Some interesting research indicates that our body posture and movement affects our behavior. For example, expansive body postures – like standing tall with with hands on your hips – increases confidence and assertiveness. One study showed that people who hunched over a smart phone or tablet exhibited less assertive behavior immediately afterward than those who sat tall at a large desktop computer. (The author, Amy Cuddy, gave a great TED talk on these issues.)
This doesn’t surprise me. Dancers and actors use their bodies to communicate emotions and personality traits. Our ape and monkey cousins use specific postures to indicate their position in the troop hierarchy, as well as to challenge it.
I came home from a recent outdoorsy vacation feeling strong and vibrant, when I’d left feeling stressed and unconfident. I spent most of the three weeks upright – hiking, paddling, fishing – rather than hunched over my computer as I often do at work.
As a facilitator, body posture and movement can be a powerful tool. STAND when you facilitate, don’t sit! When you stand, stand evenly on both feet. Even if they don’t notice it consciously, your meeting participants will receive you with more authority and believe in your skills. Walking closer to someone, squatting to their level versus towering over them, gesturing to someone with an open palm rather than a pointing finger – all of these communicate specific emotions and relationships. If you’re getting ready to facilitate a meeting, teach a class, or give a presentation, prepare yourself by putting down your phone and notes and striking some Power Poses.