Body Language

by Mary-Louise Angoujard

Feet and legs

The positioning and crossing of legs is related to the environment, as well as to those present.

In a gathering, if two people are intensely or genuinely involved in a conversation with each other and they do not want others to join them, they will cross their legs towards each other, which also turns their torsos inward, and effectively creates a type of ‘barrier’ to the rest of the room, sending a subtle yet clear message: ‘We’re talking privately; we’re enjoying it; don’t bother us’.

Similarly, if one person is interested and the other ‘not so much’, their legs and thus body positioning will reflect this. The interested party will cross his or her leg towards the other person, and that person will cross their legs away, while keeping their torso ‘neutral or facing forward and their head turned toward the person, out of politeness. (If you see this happening at a party, go and rescue that person!)

Generally, in meetings, someone who wants to leave will cross their legs so that their foot is pointing toward the door. Someone who is fully involved and has no desire to leave will be more likely to cross their legs toward the interior of the room. If the would-be leaver then becomes more interested in the meeting again, they will likely cross their leg back towards the speaker or the interior of the room.

You will often see people change positions many times in long meetings. Contrary to appearances, this has more to do with their mental state and level of involvement at any given moment than it does with the simple idea of getting more comfortable physically.