How to Use Body Language to Signal Energy and Self-confidence

How to Use Body Language to Signal Energy and Self-confidence

Despite the fact that slouching indicates bad posture and bad body language, the sixties and seventies saw three books “extolling” slouching.  Joan Didion started the “slouching towards” trend when she named her memoir of her travels in California in the 1960’s “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”.

Two popular books of the 1980’s were “Slouching Towards Kalamazoo” and “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”.  The former is a satirical novel about a 15 year old North Dakota boy who was held back a year in elementary school because he spent his time reading Joyce and Proust instead of comic books while bashing heads on the football field.

The latter is a book about the negative trends that stalwart conservative Robert Bork saw happening in America at the time.  His theme was that America was not so much as willfully pursuing with reckless abandon a future of declining values and production, but that we were indolently slouching inexorably in that direction.

We will take up the banner of slouching by discussing how slouching can damage your career.

Slouching Overwhelms Success

Judi James, a body language expert and ergonomics specialist, says that while successful people have many different traits, not nearly all of them in common with other successful people, there seems to be at least one trait successful people seem to share with all other successful people—good, strong posture.  She uses the terms “energy” and “positivity” to describe the posture of successful people.

Not all energetic people are positive people; some use their energy to cause real harm.  So James emphasizes the significance of projecting both high levels of energy and high levels of positivity in one’s posture or body language. A strong posture inspires confidence in others.  It makes others see you as their leader even if by definition you aren’t.

Innate Quality in Some

It has been said many times about Bill Clinton that he drew attention to himself as soon as he entered a room without his having to say anything.  Unfortunately, his missus shares none of his innate ability to inspire confidence.  She has to work at it all the time and it certainly showed during the 2015-16 presidential primaries and general election campaign.

Performers Understand Posture

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Performers know well the importance of strong posture and body language to convey the emotion of the performance they are making.  One of the great virtues of all the singing and performing reality shows is to see the two opposite extremes of this phenomenon: the people who exude confidence and the people who show utter lack of confidence until they begin to sing at which time all their lack of confidence disappears for as long as the performance lasts.

Who can forget Paul Potts, of Britain’s Got Talent fame, hiding within his own skin until he began to sing opera, singing as if he were pouring every ounce of his energy into the performance, and then immediately reverting back to the person who hides within his skin the moment the performance ended?

Submission

In the animal world, when two males are at war with each other to determine the leader of the pack, the loser will slouch over, indicating submission.  In a business context slouching indicates many of the negative traits humans possess: submission, ennui, low morale, and a lack of hope. 

If an employer sees this posture in an employee, he or she may fire said employee not because the employee is doing poor work necessarily but because the employer doesn’t want others, especially future patrons of the company, to see it.  Slouching may also indicate the need for a change of corrective lenses.  It may indicate the need to perform daily exercises to get the slouch out of your posture.  It may indicate none of the above-mentioned negative human traits.

Your employer or banker doesn’t know why he sees you or an employee slouching.  They see only the slouching.

A Pandemic of Slouching

Most of us slouch far more than we realize.  Partly it’s because we work at computers.  Evolution did not prepare us for long hours of sitting in a chair.  We also look down at our telephones more than any of us realize.  It isn’t only the millennials whose default posture is a downward glance and wiggling fingers.  As much as we enjoy playing at a Vegas casino, the long sessions sitting may put us in a slouch.

Where we used to look at our wrists to see the time, we now look down.  We are training our necks to adopt a downward position.

Anti-Slouching Training

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We need to perform exercises that will retrain our necks to keep our heads upright.  The best exercises are all stretches.  The key is to stand tall and stretch skyward.  You can stretch with your arms above your head or at your sides.

When you begin a stretching regimen, you’ll experience pain in your shoulders.  This pain is directly proportional to the amount of slouching you’ve been doing.  When you are committed to stretching to loosen your body and prevent slouching, you’ll stand up much more often than you did before.

Even if you stretch for only five minutes an hour, it will begin to train your body to stay upright when you’re sitting.  Another great exercise is simply to practice standing up from a sitting position.  You would be surprised how little you use your legs when you stand.  Practice standing up using only your legs.  A great exercise to do at home is standing from a sofa or soft chair without pushing off with your arms.

Stand flat against a wall.  Do this with your face to the wall and also with your back to the wall.  You’ll feel pain in your lower back so do this gingerly and for only a few seconds at first.  It will teach your body to remain straight when you’re standing.

You can do the same exercise while lying on the floor.  Be careful to do it for only a few seconds at a time at first.  You are probably a long way from being able to maintain this position like a yogi.

The last exercise is to rotate your arms as much in a 360 arc.  The closer you get to 360, the better your posture will be.  Don’t be discouraged at first; everyone is a long way from 360 at first.

Put Your Best Body Forward

We convey hidden messages all the time.  In business, body language and posture are two of the most important hidden messages.  We no longer stand tall instinctively so we have to teach ourselves to do so.

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