THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Out of the gait: What your walk says about your career

We all know that people judge each other in the first five seconds. We talk about clothes, and weight, and tone of voice. But you can also judge someone by their walk.

Don't tell me this is shallow. It's probably an evolutionary survival skill we developed– before you could Google someone to discover their credibility.

We already know that people with the most control over their image work hard on understanding the body language they project. Now, you can change how you function in the world by changing your gait.

For example, if you feel defensive, resist the temptation to fold your arms in front of your chest, and the person with whom you're talking will think you are listening better. And, in fact, you will be listening better because you gained intellectual awareness that you were feeling defensive.

Scientists have taken body language analysis one step forward and found systematic ways to describe how gait relates to mood. The first career coach I ever had used this science.

She taught me how to change my walk in order to exude more authority. I was a young upstart bouncing around the office and needed to look grounded, so she showed me how to shift my center of gravity to lower in my body. And, in the process, I began exuding more authority.

So here are personality traits we reveal in our gait. In each case, researchers have found that if you change the way you walk, you can change how you are living.

1. How well you plan and think abstractly.

Researchers found that you can look at the fluidity of a person's gait to gauge the person's executive function, the ability to look at range of issues and figure out how to orchestrate a to-do list and accomplish a set of competing priorities. You can see people with Asperger Syndrome, or, the stereotypical eccentric genius having trouble here. Their brain is working fine in terms of IQ, but their executive function is poor (Einstein couldn't manage to comb his hair); and so too is their gait.

2. How well you play with others.

When it comes to understanding what people are feeling by watching what their hands are doing, the best book is The Definitive Book of Body Language. And while you might be able to control your hands when you are sitting still (few people will bite their nails at a conference table, for example), hands are harder to control when people are walking. Someone who is walking with hands behind the back, is probably angry or frustrated. Hands in pockets convey dejection; clenched fists usually show resistance to others' opinions.

3. How outgoing you are.

Some people write about how people who are pigeon-toed are introverts. The research, I have to say, is not that convincing. But we intuitively believe this because of all the visual stereotyping we do about pigeon-toed children and submissive women. And, frankly, I always think there is some truth to stereotyping, even though I know it's not politically correct.

4. (If you're a woman) how easily you have an orgasm.

It turns out that women who have a stride similar to models on a runway reach orgasm more easily. Really. There is convincing research to show that the length of a woman's stride and how her hips open while she walks indicates her orgasmic ability. People who were trained to judge this by how she walked were able to judge it at an 80 percent success rate.


So what should you do with this research? Women, if you were doubting that changing your walk can change your life, the research also shows that if change how you walk you can make yourself orgasm more easily. And for the men: The London Times reports that the men who are best at giving women orgasms are also the richest men, so if you are thinking you want to make a lot of money in your career, maybe you should pay attention to the research about gait.


Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more.