Here’s What Your Posture Says about You: Why Your Body Habits Are Your First Impression
Most people don’t think about their posture when communicating with others, yet the way you balance yourself through life speaks volumes about who you are. The amount of tension you hold in your body translates into how well you manage your thoughts, actions and reactions. Your posture is the first snapshot people see when they meet you for the first time.
Take a moment to think about someone that you know who moves with exceptional ease and agility. Do they exude confidence and skill? Now think of someone you’ve encountered who seems clumsy and sluggish. Do they command respect and attention?
I remember a time in grade school, when I was sitting quietly at my desk anticipating the substitute teacher we’d get for the day. I was wondering what kind of sub they would be — a nice one? Namely a pushover who would permit mayhem to ensue. Or the strict kind, the one staring us down as we sat in silence too afraid to breathe. There was always a distinguishing trait between the two: the way they held themselves.
The “nice one” usually had to raise their voice to be heard, wave their hands or threaten. But no one was listening. They would eventually succumb to the chaos and slump into their chair. In contrast, the strict sub did very little. Their presence said it all. The words were minimal and precise. There was no room for disruption, they were very clear about where and how they stood.
There is no doubt that body language is a powerful thing. In situations where you want to maximize your authority, minimize your movements. This has always been a trait of people of authority, they don’t need to run around proving who they are because they already know. But there’s something else there too — they are present. They are centered. They have poise.
Perhaps you’ve glanced over at a co-worker and noticed that they are sitting slumped over in their chair. When you see them seated that way, what kind of impression do they give? Does their posture illuminate their presence or shrink them into oblivion? What is more, do you notice the way people who smile are sitting? Are they facing out towards others or leaning over towards their screens?
A study published in Health Psychology, found that sitting posture has a direct influence on stress responses. Namely, adopting upright posture in the face of stress helps maintain self-esteem and increase positive mood compared to a slumped posture. This is probably why the substitute teachers who stood upright before my class had the confidence to set boundaries and signaled a no-nonsense persona. This is also probably why you never notice that co-worker sitting slumped in their chair.
The way to know how you come across to others is to first recognize your own body habits. How do you sit at your desk? If you’re collapsed in your chair while staring at a screen you’re not doing your body — or your peers — any favors.
Bulmash, T. (2019). Here’s What Your Posture Says about You: Why Your Body Habits Are Your First Impression. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 3, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/heres-what-your-posture-says-about-you-why-your-body-habits-are-your-first-impression/