In part one of the Claim Your Space Series, and the show’s tenth episode, Sofie breaks down how to claim physical space through posture, voice, and body language. Sofie shares essential skills, techniques, tools, and actionable steps to create a confident and powerful presence that will help you claim your space in the world.
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Hello everyone and welcome back to Claim Your Potential, the empowerment podcast. I’m your host Sofie and welcome to the claim your space series. In this episode, I’m diving into part one, how to claim physical space. Taking up physical space is an incredibly important skill to have, especially for women and other underrepresented groups who are often expected to make themselves small in order to avoid drawing attention, or offending others.
The first area that I really want to focus on in claiming physical space is posture. Posture dictates how you feel about yourself and how the world perceives your abilities. If you go anywhere in life, the people that you respect the most, the people that you think are the best at their job, the people that you automatically associate with being successful, 99.9% of the time those people have good posture. They’re standing tall, they’re making their presence known, and they’re appearing a lot more confident because they are making sure that they’re presenting good posture. So stand tall. Keep your head up. Pull your shoulder blades back and down and keep your chin parallel to the floor. You also want to make sure that you’re keeping your back straight and your hips in line with your shoulders. This is going to help you project confidence and take up more space around you. It increases your personal bubble.
The other thing is plant your feet. Plant your feet firmly on the ground and stand your ground. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and weight evenly distributed on both feet. This actually conveys a sense of stability and strength because you look balanced. You look like hey this is my space, I’m commanding it and I’m not moving from here because my feet are firmly planted.
Especially with technology and with working from home, it’s so easy to let posture slip. It really is, because we’re staring down at our phone or we’re staring at our computer screen and these are all habits that promote improper posture. Throughout the day start taking breaks to stretch and practice good postural habits. Maybe that’s just getting up every hour, or hour and a half, and getting back into your posture alignment pose. Pulling the shoulder blades up, then back, then down. Practice holding that shape.
Taking these breaks is going to correct your body and teach it, this is not normal for me to be hunching. Let me correct it. Also, if you start doing this on a regular basis. It becomes a habit, and like any habit, once it’s built, it sticks with you for a while. Pretty soon you’ll be sitting at the computer, or you’ll be looking at your phone in proper posture, so start doing it now.
Use a standing desk or a chair with good lumbar support. I have noticed a very big difference in my posture and just my overall well-being when I use a good desk chair versus when I’m working in a coffee shop. I really notice a difference in my back. I feel a lot more exhausted and just really unhealthy and out of shape when I’m sitting at my computer for a while in a chair that actually isn’t promoting good back health. I’ve heard of using a standing desk. I know it works for some people for me. It’s not my favorite thing. I really can’t stand and work. But if it works for you Then by all means grab a standing desk.
And the other thing with posture is you can actually promote amazing posture by getting enough exercise to strengthen your back and your abdominal muscles. Some very common exercises that help with this are weightlifting and pilates. There’s also something called the Alexander Technique which you can look up and do a bit more research on. My personal favorite is fencing because fencing is all about good posture, in fact, I have to correct my posture all the time when I fence. If you have bad posture, in my case, it causes me to lean farther forward, which results in me actually pointing my blade towards the ground. As a result, I’m not getting touches, scores, or points, or whatever frame of sports reference you all understand. But, it causes me to not do as well and so it took losing over and over again to finally start correcting my posture. So if anyone’s looking for a really fantastic sport that they want to try out that builds posture. helps promote really fantastic health, and tones your muscles, I highly recommend trying out fencing. If you’re already into pilates and weightlifting then by all means keep going. And for anyone curious, try out that Alexander Technique, do a little bit of research, and see if it works for you.
The next area of learning to claim physical space is your voice. Women especially, this is where they go wrong. When it comes to asking for what they want at their job, whether that’s asking for a raise, or wanting to be put on a project. Or in an academic setting, wanting to stand up and take more charge in a group project. This is where a lot of women go wrong, and the number one thing that you can do to improve your ability to claim physical space is through your voice. Be direct. Make sure that your voice is strong and clear. Make sure that you’re speaking with confidence and authority.
Also, say what you mean. No one has the time or the energy to try to decipher a paragraph-long thought that could’ve been one or two sentences. I am incredibly guilty of this and that’s something that I’m trying to work on. I’ve noticed that when I am direct when I get the point across, I’m taken a lot more seriously. Versus when I try to tell an extra long story or I try to add in lots of filler, my point loses its momentum and people stop listening because frankly, the attention span of most people isn’t that long. So, say what you mean. Get in there and just get it out.
The other thing is learning to slow down. Slow down your cadence because powerful and confident people can afford to take their time. If you are exuding confidence in what you’re saying and how you’re saying it, people do not mind waiting for you. So slow down your cadence because it also signifies, hey I think that my thought and what I want to say is important enough that you can take the extra 5 seconds to wait for me to finish. That exudes confidence.
In terms of cadence, start practicing slowing down. So many people talk way too fast and it’s not just women. Almost every person that I have met from my generation talks so incredibly fast. Start at home, saying a few sentences and start slowing them down. It can be something as simple as hey Johnny take out the trash, and start practicing different ways to say it. Practice how long you can stretch that sentence out. That’s going to help you figure out how fast you’ve been talking compared to what is a good rate for you to speak at. Where you’re still getting your point across quickly enough so people aren’t losing interest, but that people can also understand what you’re saying.
Another part of this is taking advantage of pausing. Pause after a short sentence, and before a long one to let the idea sink in so that you can formulate what you’re trying to say next while people are processing.
This is just a little bonus note here because after speaking with so many women and working in a field that is predominantly women, I have noticed that women, not everyone, but a lot of women are really bad at saying no. We want to take on every new Project. We want to take on every responsibility even though we might be burning out. We still keep taking on new projects because we’re afraid to say no. We think that saying no is rude or that we can just take on that extra project. Yeah, I’ll have to sleep a little less this week but you know what it’s okay, I don’t want to disappoint anybody. But saying no is an incredibly important part of claiming your space, because you do not have to accept every request or suggestion, and you should never feel pressured to do something that is not right for you.
And saying no doesn’t only apply to professional and academic settings. It also applies to our personal relationships. You might have that friend that’s always asking you to go get lunch, or to go out for a drink, or to go to a movie, or go to dinner. Sometimes you know you’re just not feeling up for it, and that’s okay. Or you have a lot going on at work or at home, and you just don’t have the energy to spend on that friendship at that moment. That’s okay. There are ways that you can say no and still be polite about it, but still, be assertive that hey I don’t have the time. Some examples are…
I would love to join you but I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with work right now.
Now isn’t a good time for me I’ll let you know if my schedule frees up.
That sounds fun but I have a lot going on at home.
And a bunch of other ways that you can say no but still say hey look I care about you, there are other things going on to where I can’t put my energy into that.
And in terms of saying no in professional environments. There are ways to say that as well. You could say something along the lines of…
I’m not comfortable doing that task is there anything else I can help you with?
I cannot help you with that I’m not qualified for that type of work but you can go talk to Martha and see if she can help you.
How about you try it on your own first and then I can help you.
I enjoyed helping you last time but I am busy with several other projects right now.
There are lots of different ways that you can say no but still maintain positive relationships and a positive attitude with what you’re saying. So start learning to say no if you truly don’t have the time, if you’re not interested, if you’re feeling pressured, and if it just isn’t right for you.
The last area in learning to claim physical space is your body language.
The first and most amazing tip that I have learned is the idea of mirroring. And mirroring is a strategy that involves adopting the body language of the person you’re interacting with in order to build a connection show empathy and establish trust. This also helps with asserting confidence and claiming your space in conversations. So how mirroring works is you examine your environment and then you identify who commands the most respect in the room, and then from there you mirror their body language. So look at their hands. Are they using their hands a lot when they’re talking? What type of hand gestures are they using pay attention to how they’re sitting are their legs crossed are they sprawled out in the chair are they leaning forward? What are they doing? So pay attention to this. Adapt your own body language to incorporate what they’re doing. If they’re commanding the most respect, a big part of why they’re commanding the most respect is their body language. They are giving off a powerful and confident vibe, for lack of a better word, and you want to mirror that.
And lean forward. Lean, slightly forward into the conversation and look directly at the person or the person you’re talking to. This shows them that you’re engaged. For me I also will do some head nods every now and then or will do a small smile if they say something kind of funny or just deserves a smile. And I do that to show that I’m interested in the conversation, and that’s going to work on building trust.
Also, spread out. You have plenty of space to move your arms away from your body, to speak with your hands. I’ve noticed that some of the most powerful speakers use their hands to communicate. They don’t stand there with their hands at their sides or their hands crossed out in front of them. They speak with their hands. They move their hands around to keep the listener engaged and to show that they’re passionate about what they’re talking about. Because when you’re moving your hands it communicates passion
Also, make eye contact. Especially when you are the one that is speaking, making eye contact is key to claiming physical space and it is an essential part of communication. It helps establish a connection with the person you’re speaking to and it helps ensure that your words are being heard and understood. When you’re making eye contact with them, use their body language to assess if you need to slow down your cadence, if you need to word things in a different way or if you need to use language that’s not field related.
I’m guilty of this all the time when I talk about nonprofit work with people. Sometimes I use industry language and I don’t realize I’m doing it until I look them in the eye and the person that I’m talking to looks kind of confused by an acronym I use. So I’ll stop and then I will go, okay, let me define this for them and then I’ll say, oh by the way this acronym means this. And then they’ll shake their head and go okay, and then I know that they were confused. I’m glad that I was looking them in the eye, and was checking in to make sure that what I was saying made sense to my audience
Last but not least, this applies to every area that we’ve talked about, but maintain your space. Make sure you are not allowing people to invade your space. Whether that is allowing people to interrupt you or to cut you off, I don’t stand for that. You should not stand for that, stop that mess in its tracks. If someone interrupts you keep talking because guess what, they interrupted you, you were speaking, therefore, you are not the one that should stop speaking, they should.
Going into posture, use your posture to increase your personal bubble. If you are in a crowded room, by squaring your shoulders and puffing your chest out a little bit, you are saying this is my space. My feet are planted into the ground, therefore, I’m not moving. So no one come into my space because I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere. This is mine.
Maintain your space.
And to end this first part of the claim your space series I will leave you all with this quote, “it was when I dared to take up space that I claimed my place”.
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