Raise your hand if you’ve ever been stuck in a conversation. Everybody reading this should be raising their hands. Raise your hand if the other person noticed that you wanted out and let you out. Probably fewer raised hands, if any. Now, raise your hand if you’ve ever noticed that someone else was stuck in a conversation with you…and you let them out. Chances are that you didn’t let them out, probably because you didn’t realize that someone was ready to move on (for any reason at all). “But I didn’t know they wanted out!” Well, here’s an incredibly simple way to know how someone is feeling: look at their feet!
For this week’s post about a little thing that has a large impact, watch the other person’s feet the next time you have a conversation for tell tales of how engaged they are in the conversation. As much as we can make our faces do what we want, our feet always tell the truth. We’ve all been there – smiling at the other person while thinking about how badly you need to get to the dry cleaners before they close, or how you have that report due tomorrow that you haven’t started, or that your email is probably blowing up right now, or that you’re tired of standing and ready to sit down (at your desk/couch).
3 Main Feet Positions
There are 3 main feet positions to notice.
- If both feet are pointed towards you, this indicates that the person is paying attention to you and everything is going well:
- If one foot is pointed towards you and the other slightly (or completely) away, then they’re still listening to what you’re saying but they are ready to move on. Don’t take it personally – maybe you trapped this person in the work kitchen asking about their personal life, which they’re happy to share with you, but they have a ton of work to day at their desk so they don’t have all day to chat with you (yes, this happened just this morning). It’s not that they don’t like talking to you; it’s more that they have something pressing right now. When this happens, this is how their feet will be positioned:
- When someone has both feet pointed away from you (especially if it’s towards the door or exit), please be kind and let them go. Notice their feet and find a gracious way to end the conversation. For example, you could say, “We’re having a great conversation right now and I’d love to finish it up later when we both have more time.” Or, “This has been really good. Thanks for taking the time to share with me.” Or, “I know you’re busy, so I’ll let you go and not take up any more of your time.” Or, “Thanks for talking with me. I appreciate your time, especially when there are so many people here to talk to. See you around!” If the other person’s feet are pointed away from you, don’t worry about offending them by ending the conversation. They clearly want to end it themselves and will be relieved when it’s over. This is what it might look like:
Feet Position In Real Life
At an event recently, I was observing someone very dear to me who can be pretty socially awkward talk to someone who had just met my dear someone. During the conversation, my dear someone kept their feet pointed directly at the new acquaintance, which didn’t surprise me because my person is very sincere during all conversations (one of the many things I love about this person) and can get a bit…intense. The new person though was more interesting to watch. When they started talking, the new person’s feet were both pointed toward my person, indicating interest in the topic/person. After a little bit though, the new person started to shift her weight and pointed one foot completely away from my person, indicating that she was thinking about how to leave. And then abruptly, both feet turned back towards my person. This was so interesting to me because, even though I had no idea what they were talking about, it was clear that my person had recaptured the new person’s interest. It was also just another demonstration of how feet show what we’re thinking.
So, the next time you talk to someone, pay attention to their feet to get a read on how engaged they are. And remember, it probably isn’t personal if one or both feet are trying to get away; it probably just means that the other person is busy and has their own life stuff to deal with.
If you’re curious about other body language tells, I highly recommend reading What Every BODY Is Saying, by Joe Navarro. If you don’t like or have time right now to read a book, don’t worry. Stick around and I’ll share more interesting body language int he future. Sign up over on the right side!