Most people would state that standing square, face-to-face was the most honest and trustworthy position people orient themselves in while speaking with someone, but they would only be half right. In fact, most Americans stand at forty-five degrees or at oblique angles to one another. Facing someone dead on, is how boxers square off to one another in the pre-show weigh-in or when two men near physical contact at a bar. The head on orientation is reserved for confrontation with just one exception. That is when two people are really comfortable with each other.

In confrontation people get really close to one another and stare into each others eyes as a signal of dominance. This stance has a basis in escape since it is much easier to exit left or right from a tilted position rather than one that squares you off to someone else. When we want to exit from a confrontational stance we need to pivot or shift first which requires more movement and puts is in peril. However, orienting at oblique angles mutually tells us that we aren’t trying to corner each other, but when confrontation is not a remote possibility, facing straight-on is a demonstration of extreme comfort and trust.

Other cultures don’t feel this way. Arabic cultures for example will speak with one another with their faces nearly touching, which isn’t rare, in fact it happens during normal conversation. Women in American cultures tolerate such closeness only from another woman. Men who do this to women will be perceived as sexually interested and be seen to be making a sexual come-on. If not welcomed closeness will be a threat and turn-off, and in an office situation, should definitely be avoided.