One of my former colleagues used to assess potential hires on the basis of how quickly they walked. His reasoning was that if you were focused and alert in mind this would translate to a brisk pace. Similarly, if you were ambling towards your destination you lacked urgency as a trait. The way you think determines the way you act. Although I was initially cynical about this selection criteria I have to admit there was a strong correlation in the people he hired.
I was therefore very interested to read this post by fellow mental toughness practitioner, ex FBI agent La Rae Quay on the 5 things a person’s walk projects about their confidence, credibility, and charisma. I think Tip #3 was my collaegue’s rationale:
1. It helps us evaluate strangers
Our early ancestors relied upon their ability to recognize people from a distance. They could see a lone figure on the horizon and determine whether they were friend or foe. Now, we’re more apt to recognize the car a person is driving.
Our ability to receive messages about other people by their body language, however, has not gone away. It’s an innate skill we were all born with.
TIP: These innate skills are often stored in our subconscious. To awaken them, take the time to observe people’s gait when you’re at an airport or music concert. You may not have the opportunity to tap them on the shoulder to determine if you’ve made the right assumption, but over time you’ll become more skillful in accurately interpreting what is going on with them based on their walk and other body language.
2. It conveys your importance
We convey a lot of information through body language, but it’s easy to forget that our walk is sending a message as powerful as any other gesture. If we’re rushed, or deep in thought, we walk differently.
A man once told me that he could tell I was an FBI agent by my body language. He said that I walked like I had someone important to meet. He stood up the moment I entered the room and held out his hand in a greeting.
I asked him to share with me what it was that tipped him off, he said, “You walked with an inordinate amount of confidence—quickly, like a person who values her time and the time of others.”
In other words, he could tell by my gait that I was serious and arriving for a business meeting.
People who shuffle along, hug themselves, and keep their head down often lack self-confidence.
TIP: Do not be that person! Walk with alertness and purpose, and keep your shoulders back and head held high. When you do, you are signaling to the world that you have an important place to be and an important task to accomplish.
3. It communicates our thoughts
Recollect a time when you were at a store waiting in a long line to make your purchase. The clerk is slow. You look around and see the other employees also moving at a slow pace. They give the impression of dull minds that have no concern for others. Do you look forward to a return visit? People who give the impression that they don’t care will not be treated the same as those who communicate that they are both eager and capable.
For example, soldiers use forceful body language in marches when they use an exaggerated gait to portray both youth and vigor. For this reason, politicians often do the same thing to convey their vitality, particularly if they’re older.
TIP: Slouching and slumped shoulders – sends the message that you don’t care, either about your appearance or your job. Instead, stand with shoulders back and chin level. Leaning or swaying – creates the message that you’re not confident and not capable. Keep weight balanced on both feet. Slow movements – are interpreted by others to be laziness; speed is interpreted to mean both a good attitude and high energy. Fast walkers convey a message of well-being.
4. Indicates our level of health & fitness
A former supervisor of mine went through a health crisis and overnight, his walk changed. His gait was heavier with a lower center of gravity that could indicate anything from depression to pain.
Recent research has shown that the pace of our walk is an accurate indicator of how healthy we are. Speed reflects vitality because so many organs are involved in how we move—heart, lungs, muscles, joints, and the brain.
TIP: If we give the wrong first impression, that imprint can have lasting results. So unless you really are depressed or in pain—or just plain lazy, put a spring in your step. It’s one of the easier and most effective ways of managing the first impression others have of you.
5. It reveals focus of energy
We’ve all seen people bustling and blabbering into the cell phone and then suddenly stop dead in their tracks. Chances are good that the conversation just got serious. People will stop walking and pause to focus. If they sit down, it’s likely that the conversation has gotten even more serious.
If we become angry or agitated during a cellphone conversation and do not stop, walking can subconsciously escalate the emotions that are bubbling to the surface.
TIP: In general, however, walking and talking can generate creativity so don’t hesitate to walk around your office on your phone for an extra boost of energy.
Thanks La Rae – people watching won’t be the same again. View La Rae’s full article