Shake a Leg

One morning in the Volunteer Team House at Orphanage Emanuel in Honduras, my friend Charlie got my boys out of bed by saying,

“Out of the sheets and into the streets!”

It has been my favorite morning idiom ever since. Before that my favorite was,

“Shake a leg!”

Of course, now they are old enough to get themselves up, but shake a leg is probably not the best life tip to give my boys when taken literally.

Leg shaking in the right company is fine when we have to wait for the bathroom and it’s also a good way to warm up at the football game, but it’s not advisable for a business setting.

While there are medical reasons why people shake their legs, it is generally views as a signed of anxiety or boredom. It can also be seen as an indication of dishonesty.

Tests conducted using middle managers as subjects who were instructed to lie, have shown that unconscious foot movements increase dramatically when a person is lying. While both men and women subjects could control their hands, and create fake facial expressions, they were unaware of what their feet were doing.

In a spirit of brevity, here are a few more reminders of how we can use the language of our legs and feet to create better connections whether standing or sitting.

While Standing

The feet show the direction we want to go. When listening to a speaker, we are generally more engaged when our feet are pointed towards the speaker. Look for this the next time you are at a social gathering. If you can spot a listener is whose head is turned toward a speaker but has their body facing towards another person, you will know who they prefer to be speaking with.

When you are standing, it is generally sends a better signal if your legs are uncrossed with your feet still. But too wide of a stance (beyond shoulder-width) in the Pelvic Display position doesn’t send approachable signals. You knew that, right?


When seated, knees together with ankles uncrossed and feet flat on the floor is generally good for both men and women, but crossing the legs appropriately can show that you are relaxed. Let the other person cross their legs first and mirror them if it is appropriate to your own attire.

At a meeting around a table, practice turning your body toward the speaker. Avoid turning away from the table and remember the knees point in the direction of your interest when seated.

Happy connecting!


Rick Burris


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