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11 Body Positions and Gestures That Can Improve Your Performance
The mind/body connection can be incredibly powerful. Here's how to use your body to your intellectual and emotional advantage.
By Jeff Haden
Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from
for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.
Contributing Editor, Inc.
11 Body Positions and Gestures That Can Improve Your Performance
Sure, you control your body. But your body can also control you. Simple gestures, simple postures -- each can make a dramatic impact on how you think, feel, and act. Best of all you don't have to be a yogi or athlete -- you can just be
. Only now you will be a better you. --
Be More Determined by Crossing Your Arms
Oddly enough, crossing your arms will make you stick with an “unsolvable” problem a lot longer – and will make you perform better on solvable problems. Which is definitely cool, because persistence is a trait most successful entrepreneurs possess in abundance. Whenever you feel stuck, try folding your arms against your torso. Who knows what solutions might result?
Gain Willpower by Tensing Your Muscles
You know how you instinctively stiffen before you get a shot? That’s your body’s way of trying to minimize pain. Flexing your muscles also helps you stay more focused when you hear negative information. Flexing can even increase your ability to resist eating tempting food. Sounds like I should spend my entire day flexing.
Be More Creative by Lying Down
According Australia National University professor Dr. Darren Lipnicki, lying down can lead to creative breakthroughs. “It might be that we have our most creative thoughts while flat on our back,” he says. One reason might be that more of the chemical noradrenaline is released while we’re standing, and noradrenaline could inhibit our ability to think creatively. Now you have a great excuse to lay back and think.
Gain Confidence by Standing Like Superman
According to Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, two minutes of power posing -- standing tall, holding your arms out or towards the sky, or standing like Superman with your hands on your hips -- will dramatically increase your level of confidence. Try this one before you step into a situation where you know you'll feel nervous, insecure, or intimidated. (Just make sure no one is watching.) I do it for a few minutes before every speaking gig. Trust me: it definitely works.
Smile to Reduce Stress
Frowning, grimacing, and other negative facial expressions signal your brain that whatever you are doing is difficult. Your body responds by releasing cortisol, which raises your stress levels. Stress begets more stress begets and in no time you're a hot mess. Here’s the cure: make yourself smile. You’ll feel less stress even if nothing else about the situation changes. And there’s a bonus: when you smile other people feel less stress, too. Which, of course, will reduce your stress levels. Go ahead: kill two stresses with one smile.
Bow Slightly to Put Yourself at Ease
Inclining your head forward slightly when you meet someone shows deference and humility and helps remove any perceived differences in status. The next time you meet someone, tilt your head forward slightly, smile, make eye contact, and show you are honored by the introduction. We all like people who like us. If I show you I'm genuinely happy to meet you, you'll instantly start to like me. And you'll show that you like me, which will help calm my nerves and help me be myself.
Mimic Others to Understand Their Emotions
Sounds strange, but research shows that imitating other people’s nonverbal expressions can help you understand they emotions they are experiencing. Since we all express our emotions nonverbally, copying those expressions affects our own emotions due to an “afferent feedback mechanism.” In short: mimic my expressions and you’ll better understand how I feel – which means you can better help me work through those feelings. Plus mimicking facial expressions (something we often do without thinking) makes the other person feel the interaction was more positive.
Take an Angle to Reduce Conflict
When tensions are high standing face to face can feel confrontational. When what you have to say may make another person feel challenged, shift your feet slightly to stand or sit at an angle. And if you're confronted don't back away. Just shift to that slight angle. You’ll implicitly reduce any perceived confrontation and may make an uncomfortable conversation feel less adversarial.
Talk With Your Hands to Improve Clarity
Think about how you talk and act when you're comfortable. Say you’re telling a story at a party. You use your hands naturally. The right gestures add immeasurably to your words. Act the same way when you're in professional situations. Using your hands when you speak will help you feel more confident, think more clearly, more naturally punctuate certain words and phrases, and fall into a much better rhythm. Loosen up and don’t think about your hands. Just let them go. The impact on your words will be dramatic.
Use Your Hands to Improve Retention
Research shows requiring children to speak while they learned had no effect on solidifying learning – but requiring them to gesture while learning helped them retain the knowledge they had gained. If it works for kids… it will work for us, too. According to one researcher, “Gesturing can thus play a causal role in learning, perhaps by giving learners an alternative, embodied way of representing new ideas.” Sounds good to me.
Chew Gum to Feel More Alert… and In a Better Mood
Okay, so chomping on a wad of gum may not look particularly professional. Still, a number of studies show chewing gum can make you more alert. And improve your reaction times. And improve selective and sustained attention. And improve your disposition. Here’s a thought: the next time you need to solve a difficult problem, lie down, cross your arms, and pop in a stick of gum. Maybe, just maybe, that is the winning combination you need to achieve your next breakthrough.
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Last updated: Feb 21, 2014
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