Body Language

Work is going quite well at the moment. I don’t really talk about work on this blog, but I’d say the decision to move to Toronto to “Lean In” to my career was the right one. One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the importance of body language at work (and in general, really). In the spirit of keeping the content on this blog completely random, let’s talk about that today. Body language has been top of mind for two reasons:

1) Coming back to an office after working remotely for a year means correcting some bad habits…the kind that develop when you know the people you are talking to can’t see you.
2) I’m also doing more presenting, and thinking about how to command a room means doing some critical evaluation of my own body language.

I’m not sure if it’s just because I’m suddenly hyper-aware or if this is actually a trend, but I’ve been seeing articles and videos about body language all over the place lately. One key theme that’s really resonating with me is the importance of taking up space. This is especially important for women, as we’re more likely to have a tendency to shrink as much as possible. Look no further than Men Taking Up Too Much Space on the Train for evidence. Anatomical considerations aside, there is something assertive about claiming more than your allotted space on a crowded train car. When I was commuting on public transit daily, my first instinct was always to condense my bags and body as much as possible, and I’d always be incredibly annoyed to see someone (not just men!) sprawling out over two seats. Now I’m thinking that rather than chastising these people, maybe there’s something to learn. Obviously I’m not going to advocate for everyone to be incredibly rude on the train, but in general, being as compact as possible isn’t a good thing!

An often-quoted video on body language is Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk on how your body language can actually change the way you think about yourself – and I 100% buy it. If you haven’t watched the video (you should!) the concept is essentially that not only do other people take you more seriously when you start taking up more space, but you also actually do become more confident. Making small changes to get over the discomfort of taking up more space actually does have a very real payoff. Spreading out and using the air around you to move and gesticulate has an impact on the audience as well as your internal measure of confidence and performance. I haven’t gone so far as to sneak to the restroom before a presentation to stand in the Wonder Woman pose for two minutes, but even just being assertive in my stance and conscious to use more space rather than collapsing has absolutely made a difference in how I feel standing in front of a room. Try it!


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