Is it possible to tell from a person's midsection that she is feeling anxious? What do you look for — a tightening of the stomach, or the rhythm of a heart pounding so hard you can see the person's chest pulsating? While these are genuine ways to read high levels of anxiety, you'd have to be pretty darn close to a person to assess these types of changes. There's an easier way to tell from the torso if someone's feeling uncomfortable: Watch how she moves in her seat.
At some point, you've no doubt seen a woman receiving unwanted attention from a man in a social setting. If the woman is seated, she might appear to sink back into her seat (if the guy is in front of her), or slide her torso off to the side. What she's really doing is curving her spine away from the guy in an attempt to increase the space between herself and him.
Shifting the spine away from a person you'd rather not deal with is akin to angling (turning) yourself in the opposite direction. Both carry the same message: Go away. Even if the shifter remains polite, her spine is telling you all you need to know — she hasn't been won over, and it's not likely that she's going to change her mind.
The Bigger, The Better
Another shifty response to anxiety is something called the broadside display, something animals do when they're threatened by a predator. This is exactly what it sounds like — the animal will turn to the side and make itself seem as large as possible, sending a clear message to its opponent: “Are you sure you want to mess with me?” People don't usually turn to the side when they mimic this stance; instead, they stand with their legs wide apart, their chests puffed out and their shoulders thrown back. They're sending the same message as their animal counterparts: “Think twice before you come at me, because I'll be coming right back at you.”
When faced with fighting a predator, most animals prepare to fight, but some may choose the opposite route: Animals — and people — can make themselves appear as small as possible to hide from a predator. You might see a person literally trying to curl his spine inward in this situation.