You can determine a great deal about what a person is feeling by observing his or her sitting position.
As with all body language, you need to take into account cultural differences and also look for clusters of BL to be accurate with the reading.
Here are some tips that can give you some direction.
It is kind of difficult to discuss sitting BL without the impact of how the legs are configured. Let’s start out first with overall posture when sitting and finish up with some general rules about legs.
It is axiomatic that when you are sitting, you are sitting on something. It may be a bean bag chair, in which case you are nearly lying down, or a straight-backed chair with or without arms.
Keep in mind that except for sitting backwards on a chair (very rarely done) there is only one way to sit down. We sit with our butts in the back of the chair with our legs dangling over the front, because there is no practical way to unscrew our legs.
Steven Wright, one of my favorite comedians once asked, “What would a chair look like if your knees bent the other way?” That one always cracked me up.
The first thing to notice is how much slouch there is. A person sitting nearly upright in a chair sends a message of some formality. Some people are very aware of their posture and generally like to sit upright.
Alternatively, it could be the circumstance that calls for a high degree of formality. For example, during a job interview or performance appraisal most people will sit more upright than they would when in the break room listening to a coworker tell a joke.
Most individuals will lean back to some degree, and it becomes a variable to watch. If a person is fairly erect while sitting but becomes slouched over time, the person is showing fatigue or boredom. Also, a person who is experiencing back pain may elect to sit more upright to lower the pressure on the back.
A person squirming a lot in the chair may be nervous, or bored, or it could be just due to an uncomfortable chair. You need to look for other clues before assigning a cause for squirming.
If a person habitually slouches in a nearly horizontal position, it might be an indication of a poor attitude or a signal that the person is patiently waiting for something of note to happen. You might see this kind of posture in a waiting room at the hospital or at a train station, where people are waiting for the next train.
Sitting on the front edge of a chair can be a sign of anxiety and alertness. The person seated wants to be sure not to miss anything that is said or done. It could also be caused by a short person sitting in a chair that is too high so the feet do not touch the floor unless they sit on the edge.
Sitting with one or both legs draped over the arms of a chair is seldom seen in the working world, but it sometimes is evident in the home, especially with adolescents. The connotation is one of relaxation and non-conformity. The pose usually does not last long because it is often uncomfortable on the backs of the legs.
Below is a quick review of a prior article I wrote on crossing of legs.
Leg crossing for women
The most commonly seen leg cross for women is one leg resting on the other knee. This is known as the aristocratic leg cross. When both feet are on the floor, it is a sign of security, while the classic leg cross may be a sign of insecurity.
When women cross their legs at the ankle it is a sign that the woman is secure. It may also be an indication of modesty.
Leg crossing for men
Men generally use the figure four leg cross with the ankle of one leg resting on the opposite knee. Occasionally men will use the aristocratic leg cross, and it can be a sign of high status, as pointed out by Bill Acheson. Also, the aristocratic leg cross is more common in Europe than in the USA.
Link to the entire article on foot tapping and leg crossing.
Pay attention to the way people sit. There is often much information about how they are feeling at the moment. At the very least, you will have fun guessing what might be going on.
This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language.” The entire series can be viewed on https://www.leadergrow.com/articles/categories/35-body-language or on this blog.
Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.TheTrust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 600 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or 585.392.7763