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How Your Body Relates

The hidden message in your posture

Your posture is directly implicated in how you feel & how you feel about yourself. Check out the difference in mood and motivation when you’re slumping & sitting upright. The thing is, the way you’re sitting is more than personal experience; it’s also part of your non-verbal communication. Without even thinking about it, your posture conveys a hidden message that effects how you show up in the world and the way other people respond to you. Just observing postural expression conveys a wealth of information about whether a person is interested/ bored; available/ distracted; or pleased or displeased.

Paying attention to nonverbal postural cues is a survival-based instinct that has been around since the beginning. Studies have shown that the body responds to postural messages even before the mind registers a friendly or hostile encounter. This is obviously important when your interest is to survive or succeed. Becoming aware of your own postural communication and learning how to read others is an important part of emotional intelligence. Anytime you interact with someone, consciously observing and including this body-talk will help you hear the whole conversation.

Most people automatically tune in to the importance of facial expression and respond accordingly. If someone’s eyes look sad, we soften the tone a bit. If the forehead is scrunched we explain more thoroughly. If the jaw is set, we slow down and negotiate. Although less overtly obvious, postural expression is just as important. Whether your structure appears open or closed (upright or slumped), can relay a message of confidence, status, receptivity, or not. It just makes sense that if you want to deliver a message of availability, you wouldn’t cross your arms and slump down. In the normal course of relating, these messages may go unnoticed but they still have a profound impact on behavior. Check it out.

Tune in to postural expressions over the next couple of days, yours and theirs. Go through your Facebook photos and look at some casual entries. Make a few private notes and evaluate the hidden messages. Here are some things to look for:

· hands on hips, fingers open or curled

· arms stretched out or arms crossed over belly

· head lowered, eyes averted, hand covering mouth

· standing on one leg, sitting with legs crossed

· heart space open or compressed

· jaw soft or hard

As a gesture, posture is a part of the non-verbal conversation. Crossing the arms and closing the hands could indicate defensiveness. Crossing legs away from another person may indicate dislike or discomfort. Puffing out the chest may be an attempt to intimidate; holding the arms close to the body, an attempt to minimize oneself. Sitting upright may indicate focused attention; hunching forward could imply indifference.

Interpreting postural messaging has as much to do with how it makes you feel as any expert’s list. But, to stimulate your imagination, speaking coach Fred Miller offers these common assessments: Easy, upright posture conveys a message of leadership and confidence; whereas hunched shoulders convey lack of confidence and possibly low self-esteem. Leaning slightly forward indicates that you care; while slouching to one side says you don’t. Crossed arms can appear defensive, self-protective, or closed off. Hands on hips could say a person is in control and at the ready; or it may be a sign of aggressiveness. Clasping hands and tapping fingers indicate boredom or impatience. Crossed legs might indicate unavailability or a need for privacy.

Becoming aware of body-talk isn’t about fooling people; it’s about being body savvy and not sabotaging yourself. The hidden messages your body sends are often received subliminally and can make the difference between a good encounter and a failure. In addition to increasing your body talk vocabulary, becoming fluent in the language of positive posture is a good way to improve your personal and professional relationships.

Here are some ways to make sure your posture conveys a positive message:

· Occupy your entire personal space including above your head and below your feet to align with a message of conscious awareness.

· Balance on your full foot/ pelvis to convey a message of grounded confidence.

· Keep your shoulders and lips relaxed to relay a message of openness.

· Face towards your audience to give a message of full attention.

· Imagine open lines of communication between heads and hearts to encourage a message of connection.

· Focus your mind on your body rather than your next comment to deliver a message of interest.

· Breathe fully to give the message that you are present and listening.

Even if you’re texting or talking on Bluetooth, having positive postural awareness will help you stay focused, respond accurately, and make a good impression. If we can hear a smile in a tone of voice, perhaps we also hear the fullness of posture. Even if the listener can’t tell, a relaxed, open posture makes you feel more confident and aligned with your best self

Becoming aware of postural messaging is another way to be body-smart. Including body-talk will help you understand what’s going on and respond appropriately in the back and forth of communication. Whether you’re with a colleague, a friend, or a romantic interest, this augments both effectiveness and intimacy. So, shake it up. Let your conscious body bring in a fresh look that’s aligned with your intentions. It could be the most important thing you do to assure success in all of your relationships. 

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