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Leg body language

 

Techniques > Use of body language > Parts-of-the-body language > Leg body language

Open  Closed | Crossed | Pointing | Moving | Striking | Touching | See also

 

Legs are interesting in the field of non-verbal body language as the may say a lot without us really realizing.

In particular when a person is trying to control their body language, they typically concentrate on the upper body. The legs may thus tell what they are thinking. If the legs and upper body are in conflict, then there is a possible of deliberate control.

Open

Standing

Legs which are held apart when standing provide a stable base for the person. Standing with feet about the width of the shoulders is a normal, relaxed pose. Slightly wider indicates that the person feels grounded and confident.

A wider stance makes the body wider and hence appear bigger and is a signal of power and dominance. This also takes up more territory and shows domination.

Taking a stable position is readying the body in case the other person attacks and can be a cautious position.

Open legs displays and makes vulnerable the genitals. This can be a sexual display (especially men to women) or a show of power (especially between men).

When one foot is forward and the other behind, this can be taking a extra stable position in case of frontal attack (as with martial artists). It can also be a frozen walk, indicating that the person wants to go somewhere (which way are they pointing?).

Sitting

Sitting with slightly open legs is a relaxed position, showing the person is comfortable. One or both legs may be flopped down sideways as far as they can go.

Sitting allows a wider opening of the legs and can thus be even more of a sexual 'crotch display'. If the person is a bit worried about this, then their hands may cover the genitals.

Closed

Standing

When the person is standing with feet together (or less that a relaxed shoulder-width) then this may display anxiety as it makes them smaller as a target and gives some protection to the genitals.

A fully-closed standing position has knees touching. Increased desire for protection may be indicated by the person turning slightly to the side, leaning forwards a little or pulling the hips back.

Note that a closed position also happens when the person is cold.

Sitting

When sitting, the knees may be held gently or tightly together, depending on the anxiety level. 

Crossed

As with arms, crossing legs can protective and negative, shielding the person from other people and their ideas.

Tension may be seen in crossed legs and greater anxiety leads to legs held more rigidly and which move more jerkily.

Crossed legs can also mean that the person wants to visit the toilet!

Standing

Crossing legs when standing can be an indication of shyness or being coy and may be accompanied by such as hands held behind the back and a lowered head.

This is an unstable position and the person may sway a little. Being so easy to be pushed over and slow to unwind and run away, this is seldom a defensive stance, although it can be submissive.

Sitting

Crossing legs is much easier when sitting and can take several different forms.

Crossing ankles is a minimal cross and can be fairly relaxed, especially when the legs are stretched forward and the person is leaning back (and more so if the hands are behind the head). When more tension is seen, for example in clenched hands, then this may be a signal of self-restraint.

An ankle cross with legs tucked under the chair can indicate concealed anxiety. The concern may be more obvious if the person is leaning forward.

Crossing knees may indicate greater anxiety or defensiveness, particularly if the legs appear tense and even more so if one leg is wrapped firmly around the other.

Knees held together can indicate greater anxiety than if they fall naturally slightly apart. This can also be a female modesty position.

A relaxed cross with lower legs falling close together needs a wider pelvis and hence may be used as a sexual signal by women, particularly if they have exposed legs.

The figure-four cross occurs where one ankle is placed on top of the other legs' knee, with top leg's knee pointing sideways. This can be a surreptitious crotch display, and is more common amongst men as it invites females and challenges other males. This may be covered with hands that hold the shin or ankle of the top leg.

When hands hold onto the crossed legs, this can emphasize the effect, for example being more defensive.

Pointing

Legs may be used to point to things of interest, as with other parts of the body. The reverse is also true and pulling a leg back may show disinterest.

Standing

When standing, one leg may point at an angle with both foot and knee, for example in a conversation where a person who wants to leave points at the door. Pointing anywhere away from the other person means 'I want to be elsewhere'.

Sometimes, when the genitals are exposed in a crotch display the legs do point to the side, but this is not the real message that is being sent.

Sitting

When sitting, legs do not have to support the body but they are more visible and so send more obvious messages (unless they are under a table, where they still may subconsciously point in a direction of interest).

Sitting legs may point with knees or feet at interesting other people, as well as desired direction of travel.

Sitting forward with one foot pointing away and the other back is preparation to stand up and is a common signal that the person wants to leave or go somewhere.

Moving

Moving legs sometimes is just exercising them to get the circulation moving more and loosen cramped muscles. Sometimes also this sends a signal.

Standing

Swinging a leg when standing can act as a pointer. Bouncing the leg can indicate impatience.

Moving a leg is one way of getting closer to another person without full body movement. Pulling it back shows disinterest. When the leg moves back and fore towards and away from a person it may be a subtle 'Attraction-rejection' game that invites the other person to chase after you.

If done in time to music, especially if it bounces the upper body, it can be an invitation to dance (females sometimes deliberately do this to make their breasts bounce and so entice a male).

Sitting

A crossed leg may bounce up and down. This can be a sign of impatience (particularly if rapid) or attraction, as with standing movement. It may also be rather obvious pointing. When sitting, a knee waving sideways can also indicate impatience or point sideways.

The leg may also swing in time to music, indicating that the person is relaxed and enjoying the vibe (and perhaps inviting others to join in).

Walking

People walk differently, partly due to habit and partly due to intent.

A fast walk shows a person in a hurry or with a generally determined character who likes to get things done. A slow walk may be a person who has time to kill, is daydreaming, is lazy or perhaps gets aches and pains when they walk faster.

An affected or stylish walk indicates a focus on the self and a certain self-consciousness with a concern for how others see them. Longer strides indicate confidence while shorter steps show timidity or preciseness.

When people get lost in the wilderness, they tend to walk in circles. This is because legs are not identical and blindfolded people quickly veer off a straight line.

Striking

Legs can also be weapons, as all martial artists know. Legs are longer than arms and have much bigger muscles. This can make a kick very powerful.

The legs can hit with thigh or knee (such as in the groin strike), the shin (a nice hard bone) or the top, ball or side of the foot.

Actual striking is rare, but moving as if to kick someone can come from a desire to actually do so. A slight twitch in the right direction can thus signal aggression and cause embarrassment. Swinging the leg may simulate kicking.

Touching

Standing

When standing, not much of the leg can be touched. The bottom or thighs may be stroked seductively. They may also be slapped. A single slap can say 'Right, let's go' and signal that the person is about to make a suggestion. A slapped side of leg may also indicate irritation, saying 'Dang! What a nuisance!'

Sitting

When sitting, more of the leg may be reached, particularly in the figure-four cross-leg position, and in a more visible manner. Seductive stroking can thus be a strong sexual invitation.

Preening may also be used, brushing real or imagined bits of fluff off crossed legs.

The leg may also be tapped, perhaps in time to music and perhaps impatiently.

See also

Arm body language, Thigh body language

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