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collapse, posturing and composure

Here’s a little thought that I got from my friends at Authentic World in San Francisco and that I melded with some ideas from my colleague Ari Galper of Unlock the Game (and a bit of Stuart Wilde).

I normally steer clear of talking personal growth at my workshops and on my blog but this is a pattern that is so core and pervasive in business and I’ve found it to be very valuable to share with others.

In the end, so much of success in business comes down to this ephemeral thing called ‘vibe’. How people feel around us.

And that has so much to do with how we’re being (and very little to do with what we’re doing).

“Who you are shouts so loudly in my ears that I can not hear what you say.”

– Emerson

“We have each had the experience of others reacting to us; often there seems to be no logic to it. But in fact, people do pick up on our subtle energy, and even if they can’t see it or put it into words, they feel it and, subliminally, they know. They vote yes, no or maybe according to the qualities and strength of the energy we project.”

– Stuart Wilde


I find that in life – and certainly in business – people vacillate between two poles – two ends of a line – on one side there’s collapse and on the other side there’s posturing.


Collapsing often shows up around money. Someone asks you what you charge and you say (though nervous to say it), “I charge $100 per hour.” And then they wince. And you immediately say, “But you know, if that’s a problem we could do $75 . . . or $50?!! $25!! . . . I’ll pay you! Why don’t I pay you since it’s your first treatment?”

It’s almost that bad with some people.

They might have winced because they thought you were undercharging. You’ll never know.

Collapsing is a caving in of the shoulders and a slump forward.

And it’s driven by an agenda. The hidden agenda of collapsing is “Love me”. We want people to love us and so we sell out our self respect and integrity. What we don’t know when we’re stuck in it is that this is profoundly unattractive. At its extremes it’s repulsive.

Fundamentally, collapsing is a lose/win gesture. We say to our clients, “I’ll lose, so you can win.”

It’s easy, when we’re stuck in it, to think that we’re being generous and giving. But we’re actually being sneaky in trying to get their love. How do know it’s not genuine giving? Because, when the giving isn’t reciprocated we burn out and get resentful . . . of our clients, of potential clients, of other practitioners, of the Universe – anybody. We give so much! Why aren’t we getting back? We’re such a nice person!

Collapse is the breeding ground of martyrdom, neediness and self pity. Not attractive.

Sometimes this fools people.

Initially, they might think, ‘wow. what a generous person!’ But, the perceptive  see through this ruse right away. And, eventually, it makes most people very uneasy around us because they begin to quickly feel like they owe us. Mark Silver wrote a brilliant blog about this called, ‘Avoiding the Horrors of the Sliding Scale’. He points out that most people are so collapsed around money . . . and so they offer their workshops on a sliding scale. The challenge is, they’re using the sliding scale not as a gift but as a way of avoiding talking about money. Avoiding admitting that they are human and that they have needs.

When we’re collapsed, people can feel us energetically leaning in on them and looking for love – even as we lean way back from them around money issues.

Collapsing can look like not preparing for events or figuring out follow up for them. It can look like getting to the end of an intro workshop and spending the last ten minutes giving more content rather than talking about your upcoming program because you just want to keep giving.

Collapsing says, ‘their needs matter. mine don’t’.

In fact, it’s worse than that. There’s a deep shame about even having needs in the first place.

Consequently, collapsing is a lack of self care because every ounce of our energy is being spent on doing whatever we think is most likely to get us the love of others. Collapse is based on a core feeling of not being enough and trying to do enough so that we’ll feel loved. It can be a protective mechanism too. Secretly, we might feel like we’re a bad person so . . . if we just do enough good things then we can’t be attacked by others because, ‘hey! look at all the good I’ve done.’

Collapsing is the toxic mimic of genuine appreciation. Appreciations looks at things as they are and says, ‘yes’. Appreciation sees the beauty in things as they are. And what we appreciate, appreciates – what we focus on expands. Both appreciation and collapse look outwards to the world to notice other people and the world one takes whatever is happening very personally.

And so it’s incredibly hard for a collapser to say ‘no’ to helping someone out. They’re often pushovers, patsies and doormats. They’ll say yes to you, even if it means they might have to give up something important to them they wanted to do. When people are stuck in collapse – they can’t be trusted. They will give and give and give and then one day they will snap. And it’s not pretty when they do.


Posturing is the other side of the coin.

Posturing is when we puff ourselves up and try to seem more successful and confident than we actually are.

Posturing is where we lean waaaay back emotionally but lean in hard on the money.

Posturing says, ‘Please believe in me. See me as powerful and amazing.’

And, deep down, posturing is scared shitless that it’s a fraud. Which is a reasonable fear to have. It is, after all, a fraud.

When you meet someone and they feel plastic, a bit too polished and slick, it’s likely posturing. When you’re around someone and they seem happy and confident, but you feel scared – it’s likely posturing.

Posturing is, I think, also a reactive place to having been collapsed for a long time. Posturing makes a lot of demands. It says, ‘I will be paid what I deserve!’ but with an edge to it. If collapsing is a place of victimhood, then posturing is a place of, “I won’t be a victim (anymore).” energy here (often from having been a victim before).

Posturers talk a good game. They talk a lot about their big goals and visions for the future. It can be incredibly enticing. But usually nothing happens. Because to make big things happen, they need to play with the big boys. And the big boys have tended to be a bit more discerning. They know posturing when they see it.

And posturing in business has a hidden agenda too – ‘get the sale’. It’s a win/lose orientation. I win and  . . . I don’t really care what happens to you. I think this has to do with the obsession with how we’re perceived. So, if I can fill a seminar room with two hundred people then that makes me look successful. If I can ‘close’ half the room and get them to sign up for my advanced workshop then I’m successful. I’m powerful.

But, inside of posturing, there’s really not much room for noticing the participants and whether or not they should even be in the room in the first place. When someone’s in posturing it’s all about them. People who are posturing are also often emulating someone (or some constellation of someones). There’s someone who’s approval they desperately want to have.

A young minister might come across as overzealous because they are trying to gain the approval of some higher up minister or bishop (or Jesus). A young solder might be overly aggressive because they want to be just like some older general or war hero. A motivational speaker might be a bit too positive and upbeat because they want to be just like Tony Robbins.

Posturing can be republicans talking about family values and then it’s discovered that they were cheating – or ranting about the evils of homosexuality only to be outed a few years later. It can be someone like Rush Limbaugh who blusters and rants in his radio studio and then as he leaves, according to many, becomes incredibly less confident.

Posturing often shows up as a big difference between onstage and offstage personalities. It shows up as hidden obsessions and habits. Posturing calls for some deep shadow work.

It’s all posturing

Posturers can often lure people in. They speak with such earnest passion (but a little too earnest). They ooze confidence (but to a sensitive observer it’s a ‘put on’ over-confidence).

People who posture are often convinced they can help you. They feel certain that their solution is for everyone. And this means that, when you speak to them about working with them, you are likely to feel a great deal of sales pressure because the whole sales conversation is phony. It’s not even a conversation, it’s a pitch. It’s not an exploration. They’re just trying to manoever you to saying, ‘yes’.

Posturing is the toxic mimic of genuine integrity. Integrity says, ‘this is what i want. this is who i am’ and makes no apologies about it. integrity is forthright, direct and clear.  it’s solid. Posturing is still focused on what we want – but it’s sneaky. It’s hidden.

I, sadly, did this for years. I studied Brian Tracy, Tom Hopkins, Zig Ziglar, NLP etc. And they were all predicated on that – getting people to say ‘yes’. Closing the sale. Most of this sales training is deeply dehumanizing. I pushed people, tried (almost always unsuccessfully) to manipulate them into signing up for the courses of the seminar company I worked with.


“Do not make yourself so big. 
You are not so small.
~ Jewish Proverb


Which one are you?

Consider both of these patterns and notice where they show up in your life.

When I was 18, I wanted to be Tony Robbins. Super badly. I wanted his approval so badly. And I ended up leading workshops for people two or three times my age. I had no business leading those kinds of workshops. I was posturing. Pretending to be more together than I was. I recall talking about health and exercise with such passion and certainty even though I totally didn’t do those things consistently.

Other times, I can be a pretty big collapser.

Which one feels dominant for you?

The muddy middle ground . . .

Neither or these work very well or feel very satisfying.

And either of them can have you develop four very unappealing, business killing qualities.

And so we often vacillate from one to the other. A common pattern I see in the conscious crowd is collapsers going to marketing workshops and learning a bunch of posturing tactics. They are nervous but excited to try them. They try them and then people are like, ‘WTF?!!’ and they’re so mortified that they rush straight back to collapse.

A dear friend of mine who had such a sweet and shy energy once went to one of the more ‘postury’ workshops I’ve hear of. She learned how to do ‘accelerated learning’, high fives, call and response and offer big packages from the front of the room and ‘close the room’. So, she invited her friends to an intro and tried to close her friends. And they were appalled and sad, “What happened to our sweet friend??” they asked. She never did that again.

Much of the mainstream business world is full of posturing. Most of the holistic and conscious world is full of collapsing.

So many people though, seem to try to find a middle ground between collapsing and posturing. I want to suggest that the answer isn’t in the middle. It’s above. If you can imagine collapsing and posturing as end points on a single line. And then we add a third point above and bam! a triangle . . . which we’ll call this third element composure. It’s the third alternative.

What collapsing and posturing both have in common are . . .

  • they’re both trying to ‘get’ something from the other person whether it’s love or money.
  • their agendas are secret and hidden.
  • they’re both a cover for feelings of deep inadequacy and the feeling of always trying to be enough.
  • they both feel stressful to live in
  • both are based in the feeling that this world is not a safe place to be

The Third Alternative – Composure:

Composure is an entirely different realm.

It’s a much more relaxed place.


“Stress is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”

– Chinese Proverb

“We’re not here to earn God’s love. We’re here to spend it.”

– Swami Beyondananda

Donald Trump is posturing. Woody Allen is collapse. The Dalai Lama is composure. Oprah Winfrey, Obama, Ekhart Tolle are composure. Cool as a cucumber. Non reactive.

Composure isn’t confidence as much as comfort in our own skin. We’re not leaning forward or back, we’re sitting up straight and comfortably inside of ourselves. This is the ground of win/win. We are committed to everybody’s needs being met – including our own.

Composure has an agenda – but it’s not secret.

The agenda is to know the truth of the situation. And in business this translates as, ‘is this a fit?’ People who are composed rarely trigger sales pressure and if they do they’re able to diffuse it because they’re really not attached. Consciously or not, they’ve become well verses in the Ten Levels of Diffusing Sales Pressure. Composed people walk in with no agenda and a deep honour and respect for both themselves and the other person. They would never dream of pushing anyone to do anything that didn’t feel right.

Composed people are profoundly present.

People who are composed tend to feel whole inside (whether through upbringing or extraordinary amount of healing work).

When we’re composed we say ‘yes’ when we want to and ‘no’ when we want to. We’re much more able to build our business based on resonance than on trying to convince people of anything.

I think part of what feels so wonderful about being around composed people is that they’re wonderfully human. They’re humble enough to admit that they have needs and they’re okay with that. There’s a deep embracing of our humanity here.

We are naturally drawn to composed people because there’s an old truth that where we speak from we speak to. If you speak from a collapsed place in yourself – you speak to that place in others. If you speak from a place of posturing in you – you will hit that place in others. Neither of those places feel at ease in people and so folks will feel uneasy around you. When you speak from your center – people feel that and relax.

When we’re composed, we actually listen to people. We have real conversations to see if what we’re offering is a fit for people. And if it’s not a fit, that’s okay.


“The best chief is not the one who persuades people to his point of view. It is instead the one in whose presence most people find it easiest to arrive at the truth”.
~Mohawk Wisdom

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