The language of posture


Sometimes postures are so idiosyncratic that talented mimics can imitate a famous person simply by copying his or her characteristic stance and gestures. The addition of the voice is then simply the cherry on the cake, for the audience has recognized the well-known figure already - just as in daily life, we identify family and friends by their bearing. So by learning about posture, you are familiarizing yourself with the basic alphabet of body language - and this knowledge forms the foundation upon which all your subsequent impressions of others are built.

Victorian psychologist William James made one of the earliest classifications of postural types. He identified four types.

Approach: Forward-looking postures, demonstrating attention, and warmth of personality

Confident and open

A typical example of the erect, posture of a  well dressed,confident businessman
A typical example of the erect, posture of a well dressed,confident businessman
Turning away
Turning away

Withdrawal: Turning away, holding back, the opposite of approach. These postures signify shyness, boredom and are perceived as cold by the onlooker.

 Standing up straight, with an erect bearing
Standing up straight, with an erect bearing

Expansion: Standing up straight, with an erect bearing - -an extreme example is the posture of pride. Normally, however this posture is adopted by confident, dominant individuals.

collapsed positions of the body
collapsed positions of the body

Contraction: Postures which draw the person into themselves - dejected, collapsed positions of the body which indicate submission and possibly depression or disappointment.

These categories are useful when beginning to interpret body language, for they cover basic motivation and mood very neatly. Consider the stiffly erect bearing of a military man, whose ramrod back betrays his profession even when he is out of uniform. Or imagine a sulky adolescent, slouching along with rounded shoulders and a concave middle. Reverse these images in your mind and the military man suddenly loses all his authority, while the teenager turns from a potential troublemaker into a youthful pillar of society. As any actor will tell you, your posture - that is how you hold your body while sitting, standing and lying down - is the first clue to your character and personality. It will reflect your underlying state of mind whether you are feeling confident, submissive, and optimistic or depressed.

For instance, a relaxed, upright posture immediately suggests confidence - we say "chin up" when we mean "adopt a hopeful assertive attitude to this situation" But by referring to someone as "spineless" we imply the opposite state of mind and posture - conjuring up a picture of a person who cannot "stand up" to life. By experimenting with different kinds of posture in front of a mirror you will soon realize the strength of the message your posture is transmitting about you.

When status,home and surporting social structures are removed, the psyche begins to sag and the body may adopt a collapesed position too.
When status,home and surporting social structures are removed, the psyche begins to sag and the body may adopt a collapesed position too.

Body memories

An awareness of postural messages can help you to decide what kind of posture to adopt yourself in order to make the most of an encounter, whether social or work-orientated. Aperso's habitual posture seems to act as a record of past experiences - for instance, individuals who have suffered from lengthy bouts of depression will frequently retain the sagging, hopeless shape which typifies the illness. It has become second nature to them, and even when they have recovered their bodies recall their unhappiness.

A young girl who has suddenly developed large, mature breasts will often hunch her body forward, and even sometimes cross her arms to disguise the offending objects. And many women retain this posture into adulthood, having forgotten the original reason for it. Similarly, boys who shoot up in adolescence and find themselves inches taller than their friends will stoop - often quite badly - so not to leave their peer group behind.

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Comments 17 comments

richard dishon 4 years ago

to some extent your archieved to touch student's mind through your attractives drawings, congraturation for that.

Sue Adams profile image

Sue Adams 7 years ago from Andalusia

It is so true that people's posture is often a dead give-away of how they feel. People look after their cars, their houses and furniture, their clothes and make-up, books and gadjets. So why not look after your posture and movement habits with the same passion as you look after your most valued possessions?

I teach "Body Awareness" or how to carry yourself in the most efficient way against the constant downward pulling force of gravity. To this end I rebuild you from scratch, starting at the foundation of your postural edifice, your feet.

Elizabeth Holloway 7 years ago

Good posture, or a lack of it, is an indicator of a person's level of confidence and mood and also a person's state of health. If a person is slouched or has an (extermely) assymetrical posture, he/she may be timid, uptight and/or physically very sick. A person who's severely crippled often (almost always) has a posture which is assymetrical (crooked).

Aphroditei profile image

Aphroditei 8 years ago

Posture really tells a lot of things about us. They send messages to others. And to correct them will really brings us a lot advantages and rewards. Great article Annie! (^^,)

Annalene profile image

Annalene 8 years ago from Richards bay South-Africa Author

And I thank you for reading it my friend. xx

deadraven999 profile image

deadraven999 8 years ago

Hi annie,

The Withdrawal Posture is quite interesting, I kind of sleep like that sometimes. Anyhow the whole Hub is real cool. Thank you very much

Annalene profile image

Annalene 9 years ago from Richards bay South-Africa Author

So, so true Jewels!

Jewels profile image

Jewels 9 years ago from Australia

Looking at the postures in your pictures, it's easy to see that disease (dis-ease) is created by our thoughts and emotions. Our physical appearance is the manifestation of how we feel, and the more we hunch and cringe and crunch our bodies into something lesser than magnificent, then illness happens. Alas, the human condition!

Annalene profile image

Annalene 9 years ago from Richards bay South-Africa Author

So true Suscan! I am having trouble with my kidney and I looked at my posture the other day and I could see myself hunching forward. Our body language is sometimes a dead give away.

Suscan 9 years ago

Very interesting! If we look at ourselves we can see changes in our posture when oue emotions change. Good Post Anie.

tshirtscene profile image

tshirtscene 9 years ago

I'll add this to my feed reader :)

cgull8m profile image

cgull8m 9 years ago from North Carolina

My brother gave me a good book, I can't recall it but I will find it and let you know. It was a great book, how one can read others thoughts by body language and improve relationships in all forms. Later I will add it here.

Annalene profile image

Annalene 9 years ago from Richards bay South-Africa Author

I am going to update on this every now and then because it is a very vast topic, and like we all know in the business world it is seen as a very useful tool, not to talk about our personal lives and like bluewings said, even when it comes to our physical well-being, it can make or break us:)

Thanks for the support guys!

bluewings profile image

bluewings 9 years ago from Milkyway

Great insights into postures.Chiropractic has been known to work wonders in curing several spine related ailments.If we pay closer attention to body postures ,that could perhaps influence not just our psyche positively but our health as well.

tshirtscene profile image

tshirtscene 9 years ago

Great hub Annie! Posture and body language say so much about a persons emotional state. I watched a documentary some time ago on how body language and posture can affect a job interview.

Janice  9 years ago

Great post, Annalene, Good posture is so important and we can tell such a lot about a persons stance. My eldest daughter is naturally very straight, and someone at work told her she looked a 'race horse' the other day. We had a good laugh. Have you noticed how some of the guys in parliament sit.?

cgull8m profile image

cgull8m 9 years ago from North Carolina

Good post, I think it is very essential if they are in the business world.

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