head and neck, along with his eyes. We don’t look directly at people who we don’t like, don’t believe, or don’t respect.

Moreover, he’s tilting his head down here — in this context, this configuration is sending signals of predation, power, and aggression.

Musk’s lower face-mouth-jaw are configured in a pseudo-pout. This transmits thought-emotions of arrogance and feigned consideration.

In this image, Musk’s mid-face is projecting an amalgam of primarily disgust as well as a component of contempt.

SUMMARY: A conventional steeple (as Musk examples here) is an example of a body language which may, for the moment, make you feel alpha and powerful — but it will backfire on you. Others will interpret things very differently.

Nearly everyone (except those who are solidly within your fan base) will (accurately) read a conventional steeple as arrogant. It will work against you — helping to destroy your rapport and diminish your influence. Don’t use it.

All organizations, businesses, and individuals who want to (need to) dramatically improve their Body Language skills and nuance their understanding of Emotional Intelligence, please email me at: Jack@BodyLanguageSuccess.com


This post and others accompanying it, serve as a reference source for the art and science of Body Language/Nonverbal Communication. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the author. In an effort to be both practical and academic, many examples from/of varied cultures, politicians, professional athletes, legal cases, public figures, etc., are cited in order to teach and illustrate both the interpretation of others’ body language as well as the projection of one’s own nonverbal skills in many different contexts.