The OpeningUp Procedure

As people begin to feel comfortable in a group and get to know others in it, they move through an unwritten code of movements taking them from the defensive crossed arms and legs position to the relaxed open position. Studies of people in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and America reveal that the standing 'opening-up' procedure is the same in each of these countries.

Stage l: Defensive position, arms and legs crossed (Figure 84).

Stage 2: Legs uncrossed and feet placed together in a neutral position.

Stage 3: The arm folded on top in the arm cross comes out and the palm is flashed when speaking but is not tucked back into the arm cross position. It holds the outside of the other arm.

Stage 4: Arms unfold and one arm gesticulates or may be placed on the hip or in the pocket.

Stage 5: One person leans back on one leg and pushes the other forward to point at the person whom he finds the most interesting (Figure 85).

Alcohol can speed up this process or eliminate some of the stages. Defensive or Cold?

Many people claim that they are not defensive but cross their arms or legs because they feel cold. This is often a cover-up and it is interesting to note the difference between a defensive stance and the way a person stands when he or she feels cold. First of all, when someone wants to warm his hands he normally thrusts them into the armpits rather than tucking them under the elbows, as is the case with a defensive arm-cross. Secondly, when a -person feels cold he may fold his arms in a type of body hug and when the legs are crossed they are usually straight, stiff and pressed hard against each other (Figure 86), as opposed to the more relaxed leg posture of the defensive stance or position.

People who habitually take a crossed arms or legs position prefer to say that they are cold or comfortable rather than to admit that they could be nervous, shy or defensive.

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