By Alexis Grant

Standing or sitting with good posture helps you act more authoritative, Northwestern study shows

Turns out your mother was onto something when she told you to stop slouching. Whether you're in a job interview or at the office, new research shows standing up straight can help you get ahead of the competition.

We've long known that good posture makes you look more confident. But according to a study by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, standing tall makes you act more in charge, too. In fact, your posture is likely to affect your actions more than your title or rank, the research shows.

"[Standing straight is] going to actually make you objectively perform probably better in the interview because you'll say things with more authoritativeness, more confidence," says Adam Galinsky, professor at Kellogg, who led the study. "What you're demonstrating to other people is competence."

Postures that tend to help us feel more in charge are what Galinsky calls "expansive postures," or positions that open up the body and take up space. That includes sitting with your legs slightly apart or your arm over the back of a chair. But those positions sometimes aren't appropriate for an interview or office meetings. So focus on sitting upright, expanding your chest, and holding your arms in a relaxed, comfortable position, Galinsky says.

Joe Navarro, a non-verbal communication expert who used to work for the FBI, says standing or sitting up straight might not be intuitive when you're interviewing for a job. "We're going into a situation where we may feel humbled or we might not fit in," he says, which is when we tend to slouch or sit with our hands under our legs. That means job seekers may have to make a conscious effort to sit and stand upright, to project "the body language of a leader."

"It doesn't mean you puff your chest out," says Navarro, author of What Every BODY is Saying, a book about reading body language. "It just means [you're standing or sitting] erect, you're not slouching, and you're very comfortable. It's that whole posture that transmits information about you."

For Galinsky's study, participants adopted open (standing up straight) or closed (slouched) body postures while placed in high- or low-power roles, then participated in word-completion exercises and blackjack games. Participants with open postures took more action than those with closed postures, regardless of which participant held a more powerful position.

Those findings surprised Galinsky. He expected a person's role in a given situation -- whether they ranked higher than the person they interacted with -- to have more influence over their actions than posture. "So much of who we are in the world and how we act really comes from the way that we stand and present ourselves," he says.

Other body-language tips for job seekers and the career-minded:

Make and maintain good eye contact

Says Navarro. "But don't look around the room like you own the place."

Lean forward occasionally to convey your enthusiasm.

Leaning back has the opposite effect, Navarro says. And yes, it's possible to lean forward without slouching.

Before an interview or meeting, think about a time when you were powerful, Galinksy says.

Other studies have shown those thoughts will help you exude confidence.

Keep your hands visible -- not under the table.

"We want to see the hands," Navarro says. "The key is to look relaxed."

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