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Open Body Language

 

Techniques > Using Body Language > Open Body Language

Language of openness | Reasons for opening | See also

 

A significant cluster of body movements are all about being open. This is sometimes misinterpreted solely as indicating being relaxed and untense.

Remember that perhaps the most significant part of being open or close is the act of opening or closing. When you open or close, you are signaling a change in the way you are thinking or feeling, which is likely to be in response to what the other person has said or done.

Language of openness

The open stance has arms and legs not crossed in any way. They may also be moving in various ways.

Arms open

Arms are not crossed and may be animated and moving in synchronization with what is being said or held wide.

Palms are also relaxed and may be quite expressive, for example appearing to hold things and form more detailed shapes. Open hands show that nothing is being concealed.

Legs open

Open legs are not crossed. Often they are parallel. They may even be stretched apart.

The feet are of interest in open legs and may point forward or to the side or at something or someone of interest.

Looking around and at the other person

The head may be directed solely towards the other person or may be looking around. Eye contact is likely to be relaxed and prolonged.

Relaxed clothing

Clothing is likely to hang loosely and actions to loosen clothing may take place, such as removing a jacket and unbuttoning a collar.

Reasons for opening

There can be several reasons for open body language. In particular look for the transition when the body opens and the triggers that may have caused this change.

Accepting

When arms rounded and palms are sideways, the person may be offering a 'mock hug', showing that they care for the other person. Gestures may be slower and symbolize gentleness.

Passive threat

An open posture may also be associated with a passive threat. When the person casually 'exposes themself', for example by opening their body and looking away they are opening themselves for attack. When this is relaxed, it may be saying 'I am so powerful and you are so weak, you are unable to attack me even when I am exposed.'

Males with knees apart are also doing a crotch display, which, as well as casually exposing vulnerabilities is effectively says to other males 'Look: I have a large penis than you!'

Aggression

When there is tension in the open body, especially if fists are clenched, then this may be a sign of significant aggression. The person is effectively holding their body open in readiness for a fight.

Aggression is also seen when the body is square on to the other person and is relatively close to them. Movements may be particularly sudden and designed to test the other person's reactions.

Supplicating

When palms are held upwards, this may form a pleading gesture and may be combined with lowering of the body. This is saying 'Please don't hurt me'.

Opening the body in supplication is also saying 'Here, you can hurt me if you wish' and is equivalent to a dog who rolls over on its back and exposes itself to indicate that it is not a threat.

Relaxing

And finally, the open body may simply be the body at rest, relaxed and comfortable.

See also

Emotions

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