Monday, July 25, 2011

Posture Perfect

I speak about posture with my clients... a lot.  And, by 'a lot', I mean A LOT!  In fact, I spoke about it with a coaching client today.  It is one of the top two elements that arises when we speak about Leadership and Executive presence.  What boggles my mind though is no one is ever surprised that I mention it as a key detractor from their projection of confidence, poise and potential.  In fact... they typically all indicate that they have been told this same thing many times in the past.  Yep, MANY times, and yet... they still slump and slouch.


Your posture is one of the key elements that communicates to others what your relative level of confidence is, either with the situation itself or with yourself.  Round your shoulders forward, compress your diaphragm and sink down into your lower spine and you will look more submissive, unsure, hesitant and, yes, weak.    Lord knows that if you are a parent of a teen, in particular a teenage boy, you have been admonishing them forever to stop slouching!  Why then do so many adults continue to demonstrate this self-same behaviour?

Recent research now shows us that not only does poor posure make a bad impression, but that it can actually make you physically weaker.  According to a study conducted by Scott Wiltermuth (USC Marshall School of Business) and Vanessa K. Bohns (J.L. Rotman School of Mnagement at the University of Toronto), adopting a positive dominant posture, versus a negative submissive posture actually decreases your sensitivity to pain. 

According to the study, those adopting more dominant poses felt more powerful, in control and capable of handling more distress.  They were comfortably able to tolerate more pain than those who were assigned more neutral or submissive stances. 

These results would indicate that adopting a stronger, more positive and dominant posture will not only create a more positive impression with those around you but will actually serve to help you be and feel stronger.  Certainly, when experiencing emotional stress and trauma, you would be better served by standing erect than curling into a ball on your bed!   It seems that the old adage to 'Fake it Until you Make it' happens to be true when it comes to posture.  Even if you are not feeling particularly confident, standing as though you are will help you to feel stronger and more in control.

So.  Don't wait for someone like me to have to tell you what you have known all along...  head up, shoulders back, stand up straight.   Mom would be proud.

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