The way you sit reveals more about you than you realize. You may think your sitting posture is merely a consequence of wanting to feel comfortable, but that is hardly ever the case. There are subconscious thoughts, feelings, and relational cues your body is reacting to that cause you to choose your sitting position at any given moment.
The more you learn about the psychology of sitting, the more you will understand yourself as well as other people. If you’ve ever wished you had further insight into your co-workers’ thoughts as they sit across the conference table, or that attractive person sitting across the bar, we’ve got some psych facts that’ll give you the insider info you’ve been looking for.
What it Reveals: Carefree. Open-minded. Agile. Open to new thoughts from within and ideas from others.
There’s a reason you will often find children sitting with their legs crossed. Whether they’re sitting on the floor, in a chair, or on the turf of a playground, this sitting position denotes creative thinking and comfort. It’s self-contained and “small,” taking up just as much room as is needed to claim space but not force one’s self on others.
As we become adults, we return to this position when we are feeling confident and secure. Confident that we have everything we need, and secure in our surroundings and present situation.
Straight, With Good Posture
What it Reveals: Signals order, focus, confidence, and strength.
People who sit straight-up are often the ones we go to for advice, comfort, and reliable answers. If you sit this way most of the time, your thoughts are often centered, as opposed to chaotic. You possess the ability to focus on a task but quickly divert your attention to a co-worker, friend, or family member. The reason for this is simple: this is a position of neutrality and, as such, creates openness to any new stimulus with which you need to react.
What it Reveals: Peace. Calm. The willingness to listen and stay put for long periods of time.
If this is your natural sitting position–regardless of the environment in which you’re sitting–you are someone others see as content and calm. Our ancestors sat with their ankles crossed for various reasons, all of which centered on groundedness and/or judicious movement. Those whose movements are frenetic and constantly shifting come off as untrustworthy or flighty. In contrast, those who sit with their ankles crossed are usually more comfortable with stillness and long periods of conversation or observation.
Leaning Back, Legs Crossed
What it Reveals: Bold. Friendly. Confident. Optimistic.
This posture reveals a willingness to converse honestly and in the spirit of equality. If this is your go-to posture, you’re someone who believes they have earned their seat at the table and they believe the same about everyone else in the room. You embrace others for who they are, where they are, and you look forward to learning from them and sharing your own stories, as well.
People who sit like this tend to be authentic–they can share both positive and negative news without becoming aggressive, which makes them great resources for their bosses, we well as their co-workers, friends, and family.
What it Reveals: Interest. Intelligence. Intensity.
If this is your go-to sitting posture, you’re an interesting dichotomy of self-assured and guarded. Sure, you have great ideas, you’re an excellent problem solver, and you’ve probably read everyone in the room before the meeting even started, but you aren’t going to give all that information away easily.
People who sit like this tend to remain silent until they absolutely need to speak, or are specially called upon. They don’t feel the need to interject or hear their own voices, but when they do add to the conversation they bring well-defined ideas and reveal that they have a solution for both small challenges and big problems.
One Leg Up, Leaning Back
What it Reveals: Attention to details. Introversion. Self-assurance.
This posture is of utmost comfort to the sitter but can read as intimidating to other people in the room. It reveals a level of self-assuredness that others may believe makes the person impenetrable or impossible to access. If you often sit this way, you are probably an introvert–but you welcome interaction with people you’ve decided you like–and you’re probably just as happy sitting with your laptop in your lap and a cup of coffee as you might be lounging and watching television.
You’re laid back and easy-going, but you’re not standoffish. Sometimes people around you mistake you for the latter, though those who know you well come to you when they need sound advice and a sturdy shoulder to cry on.
Mirroring Another Person
What it Reveals: Physical attraction. Openness. A challenge. Strength.
There’s a lot going on this photograph–way more than you might notice at first glance. So, let’s break it down:
When we mirror other people–as these two are doing in the upper half of their bodies–we are communicating interest in what the other person is saying, and/or physical attraction. The deeper psychology of mirroring reveals that mimicking another person’s gestures, postures, and stances indicates a desire to “be on the same team” as the other person. When you add sexual attraction to the interaction, mirroring becomes almost like a dance and, in some cases, a mating ritual.
In the example above, the man’s ankles are crossed (communicating a desire to stay put), and the woman’s legs are crossed (communicating confidence and interest). Both are facing one another in an open posture, which means they are interested in what the other has to say, as well as the more subtle presence of attraction and openness to the other.
What it Reveals: Anxiety. Being in your own head. Forward thinking.
If you often clutch the arms rests of the chair you’re sitting in, you are releasing pent up energy. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a naturally anxious person. It could simply mean you prefer to be out and about, or in motion as opposed to sitting around. Those who have pent up energy need to release it somehow, and sitting down for long periods of time may not be your thing.
Crossed On Top, Crossed On Bottom
What it Reveals: Fliratious. Reserved. Comfortable.
Though this body posture could be described as closed-off at first glance, people who sit like this are actually comfortable in their own skin. Being comfortable and closed-off are very different things!
If you tend to sit this way–with your legs and arms crossed across your body–your mind is most often filled with deep thoughts as you’re making connections between people’s actions and words, as well as the way the people in the room make you feel. You’re self-aware but you don’t feel the need to explain yourself.
You may also fall into this posture when you’re in the presence of someone to whom you’re sexually attracted. The pscyhology of the posture itself is rooted in a physical comfort with yourself and presents a bit of a challenge that may closely be described as, “If you want me, come get me.”
Legs Open, Leaning Back
What it Reveals: Interest. Confidence. Positivity. Openness.
People who sit like this often feel confident in their own skin and believe they have something of value to add to the group. They aren’t necessarily cocky but they are definitely self-assured. Even in their self-assuredness they come off as friendly–as opposed to standoffish–and they tend to easily connect with everyone.
If you find that you most often sit in this position, you may describe your confidence as being something you’ve developed but not something you were born with. Part of what sparks your interest in other people is discerning how you can help them become the best version of themselves–a process that you know includes both positive reinforcement and the ability to receive helpful criticism.