“I could tell you were an FBI agent by the way you walked,” a man once told me. I had arranged to meet him at a restaurant but had failed to describe myself for him. He stood up the moment I approached the hospitality desk and held out his hand in a greeting.
Many people think I’m Asian when they hear my last name, Quy. Actually, it’s French Huguenot. I knew what the man I was meeting looked like because I had his driver’s license photo. How could he be so sure I was the FBI agent he was waiting to meet simply by my walk?
As it turns out, our gait is our first golden opportunity to impress others.
Our early ancestors relied upon their ability to recognize people from a distance. They could see a lone figure on the horizon and determine whether they were friend or foe. Now, we’re more apt to recognize the car a person is driving.
Our ability to receive messages about other people by their walk and posture has not gone away. It’s an innate skill we were all born with. However, these messages are often stored in our subconscious—still powerful but not tapped into as much they could be.
The Power of Movement
We communicate information by the way we walk. If we’re rushed, or deep in thought, we walk differently. When I asked the man I was meeting at the restaurant what it was that tipped him off, he said, “You walked with an inordinate amount of confidence—quickly, like a person who values her time and the time of others.”
In other words, he could tell by my gait that I was serious and arriving for a business meeting.
Fast Walker, Fast Thinker
Recollect a time when you were at a store waiting in a long line to make your purchase. The clerk is slow. You look around and see the other employees also moving a slow pace. They give the impression of dull minds that have no concern for others. Do you look forward to a return visit?
People who give the impression that they don’t care will not be treated the same as those who communicate that they are both eager and capable. Think about how you react to the following:
- Slouching and slumped shoulders – sends the message that you don’t care, either about your appearance or your job. Instead, stand with shoulders back and chin level.
- Leaning or swaying – creates the message that you’re not confident and not capable. Keep weight balanced on both feet
- Slow movements – interpreted by others to be laziness. Speed is interpreted to mean both a good attitude and high energy.
Fast Walkers Convey a Message of Well Being
Soldiers in marches walk with an exaggerated gait to portray both youth and vigor. For this reason, politicians often do the same thing to convey their vitality, particularly if they’re older.
Recent research has shown that the pace of our walk is also an indicator of how healthy we are. Speed reflects vitality because so many organs are involved in how we move—heart, lungs, muscles, joints, and the brain.
Our gait is one of the first golden opportunities we have to impress others. At both conscious and subconscious levels, we start evaluating behaviors at a distance. If we give the wrong first impression, that imprint can have lasting results.
What does your walk say about you?