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Open Up! Effective Leadership Development Means Being Approachable

Graphic Showing Hands on the HipsNo matter what your personality type is, no matter how introverted or extroverted you are, you can make a few minor adjustments that will cause others to see you as someone who is more confident.

In the workplace or in social settings, conveying an aura of confidence gives you more control and can make you feel more comfortable. It can also cause others to feel more confident about interacting with you.

Effective Leadership Development Means Being Approachable

The secret is in opening up. Contrast the two photographs.

open v close

In one, you see a gentleman who is closed in his body language, holding his arms close to his body and pulling his shoulders and neck slightly inward. His eyes, too, have a guarded look to them and his face overall has a closed-off expression.

The other gentleman, however, looks more open. His hand is extending away from his body and his palm is showing. His smile, teeth and all, are part of an inviting expression that signals openness.
Try this. Wherever you are as you are reading this, do this simple experiment. You’ll understand the differences described if you physically experience them.

First, stand up. Imagine a line drawn from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. It divides you in half, vertically. This is your midline. In our experiment, you’ll be operating from the midline.

Next, consider all the possible ways you can draw your body in closer to that midline. Bring your feet just a little bit closer together. Do the same with your knees, turning them inward ever so slightly. Roll your shoulders inward. Drop your chin toward your chest. Pull your body close to that midline.

Staying in that drawn-in posture, imagine that you are talking with someone else. As you do, avoid direct eye contact. You’ll be looking below the other person’s eyes instead of into them. Now consider how you would gesture without getting too far away from your midline. You’d use small hand gestures that don’t allow your arms to get too far away from your body. Your hand gestures might be right in front of your own chest, and your palms will be facing you. Your fingers will be held together.

How does that feel? What do you think that will look like to the people around you?

Part two of the experiment goes for the opposite effect. You’ll be working to expand out from your midline. So spread your feet apart, all the way to shoulder-width. Throw your shoulders back and lift up your chin. Unfold your body as much as possible so it opens away from that midline.

In this expanded posture, imagine that you are talking with another person. You will be making direct eye contact. Your gestures will sweep away from your body, taking up a lot of space. Your palms will show to the other person and even your fingers will reach outward more, away from each other.

By contrast, how did that feel? If you’re like most people, you got a jolt of confidence just by doing this second exercise. That carries over to others, too.

People do make subconscious assessments about everyone they encounter. Without even thinking it through, we decide that someone is confident when we observe open posture and positioning like this. Most people take that even further, attaching meaning and significance to this outward sign of presumed confidence. That’s why we think that people who seem very open and confident are happy, capable, friendly, approachable, competent, and more… And all these determinations are made in a split second.

We can’t control or change how we are perceived when it comes to something so deeply ingrained as this is. But we can control how we present ourselves. At those times when you don’t feel completely confident, positioning your body and stretching out from your midline will cause you to appear more confident and, actually, to feel a bit more confident, too.

It’s a simple trick, and it works. So why not give it a try?


Graphic Showing Connect to Lead LogoAs a leader, it’s imperative to understand why and how to show ever person that you care about them. Learn more about how you can CONNECT2Lead. And be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Lead Blog for weekly tips and techniques on leading with a people first approach.