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Executive communications expert Dianna Booher discusses the significance of communication while walking

Cindy, a former employee at our company, could plow you down flatter than a Mack truck before she ever realized you were standing in her path. It wasn’t that she had it in for you for some reason; it was just that some mornings Cindy had places to go and people to see.

“Good morning,” I recall saying to her distinctly one morning as I stood near the file cabinet close to the employee doorway when she walked in. In fact, I was kneeling in her pathway, going through a pile of discarded files that we were about to destroy. She almost tripped over me—but never spoke. Eyes straight ahead, arms swinging side to side as if oars hoisting her along, she strode to her cubicle in record time, clicked on the light, and buried herself in a phone conversation.

Her coworkers gave each other the knowing look. Raised eyebrows. The eye roll. Finally, someone muttered the obvious, “Not a good day for Cindy.”

Half-hour later, we had the full story: Her daughter had had car trouble the day before, had missed an exam, and had been unable to persuade her professor to allow her to take the exam late. Mom was on the phone to the dean, trying to rectify the situation. Cindy’s walk revealed her pent-up anger.

What do you communicate when you walk?

  • If you snap at someone first thing in the morning, they’ll likely pass the word to stay away for the rest of the day.
  • If you saunter down the hallway, you’re inviting colleagues to stop you for a chat.
  • If you bop along through the cafeteria at lunchtime, you’re telling coworkers that your day is going well and that you’re feeling rather carefree.
  • If you seem preoccupied and puzzled as you march along in somber silence, you communicate tension.
  • If your steps seem light and your shoulders slumped—almost as if you’re not sure you have permission to travel the path you’re on—you communicate a lack of confidence.

If you want to communicate personal presence as you enter a room, pause a moment to take stock of your emotional state. Walk in with a smile and posture to match. Be intentional as you stop to chat or engage others. Others watch how you walk. Your habitual walk speaks volumes.

Dianna Booher, an expert in executive communications, is the author of 46 books, published in 26 countries and 20 languages.  Her latest books include Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader and Communicate with Confidence, Revised Edition. As CEO of Booher Consultants and as a high-caliber keynote speaker, Dianna and her staff travel worldwide to deliver focused speeches and training programs to address specific communication challenges and increase effectiveness in oral, written, interpersonal, and organizational communication.

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13 thoughts on “Body Language: How Loud Does Your Walk Talk?”

  1. Very interesting! Some of sound very familiar. I have become more and more cognizant of my posture and how I may “seem” to other people so this was a pretty good read for me.

    1. David, your use of the word “seems” makes an important point. Our walk is not ALWAYS reflective of our emotional state. But unfortunately, observers don’t know when it is or isn’t. Glad you found the article helpful.

  2. I think people are more aware of what they communicate with their body language when intentionally in conversation with coworkers or clients. But I bet a lot of them are so preoccupied as they walk away that they have no idea that their walk may be saying something completely different. Interesting. I will be noticing my own posture and walk after this!

  3. Never thought about this directly before. Although I do notice that you can read people when they are walking somewhere at times. A little more difficult in groups, but individuals walking seem to have a message, yes.

    1. Walking in groups–hmmm. Now, there’s an idea for a post. Can you tell who’s the leader? Who feels left out? Who’s pouting? Who’s the mediator? Thanks, Maria, for that thought.

    1. And another great idea for a future post, Jay. How the body language of just ONE team member affects group dynamics.

  4. The article is really helpful. I was so nervous at the interviewing session.
    and I couldn't convinced the interviewer that I did want the job. Now, I keep learning.
    how to convey positive body language. thanks to you Diana..

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