Your Torso – It Does More than Connect Your Arms and Legs
by Barbara Chatzkel
For those of you who read last month’s post on arms, did you notice you were you more aware of how people used their arms as communication aids?
I promise that today’s post will increase your knowledge of your torso and the signals it broadcasts.
So, what is a torso? The torso includes our shoulders, chest, belly, and back. It is the largest body part component by mass. Generally, the torso is not considered an expressive part of our bodies, and its body language centers around protection. While it is most often overlooked or ignored, it houses our vital organs making it very important.
Take note – the torso is all about power.
The most common body language action is to protect the torso. Medieval knights went to great effort to protect their torsos with elaborate armor. In today’s business world, we are more often protecting ourselves from verbal or psychological attack, allowing the armor to become almost invisible. However, the brain does not immediately distinguish between physical pain and negative emotion sending out signals to protect the vital organs.
Today’s business world shields take various forms – crossing the arms over the chest, buttoning a jacket, reaching one arm in front of the chest to adjust a wristwatch, fixing a tie knot, or touching jewelry.
Two primary body language signals emanate from the torso. The first is that the person is confident, comfortable, or in charge; the second is that the person is protecting his body, feels uncomfortable, lacks confidence, or is trying to disappear.
What do these gestures look like?
Confident, comfortable – body is erect; arms relaxed; shoulders are either squared or pulled back.Not confident, uncomfortable – chest is caved in; shoulder are rounded and curled forward; arms crossed in front of body or playing with a tie, watch, jewelry or buttons.
There are also non-business signals from the torso. When a male pushes out his chest, he is saying that he is powerful, big, and strong. When a female pushes her chest out, she is sending sexual/romantic messages that she is available and interested.
What if you want to project a neutral message from the torso? Your torso should be straight but relaxed with your arms at your sides. Your full body is still sending out the message that you are interested in interaction and ready to engage. This neutral position is not as easy as it sounds. You may need to practice holding that stance for several minutes before it becomes natural.
Your torso’s first job is protection and demonstrating power. Your intentional body language can help the torso project a range of emotions.
Have an enjoyable month and remember to periodically check to see that your body language actually mirrors the message you want to send.
- Over the next month, watch several people standing in a line waiting for service. What are their torsos saying about the situation? Are they open or closed to the interaction that is to come?
- What is your typical torso stance? Do you approach the world projecting a closed image (arms crossed) or are you open/neutral and inviting interactions? Does your work situation require an open or closed approach?
Barbara Chatzkel’s ability to provide a vibrant and behavior-changing book extends across industry segments – everyone uses business body language. Her coaching and consulting expertise on business body language grew from conducting union negotiations, managing difficult personnel situations, managing at multiple levels, and extensive business coaching experience. Her new book, Business Body Language: Your Visual Business Card, will be available in print in early 2015. Visit her website today for further information.