Seriously. I can't tell you how many people I see - on the street, at a cocktail party, in a conference room, or at a podium - who hunch, slouch or scrunch up their bodies. Maybe it's because so many of us carry backpacks, book bags, computer bags, shoulder bags, grocery bags, golf bags, whatever, that are really heavy - so we bend forward, stick out our necks, slump our shoulders and list to the side that's carrying the greatest weight...looking like a once elegant cruise ship on the rocks. Or...maybe it's just because our moms aren't around to say, "Hey, straighten up, will you?!"
Whatever the reason, it's not good. Not good for our bodies or our minds, maybe even our spirits - and it sure doesn't do anything for our image. Recently, I saw a woman giving a PowerPoint presentation before a live audience standing next to the screen with her arms actually wrapped around her body, her neck jutting forward and her eyes glued, not to the audience but to the screen. Because of her pretzel-like posture, her voice was muffled and her energy was low. It was almost impossible to focus on what she was saying. In fact, I don't remember any of it.
Okay, that's an extreme case (sort of) but I've seen and worked with many people, including high ranking execs and people in the media, who have forgotten (which is really easy) or never learned (at their peril) the basics of good posture - not just to be healthy - but to be effective, so that they make the impression they want to make and in the process, make the sale.
So in case you've forgotten, here are a few of the basics:
1. Whenever you walk into a room, on to a stage or just step out on the street, put your shoulders back, line up the back of your head with the back of your neck and straighten up that back. Imagine that your body is actually lengthening as you line it up. It'll feel good.
2. Loosen up your shoulders, open up your chest area, think: expansive. Relax your arms and your jaw. Imagine that you're an athlete walking gracefully onto the field...who’s primed and ready for the game.
3. When you sit at a conference room table, dining room table - or any seated situation from a media interview to a collection of friends, don't hunch. Keep your back straight even as you "lean in" to the conversation. Relax all the muscles in your face, including your forehead and your lips. Don't scowl. I’ve noticed that a lot of people scowl automatically when they're thinking hard. Don't do it. It makes you seem combative when you mean to be persuasive..
4.Don't allow your chin to tilt upwards. Many people make this mistake. They lift their chins and seem to be looking down at the audience which, not surprisingly, connotes arrogance or superiority... the last thing you want to communicate. So keep your head and your gaze level; look directly into the eyes of the person you're speaking to. Connect.
5.Finally, think of your body as a versatile "prop." Use it to express who you are in the conversation :proud, sure, caring, honest. It’s your body, enjoy it!
And straighten up, will you? (This is your mom speaking...)
Gail Blanke’s Lifedesigns©2013 All Rights Reserved
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