Erika Ettin: The Power Of Posture

By Erika Ettin
Tribune News Service

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) It turns out that posture matters, and it doesn’t just matter in real life when you’re face-to-face with someone. According to dating expert Erika Ettin, posture matters when doing online dating, too! For example, Expansive (vs. contractive) body posture increases one’s romantic desirability. (Think arms outstretched vs. arms crossed)

Tribune News Service

Sit up straight! Don’t cross your arms! Look me in the eye!

These sound like things your grandma would have said to you when you were in your rebellious teenage years, right? While my Grandma Henny never said anything to me that forcefully (though she did get upset once when I wouldn’t say hi when I was about five years old… I was really shy), these are unsolicited pointers that a lot of people hear on a regular basis. Is there something to them?

It turns out there is. Posture matters, and it doesn’t just matter in real life when you’re face-to-face with someone, but it matters when doing online dating, too.

The National Academy of Sciences published the results of two studies recently, based on both in-person meetings at a speed-dating event and an app-based online dating site, showing that three things are true:

1. Expansive (vs. contractive) body posture increases one’s romantic desirability. (Think arms outstretched vs. arms crossed)

2. Results are consistent across gender.

3. Perceived dominance (much like a peacock … we are animals after all), and perceived openness are mechanisms through which expansiveness exerts its effect.

In the first study, researchers filmed 144 speed-dating sessions, focusing on facial expressions, gestures, and posture. After the sessions, the participants were asked whether they wanted to meet that same person again, which would indicate success. It turns out that those who gestured with their hands and moved their arms nearly doubled their odds of getting a “yes” as compared to those who sat still or kept their arms to themselves, she said.

To test whether the same thing was true in online dating scenarios, the researchers took six heterosexual people and set up two online dating profiles for each person on a GPS-based dating app, one with photos in expansive poses and the other showing them in contractive postures. Again, it turned out that the more expansive poses garnered more “yes” responses from users of the dating app.

What does all of this mean? In a world of dating where so much is based on immediate first impressions, especially online, overt displays of this “expansive” posture can increase one’s chances of initial romantic success. It could be the difference between marking a “yes” or a “no” at a speed-dating event or a “left swipe” (indicating a pass) vs. a “right swipe” (indicating interest) on a dating app. When being compared to others in rapid-fire succession, you want to be sure to give yourself the best odds of getting chosen by a potential date.

Now, this “expansive” rule doesn’t necessarily trump all of the other photo advice I could give, including my five rules of thumb:

1. The main profile picture should be a clear headshot of yourself
2. Less is more
3. Be by yourself in the shot
4. Have one “interesting picture”
5. Be accurate

If you do follow this advice, but so does everyone else (I wish), then the more open posture may be just the thing that pushes you over the top. Keep in mind, though, that you don’t want your photos to look contrived, so try not to just flail your arms for no particular reason. Maybe instead you’re singing in the rain with your arms outstretch to the sky, or maybe you’re jumping on a trampoline with your arms flying high. Or maybe you’re just happy to be alive, and your arms are outstretched to show it. Whatever it is, stretch it out, baby. Science says it works.
(Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating)

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