Dubai: Do you keep shaking your legs when you are sitting? Or are you one of those who doesn’t - and finds it highly irritating when someone does it? Well, here’s the thing.
Shaking your legs when sitting has many connotations, from sheer etiquette to deeper psychological and physiological signs.
According to etiquette coach Ziying Zhou, “Shaking your legs is a sign of poor manners, it is also a body language cue that reveals anxiety, impatience and irritation; it leaves a bad first impression and could potentially cost you your professional career; in certain cultures, there’s a superstition that shaking legs is akin to shaking your wealth away.”
The etiquette angle
Zhou says etiquette is about making others feel comfortable around us and always considering how we make others feel. “Shaking legs is a sign of impatience and irritation, and shows that we are not present, or have lack of respect to others. Legs are probably one of the largest parts of our body, and therefore cannot go unnoticed. It makes others feel disrespected and not at ease.”
Did you know that 55 per cent of first impressions are made by what we see (visual), 38 per cent is the way we hear the words (vocal), and only seven per cent is about what we say. If one is shaking legs during the first encounter with people, it surely will not leave a good impression because it takes up 55 per cent of the visuals.
She says shaking legs doesn’t help with making the right impressions.
“It only takes seven seconds for someone to have a first impression of us. People would have already made a decision of us, even before we’ve said hello. Did you know that 55 per cent of first impressions are made by what we see (visual), 38 per cent is the way we hear the words (vocal), and only seven per cent is about what we say. If one is shaking legs during the first encounter with people, it surely will not leave a good impression because it takes up 55 per cent of the visuals.”
Lack of confidence, self-control
Delving deeper into the subject, Zhou says, “In etiquette, we use a term called ‘deportment’ which refers to the manner in which one conducts one self, it could be the way we sit, walk, stand or behave. Our posture is one of the first things people notice when they meet us. Shaking legs when sitting conveys a lack of confidence. It is not good practice when it comes to deportment.”
According to Zhou, shaking your legs in a professional setting is bad for personal branding and reputation. “It shows you are nervous and not present, and more importantly, it is a sign of lacking self-control. It could potentially cost someone their career.”
Is there a way to sit elegantly?
“If we want to sit elegantly, for women, it is recommended to keep the knees and ankles together. One recommended position involves keeping your knees and ankles tightly together and slanting your legs to the side. It keeps your posture modest and makes your legs appear longer," says Zhou.
As far as men are concerned, they can sit with both feet flat on the ground or one leg crossed on top of the other, she notes.
Zhou says in certain cultures, shaking legs is a complete no-no. According to her, “In China and some other Asian countries, for example, shaking legs means shaking off good fortune. It’s seen as rudeness, arrogance and disrespect. In ancient Chinese culture, this is particularly bad for females because when shaking legs, the feet will be inevitably shown in public. It was a taboo for females to show their feet to strangers, so it was construed as a sign of bad upbringing. In Japan too, it is considered extremely bad.
"They even have a term for it - bimbo yusuri - which means ‘poor person shake’. It is believed that when people cannot afford warm clothes or have too much idle time, they will start shaking their legs. If you shake your legs in front of your business partners in Japan, don’t be surprised if they never want to do business with you.”
Interestingly, though, it is unlikely that anyone will directly point it out to the person shaking their legs, says Zhou. “This is because in Chinese and Japanese cultures, they are considered ‘high context’, meaning it is assumed that there is a high level of shared context, hence the communication style tends to leave some things unsaid.”
The psychological and physiological signs
According to Devika Singh, a psychologist based in Dubai, shaking your legs is a reflection of a psychological state of mind.
It can indeed signify various underlying emotions or states of mind. It could be a sign of anxiety, restlessness or boredom.
“It can indeed signify various underlying emotions or states of mind. It could be a sign of anxiety, restlessness or boredom. However, it’s important not to jump to conclusions based solely on this behaviour, as it can have multiple interpretations depending on the context and individual differences.”
She says, “In terms of others’ perceptions, leg shaking might lead some people to assume that you’re anxious, nervous or impatient. However, this perception can vary widely among individuals and cultures. It’s worth noting that while some might interpret it negatively, others might not pay much attention to it at all.”
Singh says to address leg shaking, first, it’s important to observe the context. “Is it a situation where anxiety or restlessness would be expected? If not, it might be helpful to consider other factors like caffeine intake, lack of physical activity, or even just a habitual behaviour. If the leg shaking is causing distress or impacting your ability to focus, it might be beneficial to practise relaxation techniques, mindfulness, or stress management strategies,” she advises.
Most people who shake their legs while sitting do it to reduce stress and tension, to express anxiety and manage some sort of discomfort.
Dr. Amr Hajlawi, Specialist Orthopaedic Surgeon at Aster Orthopedics & Physiotherapy Speciality Clinic, Al Warqa, says, “Most people who shake their legs while sitting do it to reduce stress and tension, to express anxiety and manage some sort of discomfort."
He says some people may have medical issues like peripheral nerve injury or diseases related to the brain, kidney or in the realm of endocrinology.