How we communicate has a lot to do with our physical posture. The space we create for our spine as well as for the diaphragm can influence whether or not we communicate clearly.
As PowerPoint and digital presentation forms engulfed the business sector, personal presentation skills took a back seat. Posture often only gets attention when assessing how an individual sits in his or her desk.
Certainly it is important to address how one can meet the daily demands of their job, be it sitting or standing. But let’s think beyond the desk and look at your posture’s influence on successful communication.
Posture food for thought:
- Make space
- Less distraction
- Maximize time
The diaphragm is a border between our lungs, an air-filled cavity and our abdomen a liquid filled entity. This up and down motion of the diaphragm between the two cavities allows for the breath to flow in and out the body. That’s a gross simplification of a complex process.
I use it to highlight the notion that if you lessen the space for the spine by curving or slouching forward you lessen the space for the diaphragm. This in turn makes less room and constricts the ability of the breath to flow easily in both directions. Lack of breath or a restricted pattern will influence the quality and clarity of your voice.
Each and every time you communicate the goal is to set yourself up in the best possible light to be successful. Being mindful of your posture and not allowing it to get in the way of your message is a strong tool for communicators.
Another key component to a vibrant speaker is that you as the audience are not distracted by other elements than the speaker. In other words the job of the communicator is to keep your attention.
For example, noise in the room such as a loud air conditioner, or a poor quality microphone. A distraction could be a cellphone or conversation in the room. It could also be the speaker’s physical presence is distracting or gives off a different vibe than the actual communication.
If your posture is distracting the audience from your communication you become less of the focus and the audience can either drift away or do something else. You want the audience to be focused and in time present with you. For example, the person is bent over their computer looking at the screen and not having contact with the audience. This posture makes it hard for the audience to connect to you.
If one utilizes the full potential of their posture such as a more upright and full body posture, the ability to see the audience more clearly and interact with them is attainable. It also exudes an aura of confidence and interest that you the speaker are genuinely engaged with the audience.
Communication when done efficiently is succinct and interactive. This does not mean both sides are in 100% agreement but there was an exchange of information, communication. If an individual’s physical presence is negatively impacting the speaker physically or just by conveying an entirely different message misunderstanding or confusion can occur.
This mix-up means more time is going to be needed at some point to clarify the information. That might mean the speaker will have to do more follow-up emails or expand the time if questions and answers are allowed or even worse is the audience goes away with a feeling of muddle. Not the intention of the speaker but a result of a mixed message from body posture and information.
A real example, Speaker X’s intention was to come off as relaxed and casual therefore choose to sit down during the communication. There were many speakers on the agenda for the day so time was limited. Speaker X’s “relaxed” body position influenced the tempo of the communication, and subsequently only completed 50% of material planned. Thus a panic atmosphere came into play for the last portion of the communication.
The point being, our bodies reflect and influence our communication. It’s not to say you can never sit down. However if that is the choice, extra work needs to be done to keep the energy and tempo necessary when under a time commitment.
So you ask why do good personal communication skills matter?
Here’s a “very” short list:
- Promotes communication not simply connection
- Enhances understanding between individuals and groups
- Gives individual sense of accomplishment
While not everyone has to make a living expressly from speaking we all have to communicate on a daily basis. For sure it might pass through different mediums such as email, telephone, Skype, social media or the old-fashioned way of face to face.
Personally, I find it easier to convey my real sentiments either face to face or via a live conversation. Having worked several decades for a communications company I witness fewer misunderstandings when you have a face with the words. Obviously it is not always an option but striving for more personal interactions is a good goal.
Besides the short list above I feel many individuals wrongly associate connecting with communicating. This lack of real communication promotes divisiveness and polarization. We talk around, above and behind each other creating isolated bubbles.
Sherry Turkle, author of “Alone Together” states:
“WE live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.”
While it’s beyond my scope to change our nation’s attitude toward communication you can as an individual enhance your own communication skills. Posture is a simple and cost-effective tool to begin with. A grass-roots campaign of one, that might positively inspire a group, team or maybe even your company dynamics.
When you ask individuals how they feel after a good communication, the sentiments are upbeat, satisfied, energized, empowered and more. Cultivating tools in the workplace to create more of those sentiments seems like a no brainer to me.
Worksite wellness has focused much time and energy on certain individual health markers like body weight and cholesterol. The jury is still out (or maybe over) that there is little positive benefit to those measures.
If communication amongst management and employees is poor, unattended and or basically non-existent no amount of wellness offerings can compensate for that missing link. Communication and wellness need to become better partners.
“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.”