Don't tell me this is shallow. You can't help but judge people by their gait. But the good news is that we are very good at judging people on first impressions (sponsor link: download movies). It's probably a survival skill we developed very early on as humans — before you could Google someone to know their credibility. And when it comes to gait, it is possible that we each have a unique gait, like a unique thumbprint. (Yes, people are developing security technology based on gait: Cool, right?)
I am convinced that you can change how you function in the world by changing your gait. We already know that people with the most control over their image work hard on understanding the body language they project. For example, if you feel defensive, resist the temptation to fold your arms in front of your chest and the person you're talking to will think you are listening better. And, in fact, you will be listening better because based on your physical urge to fold your arms you gained intellectual awareness that you are 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. She showed me how to shift my center of gravity to lower in my body. And, in the process of changing my gait, she actually did change the way I approached people — I exuded more authority.
So here are personality traits that we reveal in how we walk. 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 think abstractly and plan in flexible ways.
Researchers found that you can look at the fluidity of a person's gait to gauge the person's executive function. This is someone's ability to look at range of issues and figure out what to do first, how to orchestrate a to-do list or a set of competing priorities. You can see this is people with Asperger Syndrome, or, the stereotypical eccentric genius. 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. You can go to physical therapy to smooth out your gait, and, in children, this process has been shown to improve executive function.
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 conveys dejection. Clenched fists usually mean resisting 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, if you think about it, 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.
Proving that stereotyping about gait is on target, it turns out that women who have a stride similar to models on a runway orgasm more easily. Really. There is convincing research to show that how long a woman's stride is and how much a woman's hips open while she walks indicates her ability to have a vaginal orgasm. People who were trained to judge a woman's ability to reach orgasm by how she walked were able to judge it at an 80% success rate.
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.