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Stand Up Straight

From the Blog of Phyllis G. Pollack.

As a negotiator/mediator, is it important to be able to ready body language? Is a person’s body language a window into what she is really thinking or feeling? Some say “yes” while others will say “not necessarily.”

To add to this debate, The Economist in its January 13, 2011 edition, published an article entitled “The Power of Posture”; How you hold yourself affects how you view yourself.”

The article discusses the thesis that those individuals who do, indeed, stand up straight and display good posture, have greater self-esteem and a greater implicit sense of power than those who slouch. Two researchers, Li Huang and Adam Galinsky at Northwestern University in Illinois conducted several experiments and concluded that posture may have a much greater effect on self-esteem than giving someone management responsibility. Like any good research experiment, the experiment was not what is seemed. The researchers used 77 undergraduate students as their subjects, asking them to fill out questionnaires, supposedly to assess their leadership capacity. While supposedly waiting for the feedback, or the results from the questionnaires, the students were asked to help test some ergonomic chairs. Half were told to sit up with shoulders hunched while the other half were told to sit in an expansive posture.

As indicated, these two “tests” were subterfuges. They were not relevant to what the researchers were actually testing. The students were then given a word completion test in which they were asked to complete word fragments. Some of the fragments lent themselves to be completed with words expressing power such as “lead”, “authority”, “control”, or “rich”.

What the researchers found was that those who sat in an expansive pose – with legs spread wide or arms reaching outward – scored higher than those who sat in a constrictive pose – legs together, hands under legs and shoulders hunched.

The researchers further found that those who sat in an expansive pose tended to speak first in a debate; and assumed other roles of power.

Thus, while not all body language may be indicative of what a person is thinking, sitting up straight, holding your head high does seem to indicate a high level of self-respect or self-esteem.

So. . . watch a person for his posture: it will tell you a lot about her.

. . .Just something to think about!


Phyllis Pollack

Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as… MORE >

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