Punctuate Your Posture

Perhaps other parents have the “good fortune” of having a home populated with one or more sullen, recalcitrant teenagers? One of ours has been gracing us with his presence at dinner time just to sit at the table like it is the single hardest thing he has ever had to do. Slumping in an seemingly impossible position such that his chin rests on his chest and shoulders rolled forward, he looks like he’s just slammed the brakes while driving with no seat belt on. 

Life treats you how you sit. Huh, what does this mean? Our postures can reflect one of two punctuation marks. These positions are revealing both to others and ourselves internally. The postures reveal the same thing as the punctuation marks we represent.

Do you slouch like a Question mark? Or do you stand ramrod, straight like an Exclamation Point!?

We are often asking ourselves questions about the body language we see in others. Questions like:

Do I trust you?

Do I respect you?

Are you someone who will get things done?

Are you someone I want to be around?

Do you care?

Are you competent?

Are you committed?

Are you coachable?

What are our answers to these questions likely to be when presented with the following two people?


If you’re anything like me you’ll want to run like heck from the first person and double down on your time with the second.

How we sit and how we stand matter. During the early stages of military training it is one of the details dwelled upon. New recruits learn the importance of how to carry themselves long before they even get formal uniforms. They learn how to stand, where to look, how to speak before they ever get into the nuts and bolts of warfare. In Michael Lombardi’s book, Gridiron Genius, he writes a chapter on the seven qualities for selecting a Quarterback in the NFL. This is typically the most expensive position on the team and one that has a massive potential impact on team performance. Of all the money spent trying to make the right decision drafting or trading for a quarterback candidate, one of the seven criteria is “Carriage”. This is referred to as how the player carries themselves. Body language matters.

The beauty of this distinction is that it is fully, 100%, under our control. It doesn’t matter how many degrees we have, what our parents have given us, what our personal style may be, or how much we know on a given subject matter. It depends solely on our choice to care enough to carry ourselves well. That’s it.

Next time you are at a meeting, take a look around at how others are sitting. How will this correlate with your understanding of how their work related performances are evaluated? Does how someone sits reflect even a little bit on whether you want to be around them or not? Take a minute to review your own posture right now. Is there something you could do to sit a little taller? Could you try to lengthen your neck by imagining a string pulling up on the back of your head while you tuck in your chin and pull your shoulders back? If you do this, how do you feel?

If trying to be thought of as a more serious, professional person isn’t enough motivation for you, then try it because of your health. Apparently, the average head places about 10-12 pounds of force on one’s cervical spine. Just a slight, 15 degree, forward tilt of the head increases this pressure by more than double, while a greater tilt (like when looking at your phone) increases the pressure on your cervical spine more than 5 times! This pressure leads to increased wear and tear on your spine, sometimes even requiring surgery. How we do the little things is how we’ll do everything. If sitting is too difficult to care about presenting yourself well, what does that say about how hard you’ll try in other areas of your life?