Bodies tell tales – how the way you move tells a tale about you (and how to start moving better)


Bodies tell tales. It’s true. The way you move tells others a tale – or at least gives them vital clues – as to how you are feeling about what you are doing, or how you are thinking. And if that’s true when you’re getting the groceries, it’s even more apparent when you’re doing something that you may find stressful, like speaking in public.

Have you ever been at a presentation or some other event where you had to watch someone else give a speech or perform? Were they nervous? How did you know?

Of course, you didn’t really know. Not with certainty (unless you asked them afterwards). But how they moved and spoke would have given you vital clues. Perhaps they had raised shoulders or a tight neck. Perhaps they were hesitant about eye contact, or spoke softly.

The simple fact of the matter is that how you move gives us clues as to what you think and how you feel. Sometimes we’ll read those clues badly. Sometimes we might get them downright wrong. But most people guess pretty well, and do so most of the time. Bodies tell tales. And we know this. That’s why it bothers us when we think we don’t ‘come across’ as well as we hope – we want to look good, but we just don’t know where or how to start moving better.

I was at a conference over the weekend, co-presenting a workshop with my wonderful colleague Jane Toms. I was giving a demonstration lesson to one of the participants, who told me she had been having problems with soreness in her neck. When I worked with her, her neck certainly didn’t move very freely.

What did this tell me? It suggested to me that she had an idea that wasn’t helping her – an idea about her neck and its function. So I asked her what her neck was for. And she said, “for holding my head on.” And this answer made perfect sense of what she was doing physically – she was using muscles in her neck to ‘hold her head on’.

This workshop participant had a belief about what necks are for, and that belief was written in her body. Bodies tell tales. So if you don’t like the tale your body is telling, what do you do? Where do you begin with how to start moving better?

Change the story. Change the belief. Yes, I know that sounds simplistic. But it works. Here are the key points to remember to start the process:

  1. Behind every movement is an idea or story.
  2. If you change the idea, you change the movement.
  3. Don’t bother going hunting for the origin of the idea that led to the poor movement. It’s far easier just to decide on the details of the new idea, and then work on doing that instead of the old idea.
  4. A good starting question for the creation of the new idea is, “What do I need to do to…[insert activity here]”

This is a positive act. We aren’t burying our heads in the sand. We aren’t hoping no one will notice. And we aren’t going on a hunt through the past to discover the roots of an idea that didn’t help us in the first place. We’re doing what will help us: finding a new idea. If we do this sincerely and consistently, we will know how to start moving better. We will change the way we move. We will change the way others read us. We will change our stories from the ‘same old’ into something better. And that’s got to be a worthwhile challenge.