Aristotle and chicken wings

by Elise Valmorbida

On Tuesday 17 May 2016, some lucky 26ers attended the 26 Trade Secrets training workshop: Presenting Your Best Self. It was wonderful!

Facilitated by the irresistibly persuasive Janet Gordon (former theatre professional, now impact trainer and business coach) we learned, and we learned. Physical. Psychological. Sociological. We started off as awkward strangers but, before long, we were having fun with the ‘starfish’ power position. We got a glimpse of how we think we come across, and how that diverges from the way others actually see us. We took some effortless leaps in the direction of self-awareness.

It wasn’t just about letting inhibition go, although relaxation is vital for effective communication. A squashed diaphragm restricts your breathing and reduces the potential impact of your voice. A submissive stoop says “I’m not a worthy opponent” to the limbic brain of your interviewer/client/colleague. And hands in your pockets? Well, your whole body is not free to communicate, just your constrained shoulders. That’s chicken wings. Not a good look.

“In drama school you’re taught for a year how to stand still,” says Janet. And my word, it matters. Stillness counteracts scattiness, fear and stress. Bring on the rootedness of yoga, Pilates or tai chi. Stand still, be grounded, or move with purpose in order to change the focus of the room. Pause. Change the energy.

As for Aristotle, he snuck into the workshop along with Myers-Briggs, Jung and Mehrabian. The art of persuasion stems from a congruence of ethos, pathos and logos. Aren’t they beautiful words to ponder? But note, dear wordsmith: the words we utter come third in the communications pecking order. Top of the tree? Body language.

Now breathe. From the belly.

Elise Valmorbida is journalist and author. Her new novel The Madonna of the Mountains is published by Faber –

What other participants said:

“I took away a lot of useful tips (voice, physicality, storytelling) that are already making me more mindful and deliberate when speaking to others. It also helped me to see that I’m more confident than I thought I was. And understand that being an introvert doesn’t have to mean living your life in the shadows.”

“For me, the ‘penny drop’ moment was realising I should treat the words I speak in the same way I treat the words I write: not relying on facts alone, but looking for ways to bring the story to life. It seems so obvious in retrospect. But it wasn’t before.”

“Really interactive. Janet was great, very inspirational. She was very attentive to everyone in the room and gave great feedback and understanding.”

What People Say

…just blowing our own trumpet quietly… (well, trombone actually).