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Feet first …

Where are your feet?

Seriously. Check in and notice your feet now. Are you sitting at a desk with your legs crossed or are both feet on the floor? Sprawled in a comfy chair, your feet tucked up beside you? You could even be lying in bed, checking your email before you get up and start your day.

Any of those positions are fine for article-reading. A friend reminded me the other day how important our feet are in other situations.

“People need to be more grounded,” he said. And he’s right. In meetings, in virtual presentations, even in casual conversations, your feet set the stage for what we hear from you.

Our conversation about being grounded took me back to a Sunday morning, and a group of seven or eight, sitting in a circle of folding chairs. Each of us with a chance to express our experience, our emotions, and our point of view.

As the first young woman began to speak, she pulled her feet up in front of her and rolled them over from the front … so that the tops of her toes were on the floor and her heels were elevated. She looked a bit like a ballet dancer gone mad. Her voice, all up in her head, was tiny and tinny.

Another woman took her feet off the floor and rested her heels against the legs of her chair … so her feet were in the classic tiptoe position. Her toes and the balls of her feet were still on the floor, but barely, as she grappled to get her thoughts out.

And then there was the woman who prepared to say something—and wrapped one leg around the other. Then she picked up her other foot too. So now there’s nothing grounding her. You can hear her struggle to express herself, you can see the energy, the tension up around her face and shoulders. And her words, when they finally come, don’t quite make sense.

When somebody doesn’t tell us straight out what’s on their mind, we might say they’re “tiptoeing around the subject.”

It’s a figure of speech. But it turns out that tiptoeing can also be quite literal. And I was watching it in action during this meeting.

Somehow the men all managed to keep their feet on the floor as they spoke. Seated squarely in their chairs, they were serious about what they were saying. They sounded that way and they looked that way.

The women, with their tippytoes and curling and rolling feet … they sounded scattered, tentative, wishy-washy. We could hear that. And we could see it.

What does all this mean for you?

Your words have more weight when your body is grounded.

Whether you’re standing or seated, when you want to sound strong, confident, like you know what you’re talking about, you’re best off with both feet flat on the floor. You might even try pressing down into the floor just a little bit so you’re really making contact.

This is what it means to be grounded. Imagine yourself drawing energy up from deep in the earth. That energy animates you as a speaker – and I don’t just mean a “speaker” in front of an audience giving a talk.

I mean a person with a point of view, with knowledge, or with feelings you want to share in a conversation or a meeting or a presentation. And certainly, in a professional situation where you need to be perceived as an expert in your business.

Your voice will be more magnetic when you’re grounded.

You want the energy for your voice to come from your core, not from your head. Your voice will be richer and more resonant that way; your words will carry more weight.

And listen, we recognize the sound of “grounded” even when we can’t see you. So, when you’re talking on the phone, even though nobody’s watching, ground yourself. On a virtual platform, where only your head and shoulders show up in that square on the screen, ground yourself.

How? Plant your feet, press down a bit, turn on your leg muscles. Straighten your spine and sense the energy in your lower body, especially in that energy center right below your navel. Relax your shoulders.

Now allow that energy to flow through your entire body. Breathe—let your lungs fill completely so you feel the expansion.

The energy will move you and move through you as you engage in conversation. Once you’re grounded, there’s no need to be stiff or rigid; you’ll move as you talk. And as you listen.

Pay attention to the connection between your body and your voice.

Notice how using both more effectively gives you more impact.

And pay attention to the people around you too. Notice when they’re pussyfooting around or when they lose their moorings. See and hear how different it is when they stand their ground.  (Aren’t the metaphors fascinating?)

I’d love to hear what you experience – go ahead and share your observations on the blog.