Quick Study [kwik stuhd-ee]: The Huffington Post Canada's tips to make your life a little sweeter, five minutes at a time. Think of it as a cheatsheet for your general well-being.
THE EXPERTS: Talk is often cheap, but the way you walk can speak volumes about you, according to body language experts Patti Wood, author of Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, and Eliot Hoppe, communication trainer and author. Although cultural and environmental factors can weigh in, they believe a person's body language can reflect mood, emotions and even personality.
“Body language conveys the true emotion of how you feel," Hoppe says. "And a lot of these movements are unconscious. We’re absolutely unaware that we’re doing it. We’re unaware that we’re walking a little slower than normal, we’re unaware that our shoulder are slumped..."
So sit up and take notice. Try to objectively view your hoofing habits and see if you can modify the way you present yourself to the world. If you do, you might also find that they way you walk can in turn affect your mood, according to Wood.
"Because your body responds so quickly to movement and even changes the chemical state within the brain…(you can) change the way you’re feeling,” she says.
Wondering what your walk says about you -- and how you might be able to change it? Wood and Hoppe share their expertise:
Body language can reflect a person's character, Wood has found in her research. She believes different walks can fit into the DISC personality profile: Drivers (who display dominance) walk quickly with intent and don't like to stop once they know where they're headed; influencers often act emotionally, changing direction often; supporters who show steadiness walk politely with their arms close to their bodies and might stop to speak with others; cautious people, who Wood calls "correctors," walk precisely and follow foot traffic rules.
YOUR OWN SPEED
Are you speed racing, or stopping to smell the flowers? Your pace could show your state of mind, Hoppe says.
"The slower the walk, the more internal dialogue, as a rule of thumb. And the more brisk the walk, the more confident the person is, the more upright and erect you become."
LIFT YOURSELF UP
A heavy gait with a low centre of gravity can indicate anything from depression to pain, Wood notes.
"If you're feeling the walk more in your hips or in your knees, that typically means you're walking lower," she says. "If you lift up, you feel the stretch from underneath your ribcage all the way down to your belly button." This creates a lifting effect, can increase oxygen intake and makes you appear more confident.
Do you cross your arms while walking? This could indicate you feel vulnerable, Hoppe says, particularly if you're a woman walking alone at night or through a rough neighbourhood.
But attackers prey on those who look weak, so try uncrossing your arms and walking upright at a quick pace, he advises.
A quiet walker typically doesn't want to intrude, and timid steps might indicate that person has a low confidence level. "It's a reflection of how they step through life," Wood says. To appear more confident, lengthen your stride instead of taking small steps forward, she advises.
How you saunter as part of a couple can tell the world if you're walking through heaven or hell. Take Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher's out of sync stroll, Hoppe says. If one person escorts the other, it could also reflect the relationship's dynamic, according to Wood.
"Is somebody walking alongside their mate, or are they stepping ahead? And are they stepping ahead to get the limelight, and to be first and to be aggressive, or to protect?" she wonders.
Take TomKat; in the beginning of their relationship, Tom Cruise led the way, but more and more Katie Holmes takes the lead, Wood says.
Although this perception changes with culture -- while Western men and women walk in-step, women often walk behind the men in other places, Hoppe notes.
WALKING & TALKING
Ever see a person bustling and blabbing on their cell phone stop dead in their tracks? The conversation probably just got serious. People will stop walking, pause and sit if the conversation gets intimate or too personal, Wood says, and it's a good thing too.
"I have noticed that people become angry if they're talking to somebody they have a conflict with while they're on the phone and walking at the same time. It escalates it."
But walking and talking can also foster positive energy, she adds. Try walking around the office on your phone for an extra boost of creativity.
How should you walk into an interview? Strutting seems too egotistical. Slumped shoulders show vulnerability. Find a happy middle with a professional yet casual walk; walk with purpose, relax your shoulders and don't be too rigid, Hoppe says.
WALK IT OFF
Frustration can easily show through body language, but walking off your anger might help you deal, Wood says.
Walk around the block or the office, unclench your hands and relax your mouth while swinging your arms in contrast with your legs.
By doing so, Wood says, "You're switching from the right and the left hemisphere as you walk... whatever mood state you're in, it can shift it."
Do you walk just like your mom? Or perhaps you inherited Dad's walk.
Part of the similarity may be genetics, and part may be what Wood calls 'modelling.'
"To some degree, we might model our parents' walk. And it's also guided that way. If you're out with the family, the parents will say, 'Come on, keep up' or 'Look at this' or 'Take your time' or they'll encourage or discourage a manner of walking... It would affect your pace in life."