Summary: A Woman’s Guide to Claiming Space By Eliza VanCort
Summary: A Woman’s Guide to Claiming Space By Eliza VanCort

Summary: A Woman’s Guide to Claiming Space By Eliza VanCort


Posture isn’t just about your back. It isn’t just about your body. It’s about you—how you feel about yourself and how the world sees you.

The first step to having better posture is to stop behaviors that make your posture worse. There are five main habits that tend to unconsciously diminish your space-claiming capacity.

Lifting. Don’t bend with your back; bend with your legs. You may feel weird picking up your grocery bags off the ground like a weightlifter, but you will look even weirder hobbling around after throwing out your back.

Traveling. Avoid slouching on long trips. This is hard to do, but slumping for hours on long flights is hard on your body.

Cell phoning. When talking on the phone or texting, hold up your phone; don’t make your head tilt down to your phone.

Working. Be sure to reset your posture regularly by setting a time to take breaks to stand up and take small walks. This is also a good excuse to network at the water cooler.

High heeling. Don’t wear high heels. After a night of wearing a great pair of mules, our feet don’t need studies to tell us high heels can be a rare form of torture.

Transform Your Posture in Just Three Steps and Only Five Minutes a Day


  1. Lie down on a few towels or a thin mat.
  2. Bend your knees, with your feet flat.
  3. Suck your belly button up and in.
  4. Check to see if the muscle on the inside of your pelvic bone is tight.


Start by activating your core, and then

  1. Pull your shoulders up toward your ears
  2. Pull your shoulders way back without rolling them down at all!
  3. Keeping your shoulders back, push them down. (Your chest should feel way too far forward—think Madonna in her cone bra!)
  4. Inhale deeply.
  5. As you slowly exhale, stop actively pulling your shoulders back.


  1. Stand next to a wall.
  2. Put your palm on the wall.
  3. Slide your hand up the wall.
  4. Without bouncing, rotate your torso away from the wall to create a gentle stretch.
  5. Do this on both arms.
Invest in Bowing to No One!

Spending time, energy, and sometimes money to cultivate better posture is an investment well worth making. Regardless of your height, you will be stunned at how differently you feel, and how differently you’re treated. Never let your posture tell a story you don’t want it to .



Your voice is a powerful tool. You can use it to scare, inspire, intimidate, or soothe. It can show strength, or reveal weakness, dilute an argument, or bolster a point. This chapter breaks down voice into its component parts so that your communication isn’t left to intuition or chance. You will learn to control your voice and, by extension, the way you are received by others.

Lifting: Make Them Listen, Learn, and Remember

Whether you’re giving a talk, in a social setting, or in a meeting, you want people to remember your most important point, and you want to be interesting. One of the best ways to do this is to figure out what part of a sentence or paragraph you really want people to remember and then “lift” it.

Lifting is the intersection of volume and the art of power, persuasion, and inspiration . . . all wrapped up in one tidy word! Lifting technically means highlighting certain parts of a sentence or an idea by modulating physicality and voice.

Slow Down, Speed Up!

You can make people remember anything you want about a sentence just by slowing down during the part of the sentence or paragraph you want people to remember. Indeed, people can come away with a radically different feeling about a sentence, and a completely different memory about what you were saying, simply because you slowed down

Silence: Make Them Listen, or Save Yourself

Powerful men pause all the time because no one would dare interrupt them. Women who are incredibly powerful often develop speech patterns that are considered more traditionally male, such as speaking slower and pausing more. If you see an interview with Oprah, or Maya Angelou, or Hillary Clinton, they own their silences! Look back on earlier footage of Oprah. You’ll see that she utilized silence less. As she moved from Oprah, just another talk show host, to the Oprah, she gained power and in turn used silence more often and effectively.

silence is one hell of a power move. A woman who knows how to use silence is a woman in control of her communication. She is a space claimer who is signaling with her speech patterns, in no uncertain terms, that she has the right to speak without interruption and claim space without apology.

When you’re making a point, pause before or after.


Body Language

Posture matters. Voice matters. Words matter. But behavior matters more. Much more.

High-Playing Behaviors

How to scare the crap out of someone even if your words sound really nice.

  • Take up space with your body!
  • Ignore people’s “bubbles”—push into their space!
  • Speak in complete sentences, whether long or short.
  • Stare at folks, keep your head absolutely still, try not to blink, and never, ever look away
  • When someone is talking to you, don’t look at them.
  • Interrupt, without apology, before you know what you’re going to say.
Low-Playing Behaviors

There really are times you should play small.

  • Don’t be a ballerina.
  • When talking with your hands, keep them close to your face.
  • Give up your space—literally give it away.
  • Lean forward, and if you want to go really low, Gruenfeld talks about pointing your toes together.
  • Speak in incomplete sentences
  • Overtalk, often in run-on sentences.
  • If you’re talking to a high-status person, don’t make a lot of eye contact.
  • When a high-status person talks to you, show some respect—glue your eyes to theirs.
  • Constantly.

To understand and eventually master these behaviors, you need to practice. Here’s how:

  1. Get together with a girlfriend, or even better, a group of girlfriends.
  2. Look over these behaviors—put them in front of you so you remember them.
  3. Set a timer to go off every two minutes.
  4. Talk to each other, and every time the timer goes off, switch from high to low behaviors. (Do not tell each other which you will be using first.)
  5. Do this for at least six minutes.
  6. Have your minds blown.
  7. Process how much your minds were blown over a bottle of wine.
  8. After your night of communication fun and wine, take the skills out of your house and practice them in low-stakes situations.
  9. Once you’re sure you can nail them in low-stakes situations, start bringing them into high-stakes situations.
  10. Blow your mind repeatedly as you consistently shift interactions at work.


Know Your Worth

Know the Value You Bring

The first step to knowing your worth is understanding your value.

If you’re collaborating on a project and you’re finding that you’re undervaluing your contribution, flip the script. If the man on the project were doing the same level of work you are, would you be giving him credit? The first step to taking credit is knowing what value you bring to the table.

This concept also works for relationships. If you find yourself giving more than your partner, flip the script. Would he tolerate this inequity from you? If not, it is fully within your rights to take credit for what you’re doing and demand things change.

Make Demands

When making demands, it’s important to do it in the way that feels powerful and appropriate for you, and that you state your demand confidently, firmly, and without apology.

When it comes to being paid, don’t lower your price. Ask for that White guy number. If you are collaborating, insist you be given credit for your disproportionate contributions. Or, if you aren’t happy doing an unfair share, insist others step up. This can be challenging because history has taught us that women who ask without apology can be punished with unfortunate labels or painful pushback.

Own Compliments and Brag!

Once you know your worth and have made demands, claim even more space! Many women are terribly uncomfortable with this. Good little girls are demure, quiet, and self-effacing. Good little girls deflect compliments and don’t brag. But you can’t claim space if you are afraid to own and amplify your best qualities.

When talking about your accomplishments, use HSBH:

Humility. Begin your brag by talking about how thankful you are, or acknowledge the struggle you had to go through to get to where you are now.

Shameless Brag. Now that you have buffered your brag, insert the content you want to brag about

Humility. End your brag by saying once again how thankful you are, or by acknowledging your hard road to success.


Forge Connection


Here are some fundamentals of networking:

  • Be authentic.
  • Seek people out.
  • Be attentive
  • Connect others
  • Offer value
  • Seek diversity
  • Network with men
  • Join and create
  • Be kind.
  • Drink more beer; skip more work.
First Impressions: Greet like a Boss

Making a great first impression is critical. It sends a clear message to people about who you are and how you expect to be treated. There is no room for being small when you first meet someone. You need to throw down your expectations about how the relationship will move forward like a boss. You must expand your presence, not contract it.


Eye contact is critical, and for introverts, sustained eye contact with a new person can be very, very challenging.

Don’t look down.

Don’t blink.

Maintain eye contact.


Claim space by opening up your body. Some women have a tendency to physically shrink when meeting new people.

Make sure you have excellent posture.

Keep your face open and at least moderately friendly.


A strong handshake.


There is no more important moment than when you tell someone your name. How you say it will have as much or more impact than the quality of your handshake. Here are the two things to remember about the verbal component of introductions.

Say it loud.

Say it proud

Greet like a boss. You’ll be treated like a boss.


Find Your Compass

How do you find that voice that tells you “I know what I feel. I know what I should do. I’m going to do it, and without apology or anyone else’s permission”?

There are two steps. If the first doesn’t work, go to step 2.


Trust that you know the answer, and it’s the right one.

If a space feels unsafe, it is. You know the answer.

If you don’t trust someone, they are untrustworthy. You know the answer.

If you feel your boundaries are being crossed, they are. You know the answer.

If you think that person is being a total jerk to that Black woman checking people out at the grocery store even though everyone around you doesn’t seem to notice or care, you’re right. You should intervene. You know the damn answer.

Think of it like the advice they give you before you take the SATs—always go with your first answer.


Sometimes, however, we just can’t tell what we are feeling or thinking. This is especially true when our safety scale isn’t at the physical danger extreme. It’s when we are feeling emotionally unsafe and start convincing ourselves it’s all in our heads or we aren’t justified. “Go ahead, kiss Uncle Bob!” rings in our ears during these moments. When this happens, women can almost always reconnect with their truth by using that handy tip from flipping the script.

This simply means asking yourself to reverse the situation:

  1. Would a man be treated this way?
  2. If he were treated this way, would he tolerate the behavior?
  3. If he would not, would he demand he be treated fairly?
  4. If the answer is yes, you damn well have the right to do the same or do something to right the situation!


Help Others Claim Their Space

Let’s take our conversations out of the darkness of the bathroom.

Let’s use our voices to speak truth to power, shine light on our experiences, and demand change.

We are not alone. We have important stories to tell. Let’s tell them.

These conversations will be scary at first, but think of #MeToo. The more we stand firm in our power and speak without apology, the more women will follow. More importantly, we don’t need to be unafraid to have those conversations and make those demands. We just need to be brave.

And now, Wonder Woman, grab your space-claiming cape and go save your own life.

Turn around, reach out your hand, and lift up your sisters.