How to sit, stand, gesture & move your body in the right way

‘I feel I’m taking up so much space’.     

Recently a participant in one of my Delivering memorable messages programmes – a woman of relatively small, physical stature – made the above comment when I was coaching her on how to gesture, so that she inhabited the physical space in the front and at the side of her body.

However, when I asked other participants who were observing her, whether they thought the woman was occupying too much space, they said that she wasn’t – and that she had projected more certainty than she normally did.

Whatever can be seen – will be seen,

and will form an impression and a potential for loss or gain.

Consider how you normally sit at a meeting table, or stand when you’re have a chance encounter, or gesture when you’re making a strong point, or how you move your body as you walk to the front of a meeting room to deliver a presentation.

Consider that in a 30 minute, one on one business meeting there are about 800 nonverbal signals. Shouldn’t you be concerned about those nonverbal signals and what they are conveying about you.

Below are field tested techniques that you can use to project more energy and certainty with your body, face, gestures and movement.

Note Bene!

  1. Practice these technique first in ‘safe’ interactions – not in ‘A’ class meetings/interactions.
  2. Don’t adopt the techniques. Adapt them to your style.
  3. The techniques may seem too basic to be effective. However, the are very powerful when well executed.

HOW TO MAKE A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION

A person is first know by their countenance

You may have heard how people describe their meeting with former US President, Bill Clinton. They often say, ‘When Clinton listened to me, he made me feel that what I was saying was the most fascinating thing he had ever heard’.

Imagine being able to listen in a similar manner to Clinton, and being able to make your clients and colleagues feel that you are fascinated by what they are saying. Your mindset about other people is the foundation for conveying the body language listening behaviour that contributes to people feeling valued.

One identity I’ve held for many years is – that everyone I meet knows something I don’t know. My job is to listen long enough to find that information and then use it.

HOW TO SIT AT A MEETING TABLE

  1. With your backside, feel the back of the chair.
  2. Have a ‘long neck’.
  3. Imagine a puppeteer is pulling a string from the top of your head, upward to the ceiling.
  4. Have a resting posture of relaxed, uncrossed arms and relaxed hands on the table (with nothing in your hands, eg. pens, devices etc).
  5. Overall, DBAE (Don’t Be Anywhere Else) – be alert and intelligently curious about the discussion at hand.

Don’t slouch.

In the below photo of Australian politicians, the people with their hands on the table would be more likely to interject into a discussion. The person with arms under the table would be less like to interject in the meeting. In this article by Lee Huang and Adam Galinsky the authors share their research that correlates the holding of expansive postures with bravery. How you hold yourself affects how you view yourself, and how others view you?

If I were coaching these people I’d tell them to uncross their arms in front of their bodies and extend their postures toward the ceiling.

HOW TO STAND

  • Stand with your feel ‘planted’ on the floor. The distance between your feet should be as wide as your hips. Don’t minimise the space you inhabit by keeping your feet together.
  • Let your arms and hands hang in a relaxed manner at the side of you body. At first this posture will feel unnatural and you may tense your arms and hands while doing it. The posture looks natural to your audience, unless their is significant tension in your arms and hands. Practice this posture in safe interactions. For example, as you stand waiting for your morning take-away coffee.

In the above image note the arms-hanging at the side posture of the woman second from the left, versus the ‘defensiveness’ of two of the people, and the nervous, hand-touching-jacket posture of the woman on the far right.

HOW TO GESTURE

Overall make measured gestures in front and to the side of your body. Hold gestures for a second or two (rather than flinging your hand around your body.Due to have having your hands uncrossed on the table when sitting hanging at the side of your body when standing.

Over time your words will ‘teach’ your arms and hands how to gesture.

People who project certainty inhabit more space

with their body (and also ‘inhabit’ more space with their voices).

Note in the image below how Gail Kelly, ex CEO of the Australian bank Westpac, inhabits space to the front and side of her body. My guess of what Kelly could be saying with the gesture is, ‘Three years from now we have to move this division into new markets’ or ‘We need to expand our thinking’.

When you’re making a strong point increase the impact of that point by using a thumb to index finger gesture as demonstrated by Oprah Winfrey.

HOW TO MOVE

My overall suggestions for moving your body include:

-Don’t move from a feeling a nervousness. Don’t not move from a feeling of nervousness. Move on purpose.

-As you enter a new environment – for example, walking into a room, exiting an elevator, leaving a room after a meeting – use the four step S.O.D.A loop sequence. SODA stands for Stop (the movement of your body) Observe (the situation, environment) Decide (what action you’ll take) Act (take the action you’ve decided on).  When two people are moving toward a doorway, they can often bump into each other because neither has gone through the SODA loop.

While you’re walking have a relaxed easy gait. Keep in mind the imagery of a ‘long neck’ and ‘puppeteer extending of your head to the ceiling’ imagery. Let your arms swing freely and your leg swing freely from your pelvic girdle. Here is an article on How to walk so you don’t get mugged.

In this clip of Barack Obama walking with George W. Bush (watch the 1:40 – 2:00 minute section of the clip) note the difference between Obama’s movement, with free flowing arms and legs versus Bush’s overall stiffness. Stiff shoulders, stiff arms and stiff gait.

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Own the Conversation

Review the various suggestions above. What technique resonates with your the most? Choose one and for every day for the next seven days, intentionally practice the technique in safe interactions/meetings/presentations. Then reflect on the impact of applying the technique.

If it has made a positive change in the certainty and energy you project, continue practicing the technique daily (with trusted person feedback) until it become a reflexive behaviour for you


p.s. Here is a message from a long time, business friend of mine Don Greenamyer. Don is a veteran in helping his clients save time and money for personal and business finance needs.

Over 60?  Asset Rich, but Cash Poor?

There is a way to unlock the equity in your real estate: a Reverse Mortgage. I’m now an accredited broker, and the first loan I wrote was for my wife and me. It’s made a significant improvement in our cash flow (>$4000 / month). We’ve made a lot of overdue repairs and updates to our home, and we still have enough for a nice, long holiday in Fiji.

It’s given us a real lift in Peace of Mind. Why not give me a call? A brief discussion will reveal is a Reverse Mortgage is worth of serious consideration. Phone Don Greenamyer on 0419 664 186, or contact Don at don.greenamyer@soonersolutions.com.au

#You might want to trial my Confident Personal Communication video learning programme because it will give you practical techniques to ‘Own the Conversation’.

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