The first thing people notice about you is how you're breathing.
As an actor enters the stage, the first thing an audience senses is how the actor is breathing. Before they've spoken, the breath - as indicated by the motion of the body - tells us what to expect. As pack animals, another person's breathing pattern carries a wealth of information.
Most simply, another person's breathing pattern signals:
- Danger and insecurity
- That everything's fine
- Abundance and excitement
Despite your mind's best efforts to conceal your emotions, your breath reveals everything about how you're feeling. Think through few recent situations:
- The frantic co-worker who's racing to get something done - the staccato, intermittent gasps.
- The unreadable colleague who holds their breath - is their chest / belly even moving?
- The calm assertive boss who's inviting and grounded - a natural, elegant presence.
Biologically, we hold our breath to hide from predators, to avoid detection. When attacked, our breath quickens, we suck in more air, put our hands up and fight. With a perspective that 'we will get to the right answer,' breathing is completely natural, and nourishing. Watch an electric group of individuals interacting, and you'll see then breathing naturally, and in sync with their emotions and feelings.
How do you present? What alters your breathing pattern? Here are a few ways to heighten your awareness:
- When walking down the street, ask yourself "how am I breathing" - this is a great moment to study yourself as it's something you usually put no thought into, and there's usually no one around you.
- Take note of what quickens your breath (chest contracts, and you pull more air in), when are you holding your breath (usually when feeling intimidated), how are you breathing when in the presence of your most relaxing friend.
As a coach, I often work with clients over the phone. While I can't see them, I can hear the rhythm of their voice, the calm-intentional pauses or lack thereof, and I can sense where they are. Practice observing yourself and watching others. And if you find yourself holding your breath, or often hyper-breathing, realize your human and you're getting information about what situations are creating fear and stress in you. By consciously accepting whatever is throwing you off balance, you can begin to choose a different reaction, and observe your breathing to know where you are.