What Is Your Body Language Communicating?
As humans, we tend to spend a lot of our time thinking about the things we say—especially in and around the office. Of course, it’s important to think carefully before speaking, but that’s actually only half the battle when it comes to communication. In fact, some experts believe that only about 7% of all communication is verbal, and the rest of the 93% is communicated through non-verbal cues like body language. That’s a huge percentage of communication that we’re not paying much attention to.
Non-verbal communication includes things like facial expression, gestures, tone of voice, eye-contact, body positioning, and posture. As social beings, we subconsciously pick up on these subtle cues to inform our impressions of a person’s characteristics, personality, state of mind, and much more.
What Your Body Language Is Saying About You
Take a look at the photo above. Just a quick glance at the two images and we can immediately tell that the person on the left demonstrates confidence, whereas in the right, she likely feels insecure and unsure.
Using only body language as a cue, you were able to make a snap judgement—fairly confidently, too—about the mental state of these two people. Based on these two images, if you were asked to guess how you think each of these people would do presenting in front of a large audience, or in a leadership role, you’d probably guess that the person on the left demonstrating confidence is better suited for the job.
Assuming she is a qualified individual, slouching puts her at a significant disadvantage compared to her adopting an upright, open posture.
This is obviously an extreme and hypothetical case, and that’s not how decisions about presenters or promotions are made. However, there is something to be said about the advantage you can gain in taking extra care and attention in what your body is communicating to those around you.
Body Language On Your Own Psyche
Dr. Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, delivered a fascinating TED Talk a few years ago on the importance of body language and how our posture influences not just the way others perceive us, but also our own thoughts and feelings. In her studies, Dr. Cuddy found that indulging in poor, slouched posture where you are closing yourself off from your surrounding and physically taking up less space perpetuates feelings of fear, stress, and anxiety, lowering performance in stressful situations. This creates a negative cycle where:
Insecure Thoughts → Closed-off Posture → More Insecure and Negative Thoughts
To break this cycle, Dr. Cuddy recommends adopting what she calls “power-poses”. Power-poses are a series of strong and confident postures that have the ability to influence two important hormone levels: testosterone and cortisol. She found that adopting these “power poses” increases testosterone levels to help you feel more assertive and decisive, while lowering cortisol levels to reduce stress and anxiety. The combined effects of these two hormones provide an almost immediate boost in confidence and have been shown to improve performance in stressful situations, thereby introducing a positive cycle:
Intentional Power-Pose → Boost in Confidence and Mood → Continued Good Posture
The bonus to this cycle is that not only does being in good posture foster positive thoughts and moods, it also communicates confidence and strength to the people around you, as we discussed in the first section of this article.
So, even if you are feeling shy, insecure, stressed, or uncomfortable, simply fixing your posture to be more upright and open can help you escape the negative cycle of emotions to enter a much more positive sequence.
Good Posture in Practice
By now, you know the importance of good posture and the positive influence it has on your own psyche as well as other’s perceptions. So how do we get into good posture, and more importantly: how do we stay in it?
Getting into Good Posture
To get into good posture, imagine your head is being pulled straight up by a string. Lift your chest slightly and draw in your abdominals. Keep your shoulders down and back, and your chin tucked in. You’re aiming for a strong, confident position! When sitting, scoot your hips to the back of your chair and avoid reclining against the seat-back. If you’re not sure you’re doing it right, here’s a more detailed instruction post on how to get into good posture.
Now, for the hard part: staying in good posture.
For many of us, getting into good posture isn’t too much of a challenge. The challenge arises as we try to maintain it throughout the day. In fact, our internal data study with 15,000 Lumo Lift users revealed that during the workday, people on average spend only 36% of their time in “good posture”. That amounts to 38 minutes of poor posture per hour, and 304 minutes, or about 5 hours, of slouching per a regular 8-hour workday.
The key to achieving better posture throughout the day is to train your mind and body to adopt better posture as a habit, rather than a conscious choice. To achieve this, there are three elements at that need consideration: anatomy, muscular endurance, and the correct neuromuscular patterns.
Anatomy: Physically getting into good posture.
Muscular Endurance: Developing and strengthening supporting muscles in your back and core to stay in good posture.
Neuromuscular Patterns: Communication between your brain and muscles to learn what good posture feels like. i.e., muscle memory.
At Lumo, we’ve taken this three-pronged secret sauce to improving your posture and created a device that helps you do just that: Lumo Lift. Lumo Lift is a small, wearable device that discreetly attaches magnetically to your shirt to monitor your posture all day long, and gently vibrates when you slouch to remind you to straighten up to strengthen correct neuromuscular patterns. The accompanying Lumo Lift app recommends various exercises and stretches to help you develop the necessary muscles to support your newly improved posture.