Body Language 51 Slouching

October 26, 2019

Slouching is the opposite of sitting or standing erect. It is most often seen as a sign of tiredness or apathy, but there are many other things that can cause a person to slouch.

Be alert for other possible signals before assigning a meaning to a slouch.

Physically, there are a number of different types of slouches. When sitting, the slouch usually occurs when a person puts most of the weight on the lower spine rather than the buttocks. It comes across as half sitting and half lying down.

The slouch can also occur when sitting by leaning forward and holding the arms out to the side. A depressed person will sometimes assume this position.

When standing, the telltale sign of a slouch is forward-drooping shoulders rather than having the shoulders held high and pulled slightly backward. The slouching position forces the arms to dangle precariously from the shoulders in front of the body rather than at the sides.

This position is usually accompanied by sticking out the belly and pulling in the buttocks. The spine takes on a more pronounced curvature a little like the letter “S.”

There are several different meanings of a slouch, regardless of how it is done physically. Let’s take a closer look at conditions that typically cause people to slouch.

Overtired

This gesture is a signal that the other person is so tired that he or she can hardly stay awake. The person is saying, “I just need to get some rest.”

Apathy

Alternatively, the slouch can signal a negative reaction to another person or thing that is going on. The person is signaling that he or she just does not care. The slouch signals lack of alertness or interest.

Heavy Weight

A slouch can be caused by grief or extreme sorrow. If a person is in a personal crisis, you may see the slouch gesture as an indication of needing some help.

Yawn

Slouching can also be a signal of boredom. Most people tend to slouch a bit when watching TV. It is a way to relax the body and just take things in without having to respond in any way.

Captive

Students will frequently slouch as a way to signal the teacher that they are bored with the topic and wish they could be doing something else.

Detached

You can frequently observe people slouching in the pews during a church service. In some churches the exact opposite is true; people are hopping up and down to upbeat music or sitting erect and fully engaged in the service with their hands in the air.

Physical condition

Some people have physical issues that cause them to slouch much of the time. There can be a number of medical causes for this condition that render the person nearly incapable of sitting or standing up straight.

For people with habitual slouches, there are some body braces that can help keep them erect. I have never worn one of those contraptions, and they don’t look very comfortable to me.

When you see a person who is slouching, first ascertain if the person is doing it most of the time or if it is triggered by something that is currently going on. That knowledge will help you interpret the most likely meaning of the slouch.

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.


Body Language 27 Sitting

May 11, 2019

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, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763