Boss wants you in his office.
You adjust your necktie,
double-check the report,
But how should you sit?
Is it okay to cross your legs…or better to put both feet down?
No – both options have multiple versions.
And each one can signal your:
- Level of confidence
- Openness in conversations
- Manliness (to some extent)
Which may or may not be true…
But when other people see how you sit…
They’ll think what they want to think.
So keep reading to learn the 5 main sitting positions and which ones you ought to use or avoid.
#1 – Legs Out Front & Knees Together
First we’ve got the non-crossed-legs positions. It’s either the knees are kept close together or they’re spread out. The legs themselves are 2-10 inches apart – and it’s not comfortable!
This position doesn’t necessarily “hide” your manhood – but the thighs still put pressure on it. That’s why it’s natural for grown men to NOT keep their knees close together while seated. If you ever tried it…you’d catch yourself feeling tight and wanting to spread your legs.
In fact, science points out that sitting with the knees together is physiologically easier for women. The female pelvis has an overall greater width than its male counterpart. And the angle the female femoral neck isn’t as large as the male one.
#2 – Legs Out Front & Knees Spread
When both feet are planted on the floor and knees are roughly 11-24 inches apart…that’s what most men are accustomed to. Not only does it provide breathing room for the little guy down there. It’s a way of exuding dominance by “marking your territory.”
When we look at people with power – they’re normally seen to take up more space. Kings sit on large thrones. CEOs sit by the short edge of the table while everyone else has seatmates. But there’s another trait that men who sit like this give off: being open to discussion.
When the body “opens up”…the mind does the same. You’re not feeling guarded or defensive (which is implied when the thighs are stuck together covering your crotch area). So communication-wise, this version of straight legs is preferable.
#3 – The Leg-Over-Leg Cross Position
Here’s the one that’s always up for debate – the typical crossing of legs. It’s said to be quite common in Europe (whereas Americans tend to go for the Figure-Four Leg-Lock). One leg is crossed over the other. Legs stuck together.
This position takes things a step further than sitting with your legs straight and knees close. It can mean you’re building a fortress around yourself (particularly your crotch) with the thighs lumped together.
That explains why some people perceive crossed legs as less masculine than straight legs. Crossed legs keep your manhood “hidden” instead of “exposed” – which isn’t an issue for women who sit like this.
Watch out for this during business meetings or even casual conversations. When a man crosses his legs (and worse, his arms too) he’s practically withdrawn from the conversation. It might be futile to convince him or change his mind.
In business contexts – people who sit like this talk in shorter sentences, reject more proposals and recall less of what’s been discussed than those with “open” and straight legs. So during negotiations, check if you can see the other person sitting with straight legs before you present. It’s more likely for two people to agree on something when no legs are crossed.
#4 – The Ankle Lock Position
There’s an old Army saying about keeping your heels locked. It means you are not to disclose everything. But when the ankles are locked while you’re seated – it can be a sign that you’re hiding something. A sign that others may quickly pick up when they notice it.
This gesture is comparable to “biting your lip” –holding back a negative emotion. It can be fear, anxiety over withheld information or a similar thing. Men who sit like this also commonly (1) place their interlocked hands on their knees or (2) grip the arms of their chair tightly.
Some common instances when men lock their ankles:
- In grueling scenarios like job interviews, some people sit with the ankles locked.
- Defendants who sit outside the courtroom before their hearing are more likely to have their ankles tightly locked under their chairs (to help control their emotions).
- Airline stewardesses can spot apprehensive travelers because they sit with locked ankles (especially during takeoffs).
However, if you happen to be in a situation where your legs can’t be seen..locked ankles can be a temporary sitting position to calm yourself down. Do it with your hands folded in your lap – and it’ll help boost up your poise right away.
#5 – The Figure-Four Leg Lock Position
Body language experts call this a power position that’s also slightly aggressive. It’s when you sit with your legs crossed, ankle over knee. The positioning of the pelvis highlights the genitals – and you’re showing a high level of dominance and confidence.
Sounds unreal? Well…monkeys and chimps are known to display their genitals to act more aggressive (as such a display can spare them from the getting into physical fights). There’s a sense of intimidation involved. And you might find it useful someday.
Men in a business meeting can adopt this position to indicate their status. To send a message along the lines of “I’m powerful, successful and my time is valuable.” But it’s also believed that the Figure Four Leg Lock isn’t ideal when you’re making decisions. You’d actually be more decisive when both feet are planted firmly on the floor.
There’s also a second version: the Figure-Four Leg Clamp Position – in which the only difference is your hands are clamping the legs to keep them in place.
It’s an extra notch more aggressive. It’s linked to stubborn guys who aren’t open to the other people’s views, opinions or suggestions.
So clearly, the basic Figure-Four Leg Lock is the safer bet. It strikes a balance between coming off as powerful and confident – and still being respectful to those who are speaking to you.
If your encounter someone at work (other than your boss) who does the Leg Clamp during a conversation, one good trick is to offer them an object to hold (such as a drink). That will get them to release the clamping. And they’ll become a bit more attentive.
The Best Sitting Position? It’s #2
Keeping your legs planted on the floor, with the knees 11-24 inches apart is the most “open”, least defensive and least intimidating position. You can make a subconscious decision to cross your legs or lock your ankles…but sitting with straight legs works best for most situations.
And what’s interesting is there may be a correlation between your legs and your ability to negotiate. Henry Calero and Gerard Nierenberg (authors of How to Read a Person Like a Book) actually filmed 2,000 negotiation scenes in an experiment – and it turned out that not a single negotiator had his legs crossed when it came to a settlement. Could crossed legs have prevented more settlements from happening? Perhaps so.
But take note of these rules regardless of how you sit:
- Do NOT shake your legs. It implies feelings of anxiety or irritation. Your legs make up a large area of your body so when they move, it’s hard for others not to be distracted by them.
- Do NOT tap your toes. It comes across like you’re impatient or in a hurry. You can only resort to this to call someone’s attention without speaking (if it’s better not to talk).
Now for the “manly” debate about crossing legs. The trick to sitting down and “remaining” masculine at the same is by choosing either position #2 (legs out front and knees spread) or #5 (the Figure-Four Leg Lock). Both options keep the legs apart and your crotch “exposed”…and there’s nothing effeminate about a man who does this confidently.
The entire body is to body language what the speech organs are to spoken language. Body language and spoken language go hand in hand. You have to observe them together to fully understand what a person is communicating.
So don’t make extreme judgments or assumptions about people based on a few visual cues. Gestures or postures are never 100% proof of what someone’s experiencing in a moment.