It can be a challenge to figure out what crossed legs might mean. In this post, I will try to help you to figure out what it might mean when someone has their legs crossed.

So, what does it mean when someone crosses their legs? If the person is sitting down with their legs crossed then it will often mean that they’re in disagreement with something. If they’re standing up it can either mean that they intend to stay where they are but it can also be a defensive position signaling feelings of insecurity.

There are actually many possible reasons that a person might cross their legs. There are also a lot of other factors that you should consider when trying to figure out why someone might have their legs crossed.

Possible reasons why someone might cross their legs

There are many possible reasons that someone might cross their legs. Below I will mention a number of them.

However, keep in mind, It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t judge how a person feels based on one body language signal. Instead, it will be necessary for you to consider other body language signals that they are displaying in addition to the crossed legs and to consider the environment and things that you already know about the person.

Not wanting to leave

In some cases, crossed legs could be a signal that the person is feeling comfortable and that they do not want to leave.

If the reason that the person has their legs crossed is that they don’t want to leave then it’s likely that they will be showing some other positive body language signals.

It is likely that their pupils would be slightly more dilated because when we’re happy our pupils dilate slightly.

Their stable foot may be pointing towards what or who they like and would be less likely to be pointing towards the exit.

Their smiles will likely be genuine where they show the teeth and there are creases towards the edges of the eyes.

They will also likely make an effort to continue the conversation if they’re having one and will be less likely to give one-word answers.

If it is a woman she may start playing with her hair and may talk in a higher pitch tone and may also hold her gaze for slightly longer.

If it’s a man he may talk in a deeper tone, engage in more touching behavior and hold his gaze for slightly longer as well.

Displeasure

If you observe a group of people with someone that they don’t like they will often have their legs crossed. When the person leaves they will often uncross them. This happens because having crossed legs can be a signal of displeasure.

If it’s the case that the person has their legs crossed due to being displeased then it is likely that they will display some other negative behaviors.

One of the main things to look for would be if they are pointing their feet in a different direction to the person that they’re talking to or their feet are facing towards the exit.

Disagreement

One reason that a person might cross their legs is disagreement with something that is being said.

If this is the case then it would be likely that they would cross their legs as they form a different opinion. So, if you say something that could be disagreeable then people cross their legs then you should make an attempt to address the concerns that they might have or to change the topic to one that they might like.

There are some other body language signals that this behavior would likely come with.

One thing that they might do, in addition to crossing their legs, is to lean their head slightly on one hand with the other arm coming across the body. This would convey that they are considering the thought but they are holding something back.

Another thing that would signal that they are holding something back would be if they have tight lips and are not making positive gestures with their mouths.

Other things to look for would be pupil constriction, rubbing of the face or neck due to some stress being caused by the disagreement and they might lean in a different direction to the person talking.

Mirroring

When people are comfortable with each other they will often begin to mirror each other’s body language. If the person is with people that they like then this would be more likely to be the case.

In this case, they would likely be showing other positive signals and they would not be showing signs of wanting to leave.

Power play

If the person is leaning back with their legs crossed on top of something like a table or chair then that would be a sign that they are feeling in change and dominant.

When people feel like they are in charge they will often show this by taking up more space or by claiming objects are theirs by leaning a body part on them.

This type of behavior would be more likely to occur in business settings where the higher-ups would likely feel like they are in charge.

Another body language sign to look for, in this case, would be resting the back of their head on their hands. It’s a display of being in control and unconcerned.

Insecurity

If the legs are crossed tightly then it could be a sign that the person is feeling uncomfortable. By crossing the legs it allows the person to protect the crotch area which gives them some level of protection.

With that being said, standing with crossed legs makes it harder to move which can make it a slightly more submissive thing to do since it reduces their ability to protect themselves.

Confidence

If they’re sat in the “figure 4” position where they’re resting their ankle on their knee then this is because it makes the crotch more vulnerable and it conveys that you are not concerned.

Coldness

The reason that people may cross their legs is that they’re cold. So, this is something that you may want to consider.

Consider the environment

When trying to figure out why someone might have crossed their legs it would be helpful to consider the environment that they’re in since it can give you a lot of clues as to the reason.

Business setting

If someone crosses their legs in a business setting then it could either be signaling that they are feeling nervous or that they are in disagreement with what is being said.

If the person crosses their legs right from the start then look for other signs that they may be feeling anxious. These signs could include stroking or rubbing the face or neck, they may rub their arms, they will talk in a higher pitch and will have forced laughs.

If the person is in disagreement then they will likely have crossed their legs shortly after hearing something that they didn’t like.

Social setting

If the person crosses their legs in a social setting then it could mean that they are displeased with something, in disagreement with something or that they don’t want to leave.

If they don’t want to leave then they will likely be showing other positive signs mentioned above. If they’re displeased with something then they may have crossed their legs when a person that they don’t like entered the room and they will be more likely to be facing their feet towards the exit.

Other body language signs to look for

When trying to figure out why someone might have their legs crossed it’s important to look for other body language signs that would contradict or agree with what you think might be causing it.

There are lots of body language signs that a person might show but, below, I will mention a number of them.

  • Crossed arms

If a person has crossed legs and crossed arms then it will often convey a negative mood. Other things to look for would be pupil constriction, neck rubbing, face rubbing, tight lips and leaning towards the exit.

  • Hands rubbing areas of the face or neck

If a person has their legs crossed and they are frequently rubbing their face or neck then that would signal that they have feelings of anxiety or stress.

  • Tight lips

If a person has their legs crossed and they have their lips tightly closed then it would signal that they are holding something back. In this case, they would likely have crossed their legs shortly after hearing something that they don’t like.

  • Clenched jaws

If the jaws are clenched then it will usually be an aggressive sign. Having crossed legs and a clenched jaw would be somewhat contradictory since it’s hard to be aggressive with crossed legs.

  • Foot tapping

This would generally signal impatience. If they have their legs crossed then look to see if they are facing the exit or if they are leaning that way since it would suggest that they are waiting to leave.

  • Glances

Another thing that would signal impatience is if they are frequently glancing towards the exit or their friends. In this case, look to see if their feet are tapping and if they are facing toward their friends or the exit.

  • Vocal tone

A change in a person’s vocal tone can help you to figure out how they might be feeling. If they have their legs crossed and they are speaking at a higher pitch than usual then that would signal some anxiety. If they’re speaking at a lower pitch than normal then that would signal that they are feeling more dominant.

  • Mirroring

The reason that the person could have their legs crossed could be that they are mirroring. If this is the case then they may show other mirroring behaviors that you should look for.

  • How they smile

If the person has their legs crossed and they are only giving half-smiles with their lips closed then that would be a sign that they are holding something back or that they are disinterested in the conversation.

  • Touching

If the person is standing with crossed legs but they are touching others regularly in a non-aggressive way then that would signal that they are happy where they are.

  • Gazing

If the person is gazing with the person that they are speaking to then that would signal that they are comfortable where they are. If they are in a crossed legs position then they might be mirroring or not wanting to move.

Things to consider

When they crossed their legs

When trying to figure out what might be causing a person to cross their legs it would be very helpful to think about when they crossed them.

If it was right after someone said something that would signal disagreement.

If it was when someone entered the room then it could be due to discomfort.

If it was after a friend did it then they could simply be mirroring their behavior.

If they had their legs crossed straight away then it would signal that they are anxious about something.

With that being said, it’s important to consider the other body language signals that they are giving off. Be careful not to draw conclusions from single body language gestures.

Try to reduce their leg crossing

If you want to get the person to be more receptive to you then it would generally be a good idea to try to get them out of the crossed leg position. You could try doing that by addressing their concerns or you could try showing them something or trying to get them to move.

Try to reduce your own leg crossing

Since leg crossing is generally perceived as being negative, if you want people to perceive you as being more open, then it would be beneficial for you to try to reduce how often you cross your legs.

In what direction are they leaning and their feet pointing?

One of the main body language signals to look for is the direction that their feet are pointing and in what direction they are leaning.

Related

What does it mean when someone crosses their legs when talking to you? If someone crosses their legs while they are talking to you then that would signal that they either disagree with what you said or that they are comfortable where they are and they don’t want to move. Alternatively, it could be that they are mirroring your behavior so you should be mindful of your own body language.

If you want to learn more about body language, a book I would recommend would be The Definitive Book of Body Language (on Amazon). It shows you how to interpret body language and understand people's true intentions.

Author

I created and currently manage Body Language Central, one of the premier sources for body language-related knowledge. Body language plays a key role in our daily lives. I hope that my website can help condense the wide amount of body language information available and allow you to make full use of it in your daily life. You can read more about me and my website here.