The American Figure Leg Lock Position
This leg cross indicates that an argumentative or competitive attitude exists. It is the sitting position used by many American males who have a competitive nature. This being the case, it is difficult to interpret the attitude of an American during a conversation, but it is quite obvious when this gesture is used by a British citizen.
I recently addressed a series of meetings in New Zealand where the audience comprised about 100 managers and 500 sales people. A highly controversial issue was being discussed - the treatment of sales people by corporations. A salesman who was well-known to the audience and who had a reputation as a stirrer was asked to address the group. As he took the stage, the managers, almost without exception, took the defensive pose shown in Figure 80, which showed that they felt threatened by what they thought the salesman was going to say. Their fears were well founded. The salesman raged about the poor quality of management in most corporations in that industry and said he felt that this was a contributing factor to the industry's staffing problems. Throughout his speech the sales people in the audience were leaning forward showing interest, many using evaluation gestures, but the managers held their defensive positions. The salesman then changed his address to discuss what he believed the manager's role should be in relation to the sales people. Almost as if they were players in an orchestra who had been given a command by the orchestra leader, the managers shifted to the competitive/argumentative position (Figure 81). It was obvious that they were mentally debating the salesman's point of view and many later confirmed that this had been the case. I noticed, however, that several managers had not taken this pose. After the meeting I asked them why, and, although most said they had also disagreed with the salesman's views, they were unable to sit in the figure 4 leg lock position for such reasons as obesity and arthritis.
In a selling situation it would be unwise to attempt to close the sale and ask for the order when the buyer takes this position. The sales person would need to use an open appeal, leaning forward with palms up and saying, 'I can see you have some ideas on this. I'd be interested in your opinion', and then sit back to signify that it is the buyer's turn to speak. This gives the buyer an opportunity to tell you his opinion. Women who wear trousers or jeans are also observed sitting in the figure 4 position on occasions.