My life has been richly blessed by having not only my parents, but both maternal and paternal grandmothers and great grandmothers take part in shaping how I see myself and the world around me. I often speak of the lessons they taught me, particularly lessons of the grandmothers.
Cora Leonard and Altamese Tyson were beautiful, independent, intelligent women who lived into their mid-90’s. They were my grandmothers. Both were very particular about appearance. Their words will always be with me: “Look like Somebody, Be About Something, Keep Your Clothes Clean and Pressed, Sit Up Straight, Stand Tall, When You’re Feeling Bad – Look Your Best, and Walk Like You’re Going Somewhere.”
As a child, I didn’t give them nearly enough credit. They understood, without studying non-verbal communication – a minimum of 70% of what we say about ourselves is said before we ever speak a word. They got it. Through the years, I have relied on those lessons and remain forever grateful for being taught them.
It is really frightening to think that 70% of what we say about ourselves is said before we speak a single word. People who understand and master this truth are often said to have “Presence”. You know, that thing that makes some people memorable and causes us to want to know more about them. That feeling that makes us want to listen and be around someone before they say a word. Presence. Hard to describe but you know it when you see it. Are people just born with it? Maybe. Can you develop it? Absolutely!
A couple of tips: First, PURPOSE – Everything starts with purpose. It is as if you have a neon sign signaling you have an idea, a thought, a plan or strategy. There is excitement coming from your very being. People want to connect with you and with what you are about. Presence is fueled by purpose. “Be about something.”
Second, POSTURE – Whether standing, sitting, or walking, a straight back and level chin make you feel better and look a lot more impressive than slouched shoulders and a down-tilted chin. Wrap yourself in purpose. If you do not have purpose, at least move like you are in search of it!
As an aside, my mother had very long legs and as children, my siblings and I would always have a slight trot as we tried to keep up with her. It was as a child that I learned to walk fast as if I had somewhere to go and something important to do. “Walk like you’re going somewhere.”
Everyday, you have an opportunity to communicate who you are, what you are about, what you want, and your “readiness” to do what it takes to get what you want. Just remember, 70% of what you communicate is done before you say a word.
Please let me know what you think and any questions you have below.