Monday, August 20, 2012

Change your Posture... Change your Thoughts

We are hearing a lot in the media lately about how to 'read' someone's body language to uncover their feelings about our product, the situation, the offer, or even us.  But little seems to be written about the impact of body language on how we feel.  When learning to read and interpret the body language of others, instructors will often have you shift your body into the position of the other party. When you are standing or sitting exactly like them, question yourself about what you are feeling while in this posture.  Odds are... it's similar to what they are feeling.

As much as we can use this to help us understand others, it has another important lesson for us.  If we can shift how we feel by shifting how we sit or stand, then we can strategically Craft our thoughts and feelings by modifying our posture. Want to feel more confident?  Adopt a more confident way of standing and moving.  Want to feel happier? Start smiling.  Want to feel more energetic?  Stop slumping and shorten the length of your gestures, moving your limbs a little faster when speaking.

You want to feel more positive, energetic and happy about life?  You can take the long route and explore why you aren't those things already, eliminate barriers and obstacles to those feelings, and then forge ahead to experience more of them in your life.  Or...  you can adopt the body language of someone who is positive, energetic and happy and... begin to feel and experience more of them in your life.  Either path gets you to the same place.  One just gets you there faster.

The simple truth is that our brain doesn't know the difference.  It believes that if we are standing, sitting, or moving a certain way then we must 'be' a certain way and it makes it so.  Pretty powerful stuff.  The following are 5 examples of shifts you can make in your body language to experience more of these in your life...


To appear more powerful to others and, more importantly, to feel more confident and powerful in your interactions, you need to learn to adopt a more powerful pose.  Powerful people take up space so plant your feet firmly (at least shoulder width apart) and open up your limbs.  You want to make more expansive gestures, ending them away from your body.  Elongate your spine, ensuring that your shoulders are back, your head is up.


Willpower implies that we are feeling challenged, but that we are pushing through.  It therefore has a tension to it.  You want to feel willpower in those moments when yours are slipping?  Tense up your muscles.  Studies show that when you firm up your muscles you can better withstand pain, take unpleasant medicine, resist temptation, etc.  So the next time you are faced with the display case of 'goodies' en route to ordering your 'skinny' latte, don't slink on past and avoid eye contact with the case, tighten up your muscles while elongating your spine.  This will give you the willpower you need to resist and will also communicate to your brain that you have the strength to do it again, and again, and again.

Insight.  If you are trying to solve a particularly difficult problem... lie down.  Let's face it, we often solve major issues or come up with our best ideas after we sleep on them.  Lying down increases our propensity for arriving at creative solutions.  Sure, they may think you're a little crazy at work (you might want to ensure you're in a room with a closed door!) but hey... it works!


We all have times where we need to influence or persuade the thinking or decisions of others.  Know that hand gestures are critical to helping increase the persuasiveness of your argument.  The most effective gestures, of course, are called Illustrators; those gestures that help to support and illustrate the point you are making.  Any gestures that help your audience to 'visualize' what you are saying, helps to bring them closer to your message and find it more agreeable.


It is generally safe to say that most of us could do with feeling happy more often.  As mentioned earlier, if you want to feel more happiness... smile.  The smile is the only universal gesture that there is.  It transcends gender, age, culture, socio-economic status, or ethnicity.  A smile... is a smile.  Babies in the womb smile.  Those born blind at birth smile when happy.  Research has shown that the simple act of smiling, whether you mean it or not, releases endorphins into the body that help you feel good and... happier.

The bottom line... if you are feeling an emotion that isn't serving you then shift your posture and body language to one that does.  That simple shift will move you into a mindset that will be more productive for you and will net you more positive results.

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