When it comes to body language, and first impressions in particular, I have found that posture is an obvious and powerful message transmitter. Picture this: an individual walks into a room with 'good posture', aka standing up tall, their head aligned with their necks, shoulders open and feet pointing in the same direction as their hips and knees. The snap perception is one of confidence, control and self-assurance. On the other hand, should that same individual walk in with a stoop in their upper body, necessarily shortening their height, feet pointing inwards even though they are walking forwards, the perception is often the opposite.
With all of my clients, regardless of their professional industry, the first session focuses on reconstructing proper posture. In building a postural foundation, clients are effectively given a physical anchor which grounds them in the present moment with an outward perception of confidence.
As a dancer, most of my time training was spent aligning my body and buttressing an ideal posture. Interestingly enough, my posture which is now quite good, used to be terrible - a veritable potato bug situation.
Training your muscle memory to automatically hold a solid, neutral position is part of why this practice is the best place to start. If you can train your muscles to hold a good, basic posture without thinking about it, you have a greater chance of changing any bad, nonverbal habits, like slouching, playing with your fingers, holding your body with crossed arms, etc.
Once you have an anchor posture in place, you can then begin to focus on other nonverbals like the handshake, moving your arms in a presentation or business meeting, spatial orientation, decoding nonverbals and so on.
Check out these two distinct photos from a class I taught recently at the University of Delaware. Notice the difference between the students' 'comfort postures' and their postures after about 25 minutes of work.
But a problem remains - how to counteract years of building bad habits? There is only one way - diligence - another asset dancers are known for. Maybe you set up a posture buddy, maybe you set up an alert on your phone. Whatever the hack, it is the consistent reminders to correct your posture throughout the day that becomes a powerful tool that will eventually begin to kick in automatically.
We can’t always hack our systems so easily. But with good posture, you are well on your way - and there is no skipping this important step.