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Being the top lobster, start by standing up straight.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | February 11, 2018

No. 1,416

Image: dreamstime.com

A fascinating new book by Jordan B. Peterson, a Canadian psychologist, combines ancient truth with modern science. “Twelve Rules for Life” subtitled “An Antidote for Chaos” is an illuminating, but sometime disturbing read.  Actually, I’m listening to the book, read by the author, on Audible. I also recommend a You Tube presentation of a speech where he summarizes most of the 12 Rules.

I’m only about 3 chapters in, so I’ll tell you about Rule No. 1. today. Other Rules will follow in later posts.

Rule 1: Stand up Straight.

Great idea.  People form first impressions partly on whether you stand erect or slouch.  Peterson takes this simple concept to a whole new plain.  He takes note of research that suggests that posture gives us, and other living beings, cues regarding dominance.  He says that posture in lobsters has been correlated with their social hierarchy. A lobster which stands most erect is recognized as top lobster by the others.  After losing a battle for dominance, the loser slinks away and the winner struts.

Don’t discount the importance of this observation, Peterson says.  Lobsters are a very ancient life form and have been around for a third of a billion years.  Their behavioral patterns have been passed down (or maybe up) the genetic pathway over millions of years, culminating in us.  Standing up straight has been correlated with higher levels serotonin, too.  Depressed loser lobsters have lower levels of serotonin.  Moreover, by giving a loser lobster a dose of serotonin, you can send him confidently back into battle.

This chapter brought to mind the example of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Cut down by polio as a young man, he taught himself to hold his upper body erect with his head up, ever smiling, teeth clenched on an upraised cigarette holder.  It must have been exhausting for a man with his disabilities to get through a day. But FDR knew that everyone was looking. In the combative world of politics, he couldn’t show any weakness. Instead, he communicated strength he probably didn’t feel.

In the Ken Burns/PBS series “the Roosevelts” the story is told how someone surprised FDR near his summer residence, sitting on a rock in the woods, with his head in his hands, looking dejected and exhausted.  As soon as Roosevelt became aware that another person was present, he instantly straightened up and became the smiling energetic figure he always wanted to project.

I’ve noticed that if there is a ledge, podium or rail (or any convenient place to lean) in front of the judge’s bench, some litigants and lawyers will lounge all over it.  And how do you think they come across to the judge and other onlookers?  Weak, lazy, stupid?  Certainly not anything positive.  If you want to be listened to respectfully, don’t do any of that!

If FDR could hold his body erect, why can’t we? If we want to project power, energy and competence, we must start with posture.  Of course, it will take a little effort and persistence. But keep it up for a while. Maybe it will become a habit.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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