Posture can tell us a lot about people. Whether they slouch, stand tall, cross their arms, or sit with their chest open, posture is a key element of nonverbal communication. Have you ever had a miscommunication over text because you really didn’t understand what the other person was really thinking? That happens because more than 90% of conveyed information is actually expressed through body language. This includes things like expressions, movements, tone, and eye contact. Understanding body language is crucial to communicating effectively with someone and knowing why posture is important in communication.
Different Styles of Posture
The reason that posture is so important is that it sets the tone for all of the other body language that conveys meaning. The way you stand, walk, and sit are all heavily influencing the way that others perceive you. Posture suggests what your level of comfort is, your confidence, your engagement with surroundings, and even your social, economic, and power status.
There are two main forms of posture: open and closed. As the names suggest, open posture involves open body language. That means palms facing upward, arms apart, chin up, and chest out. This kind of “open posture” suggests confidence and engagement with the conversation at hand. On the flip side, “closed posture” is comprised of more visibly closed off cues. Arms and legs crossed, hands touching hair, and bending down to take up less space are all key signs that someone is disengaged or uncomfortable in their environment.
If you notice yourself or someone else displaying these postures, try to make them more comfortable. Check in with yourself. Are you displaying an uncomfortable sense of being? Have your physical gestures matched the verbal messages you are trying to convey? People tend to subconsciously mirror the posture of the person across from them, so by opening up your own body language, you can set the tone of the conversation.
So how can you utilize the nonverbal cues of posture to benefit you? Start by raising your awareness to your own posture. Notice whether you command or defer space. People who walk with their shoulders back and chin up are more likely to come across as confident self-starters. In fact, people who visibly take up space are generally more successful.
Studies have found that in presidential races, disregarding political standing, the taller candidate is more likely to be successful. The average US president stands at 5’11’’, while the average US male height has fluctuated between 5’7’’ and 5’9’’. Height is mostly influenced by genetics, but posture is the next biggest factor. So why does posture impact communication? When tall people slouch, they appear much shorter, and have a less impactful effect. Taking this into account, try to command as much space as is comfortable. People tend to more easily trust people who stand tall and maintain their space.
The Benefits of Gesturing
Science shows that communicating with your hands improves perception. Hand gestures are a huge part of a person’s general posture, and can make a big difference in their perception. There are fascinating results from research studying hand movements and what they communicate. For example, using hand gestures bigger than your body suggests a big concept, but when you overuse this move, it comes across as out of control. The most important part of communication is being conscious of the message you are sending, and ensuring it aligns with your verbal content. When used wisely, it can completely alter someone’s impression of you.
So why is posture important in communication? It frames what you’re saying, directs your conversation, and conveys its own message. Posture is an entire communication style of its own that simply happens to often happen in conjunction with verbal communication, it’s less effective counterpart.