(Article featured on Just Us Gals Boston)
Think about the last time you met someone for the first time. How long did it take for you to form an impression of them?
As much as we may like to think of ourselves as non-judgmental and open individuals, our brains are hardwired to make very quick, snap judgments of people almost instantaneously. For thousands of years, it has been a matter of survival to be able to quickly identify if someone, or something, is friend or foe.
To me, the interesting thing about this is that most of the information we are picking up on to create these perceptions is nonverbal. Whether it’s general appearance, clothing style, accessories or body language, all of these come together in those first crucial moments of seeing someone to help us decide whether we want to approach or run.
BALLET TO BUSINESS
For my whole life, I have expressed to audiences across the globe through a distinctly nonverbal art form – ballet. From years spent training and competing as a rhythmic gymnast on the Canadian National team, I moved to Boston to join the Boston Ballet. I danced with this company, in theaters around the world, for a decade. My understanding of the depth for expression we have with our bodies was the foundation of a career I feel very fortunate to have had.
In May of 2016, I decided to transition away from my career as a professional ballet dancer. Throughout the next few months of exploration, I couldn’t help but notice a couple of fascinating things. I began to see how incredible isolated the inner workings of the ballet world seemed to be from the rest of society. With walls so impenetrable, the only opportunity for sharing is in a large and imposing opera house, with the dancers and audiences quite separated. I also noticed that people all around me, in more traditional workplaces and roles, were not paying attention to their physical impressions in the least. I would see people walking around stooped over their phones, sitting around impressively cognitive meetings slouched in chairs, lamely presenting their ideas without any physical intention or congruence with their words. At the same time, people would comment on my posture and carriage; presence as though it was something unattainable.
After ruminating on this for a while, and workshopping some ideas, I developed a program tailored towards increasing physical awareness, alleviating stress and creating an elevated sense of nonverbal prowess.
BECOMING AND ENTREPRENEUR
This singular idea, shaped by years of training and questioning, has since burgeoned into a consulting business I founded: Choreography For Business, LLC. I work with fundraisers, engineers, restaurant industry employees, designers, sea captains and more. My program is designed to bring our minds back into our bodies so that we can be better at telling our stories.
When I think about just how many of our decisions are made by snap judgments informed almost entirely by our subconscious perception of people’s nonverbal cues, I can’t help but see the potential being left on the table. If we were to harness our posture and be more aware of body language, we would be able not only to own our first impressions but also be able to understand ourselves and others more deeply.
CLEAR COMMUNICATION IS KEY TO SUCCESS
As a ballet dancer, my whole world was physical. Now that I have moved into more traditional workplaces and onto the founding of my own business, I am inspired by the room there is to grow. In highly competitive situations, such as interviewing, dating and presenting to an audience, the difference between true success and merely passing through is almost always in the nonverbal components of communication.
If there is one thing I wish to accomplish with this business, it is to bring the body back into business, communication and life. After all, our bodies are far more than a vehicle to transport our gray matter.