08 Aug 2017
August 8, 2017

The Way We Sit & What it Means

By: Miocher Patel for The Economic Times

How do you sit? You take a chair and plonk yourself. Sometimes you cross your legs or ankles or sit with your legs in a wide four with the ankle resting on the opposite lower thigh aka the American way of sitting.

Apparently, every time you take a seat, your body is engaging in a non-verbal communication.

Now think about the way you sit down and maybe rethink it.

At a Formal Do

Emily Post – the first lady of good manners – talks about the art of sitting gracefully. Her advice: a woman should never cross her legs or sit with legs wide open. The perfect pose sitting in an easy yet dignified pose. When sitting in a formal meeting or party, men/women should sit with an erect posture and with poise.

Do: Sit erect in the middle of the chair with legs in a 90 degree with a gap of 6-7 inches between one’s feet or slightly sideways in the corner of a sofa.


If you sit with legs intertwined and all twisted, especially for women
It means: Insecurity, nervousness

Women shouldn’t cross legs at the knees, especially if they are wearing a skirt or a dress, it can ride up. Instead, cross at the ankles. For men, unless it is a deep lounging seat, should lean against the back and put a hand or an elbow on the sofa arm.

Never: Scramble for a seat. Having greeted everyone, survey the room discreetly and make your move.

You Sit: With legs crossed, foot kicking slightly
It Means: Boredom

At Work

If you are a junior setting in front of a senior then ideally you should not cross your legs.

You Sit: With legs wide open
It means: Arrogance, combative, sexual posturing

A complete no-no would be the American style of sitting-basically the ankle resting on the opposite knee in a wide four. That position reflects arrogance and power.

A lot of people in the corporate sector make the mistake of sitting in the wide four style. Only when you want to project power consciously, sit like that.

And remember to nod frequently to show you are listening and smile. Your body language should show others that you are attentive, interested and involved in the meeting.

Do: In a meeting, make sure your posture is erect and lean in to show interest in what your senior is saying.

You Sit: With hands clasped behind head, legs crossed
It means: Confidence, superiority

Never: Sit with a slouch or sink in your chair. It reflects disinterest or tiredness and can be construed as an attitude problem.

You Sit: With legs apart but thighs joined at the knee
It Means: Nervousness

At a Business Lunch or Dinner

In a business lunch or dinner, if the place cards are missing, then the protocol is that the most senior heads the table and the second in command sits next to him or her.

You sit: With locked ankles with knees apart.
It means: Apprehension, defensiveness

The management trainee would sit towards the end from the CEO on the table.

The sitting posture should follow the one in the formal do.

At a sit-down dinner, talking across the table is considered a major gaffe.

Do: Sit up straight with your legs at a 90 degree

Never: Sit with elbows on the table.

On a Date

If you are in a restaurant, first of all, a male should not sit next to the lady, he should sit opposite her.

To begin with, his posture should be erect.  As time goes by, he can be relaxed but still, maintain an erect posture.

Maintain a pleasant and expressive face.

Do: Lean in to show interest in her and what she’s saying

Never: Stretch out your legs under the table. You might end up hitting her and it can send out a wrong signal.

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