Holding on (or hiding) for Dear Life

By David M. Schneer, Ph.D./CEO

3-Minute Read

Practical Applications for Nonverbal Intelligence and the Emotional Indicators of Ankles Entwined around a Chair.

Every astute teacher knows which one of their students has prepared for the exam and those who haven’t.

How? With a glance of a student’s feet; ankles “hugging” the base of a chair is a highly reliable indicator of someone who lacks confidence, is fearful, or is highly stressed. See Below:

The interaction between our legs and chairs can signal a lot.  Joe Navarro, former FBI profiler and body language expert writes that when someone suddenly “interlocks” their ankles, it is highly indicative that something is amiss. …the sudden interlocking of ankles around the chair following a question, or while discussing a sensitive issue, is a strong indicator that something is wrong. It’s part of the freeze/self-restraint response.”[1] This assumes, of course, that people do not normally sit in this position. Some do.

Another giveaway that something is wrong is when people suddenly withdraw their feet under their chairs. For example, ask a job candidate if they’ve ever been fired and you might see them suddenly try to hide their feet. Navarro explains that teens may exhibit this behavior at home when asked about their whereabouts the night before.[2] In either case, neither the candidate nor the teenager liked the question.

A Telltale Sign of Insecurity, Stress, or Dislike

While it cannot be viewed via video conference, when in person do not ignore signs of interlocked ankles or disappearing feet.

At Merrill Research, we see indications of ankle locking and feet hiding in qualitative studies. For example, we see this when someone is struggling to work with a new product prototype. And when we see this behavior, it is always an opportunity to probe and learn more. If you see this behavior, then you might follow up with a question asking your counterpart if they have any concerns or if there is any confusion. Dig deep enough, and you will find out that there is.

Contact us today to see how we can help you or your organization become proficient at finding out what people are really thinking when they communicate with you. 

Most Communication is Nonverbal. Are You Fluent?

[1] Excerpt From The Dictionary of Body Language Joe Navarro https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewBook?id=1281489160.

[2] Ibid.