Standing in church I look over at my 4 year-old boy to see his body in continual motion. His head turns left, then right and then he looks at the ceiling. He puts his hand on his head, he leans back then forward. Maybe I should have been listening to the sermon, but I couldn’t help to start counting how many seconds before Nicky moves again. I couldn’t get past two. Then I look at my eight-year old. He moves around, but not quite as much. I could count to ten before his head turns and his body shifted then five seconds later he puts his hands on the pew in front of him. I started looking at other people. Right in front of me was a man and his wife, both around seventy years old. One of them moved only once in the first ninety seconds. The rest of that time they appeared frozen in place.
This got me thinking. Is there a correlation between movement and age, and if so could a person use movement to appear more youthful?
For the following two months, we observed over 300 people in public places in the following age categories: kids, teens, twenties, forties, and sixties. A head-turn, look at a watch, posture change, gesture, etc. qualified as making a move. I only analyzed people in listening situations or alone, because when people talk they are far more animated. Here are the results measured in moves per minute (MPM):
The older people grow, the less they move and shift. Morbid as it appears, it is a natural progression towards death. How does movement affect how others perceive you?
Likability is one of the six pillars of persuasion. When studying the most likable people, one common denominator is that they nod and make facial expressions as they react to other people talking to them. An observation made in this study showed that the older people grow, the less they externally react to others. This may have a negative impact on how they connect. Dale Carnegie said it best, “Be interesting by being interested”.
What about appearing younger? After analyzing the chart above, we decided to test whether movement makes people appear younger. We asked people to watch a twenty-five-year-old woman for a minute and then guess her age. In some circumstances she would move only once during the minute; in others, she would move ten times. Here are the results:
1 MPM: average perceived age: 22 years old
10 MPM: average perceived age: 19.5 years old
Next we tried the experiment with me (age 43). Here are the results based on 48 respondents:
1 MPM: average perceived age: 40.7 years old
10 MPM: average perceived age: 38.4 years old
You look younger when you move. Movement requires energy and energy is associated with youth. Lethargy is associated with age and decline.
The point of this blog is to remind us of how loudly our body language speaks to others. Chances are if you allow yourself to be more animated you will be perceived as more likeable and a bit younger. And, if it works for you, you can thank Jake and Nicky for their bouncy behavior in Church.
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