When I read someone I like to first check for opened and closed body postures. Closed cues generally occur whenever a limb crosses the center line of the body. When a leg, for example, comes across the center of the body and locks with the opposite leg, or when the arms fully cross over one another, we have a closed posture. Coupled with the more obvious arm and leg crossing are more subtle cues of closed body postures such as holding a drink at the chest as a shield or playing with a cufflink.
Knowing the difference between open postures and closed postures is very important when trying to determine the thoughts, feelings and disposition of our targets. Open body language has been shown to be linked to openness of the mind where people are more likely to be receptive to outside views and having closed postures has been tied to having a closed mind or being unreceptive to new ideas.
When closed postures are combined with other closed postures, the signal intended is made more obvious. For example, leg crossing in combination with arm crossing is much more potent than either alone. Add to this an expressionless face, turning away, and one is left to assume that communication is not welcomed at any level. On the other hand, we might be faced with someone who has their legs crossed but the arms are opened and honest. In this case, we might assume that it is a deliberate and conscious attempt to appear relaxed, when in fact the person might not be relaxed at all. It might be the case too, that someone has mixed feelings and is reserved at one level, but open at another level. Reading opened and closed body language is tricky business, but all cues are additive. Cues of the same origin, happening together, serve to strengthen an open or closed reading, but so too does conflicting cues. Conflicting cues tell us that someone has an internal reservation, made obvious through their mixed message.
As a rule, open postures are any postures you will habitually carry at home – we rarely cross our arms and huddle up in the fetal position in the comfort of our living room! Think sprawled out on the couch with legs and arms uncrossed.