Are You Sitting Down for This?

Practical Applications for Body Language and the Emotional Indicators of Legs Apart

By David M. Schneer, Ph.D./CEO

4-Minute Read

How you sit can say a lot.

Earlier I wrote a blog on hooding (WHOSE THE BOSS?) explaining how people spread their arms to take up more space, thereby making themselves look larger.

Well, they can also do it with their legs, and it looks like this.

It’s long been known that those in power or with higher socio-economic stature have required more room. Review any episode of Game of Thrones and you will see, well, oversized royal seats. Some of these ceremonial chairs are cartoonishly large—an attempt to mirror the grandiose power of kings, queens, emperors, dictators, and religious leaders. Other thrones can be situated upon raised pedestals to render the leader on a “higher plane.“ [1]

That was the behavior of Kings and Queens. But what about today? Do these attempted territorial takeovers still exist? You bet they do. Regarding, today’s Royalty, look no further to Buckingham or Windsor Palace and you get my point. But this behavior is not just contained to Kings and Queens; the Titans of business are no “Tiny House” people. Take the corner office, for example. Typically, the offices on Mahogany Row are larger, on a higher floor, can have a nice view, and likely in the corner for more privacy.[2]

When you observe a person, whose legs are parted, they are subconsciously trying to convey superiority and or dominance; they are also conveying comfort. Men are more likely to adopt this pose.

However, the precise interpretation of this position can only be made in context. Context is to body language what location is to real estate. For example, a person may simply be sitting with their legs apart just because it feels good. Or they may be signaling openness.

Here are some possible interpretations of the legs wide-apart position.

  1. Self-Assurance: showing confidence and authority.
  2. Accessibility: legs wide apart can connote openness as if to say, “I’m not hiding anything.”
  3. Relaxation: people will sit in this position for no other reason than it is relaxing,
    comfortable and just feels good.
  4. Protection: In some cases, a person may feel threatened and adopt a wide, defensive position with open legs. Beware. This could be a precursor to aggressive behavior, especially if you see flared nostrils (oxygenation before physical activity) or clenched fists (anger). This would be a signal to back off.

I often see participants in my research studies who adopt the legs apart position. This is a clue to me that this person will likely be opinionated, confident, and, in some cases, hostile. In any event, I am prepared when I see this posture.

So should you.

Contact us for research or body language training.

Most communication is nonverbal. Are you Fluent?

[1]             Givens, David B.; White, John. The Routledge Dictionary of Nonverbal Communication (p. 47). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.