Interpreting Standing Leg Movements and Positions  - Part 2

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Sitting Positions

We already got the "basics" of leg gestures, so now it's time to see how they reveal interest, insecurity and what "happy feet" mean (no, I'm not referring to the movie!)

Let's start with the significance of the orientation in feet:

Pointing with the Legs

The feet, just like other body parts, can hint us about the desires of a person and his center of attention. You can often guess where one wants to go, and how urgently, simply by looking at the direction he point his feet.

For example, suppose you observe that the person you're talking with Stands with his both feet away from you, it's a good sign that he\she is not really interested in interacting with you right now and probably wish to leave.

The feet are more reliable indicators to such desires than other hints from the body because yet again, they're "invisible" to another's gaze and attention. We might be smiling and nodding, but we don't really think about the direction of our body.

Pointing is an especially useful signal during group interactions; when a group stands in half or full circle - you can easily identify to where the participants attention is directed by looking at their feet.

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If you're trying to enter an ongoing conversation it's worth checking if their feet point towards one another or if some are facing outside. If it's a closed group in a very active conversation, their feet will form a closed circle – they are not welcoming external intrusion. If on the other hand, you'll notice people's feet pointing outside "the circle" - they are more welcome to external company and interruption, and it's best to approach the group from that "open" side.

The Stork

Standing on one foot while tucking the other behind her around the calf, resembling a stork, is almost an exclusively female gesture that reveals inhibition and conservative attitude.

Since we talked about stability of stance, you can note that this posture is probably one of the least stable - even the lightest breeze can topple this poor girl off.

So, in order to "break the ice" with such girl a careful and attentive approach is required, just like approaching a frightful animal, you don't want to frighten and let herself close even more.

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Why it's a female gesture? Probably because it's an uncomfortable stance for men to mimic due to their lack of flexibility. But don't worry, men have their own share of defensive signals, which we'll discuss later.

Don't confuse the "stork stance" to a similar but comfortable habit; where one foot is resting beside the other leg, not behind her. Why that happens? Simply because some people prefer to balance themselves on one feet in informal occasions, that's all. You can say it's part of their "standing style"

In Motion

Let's talk about some examples of dynamic leg movements:

Extremely Happy Feet

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Happy feet

When we feel good, excited or positive towards current events we often let that excitement show through the way we move our body; happy people walk with jumpy strides, as if they're about to lift off from the ground.

So even when we sit idle or when we try to conceal our excitement - we still reveal it through our feet - we rock back and forth on our heels with buzzing anticipation.

Stomping Feet

Stomping the feet is one universal sign for hostile attitude or frustration. In the animal kingdom the bull stomps his hoof as he prepares to ride down his target. In humans it simply shows that something is gone amiss, so we express that anger in a physical way.

Yet, it's a child-like gesture, so it's quite curious when it happen in adults - they either let their feelings overwhelm them or are very expressive.

Tapping Foot

Tapping one foot rapidly on the ground is one annoying habit... which I admittedly posses. I'm very familiar with the symptom because it occurs to me when I'm impatient or bored. This jerky leg movement helps me release some excess energy from my boredom or nervousness, but in turn antagonizes others around me.  Lucky for me and others, it's possible to break this habit, just like nail biters can stop chopping their nails; it simply requires conscious effort and diligence.

There may be others variations to foot tapping that reveal tension - they all posses the annoying attribute of being rapid and shaky, the faster the rate - the more agitation there is. 

An interesting note however - as the tension or boredom fades, so the leg movements turns to be slower and more relaxed, so it's a good barometer to someone's level of unrest.

What's next?

We finished reviewing the standing leg position and even looked at some mobile leg gesture, now it's time to see what the legs "say" when they have nothing else to do - when we sit.

Sitting leg positions

Or you can review the first part on standing leg movements and positions

Or you can return to the main body language signs section

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