Body Language 28 Hand and Arm Movements

May 18, 2019

Numerous arm movements are part of the body language lexicon.

Actually, hand and arm movements turn out to be one of the more cultural-specific areas of body language.

For example, consider people who live in the Northern Mediterranean areas of Italy and Greece. These people are well known for broad hand and arm movements to illustrate what is being said.

The stereotypical talking with the hands is easy to spot and is actually true in many cases.

Contrast those broad and active gestures with those of people from Eastern Europe, where hand gestures are normally smaller and more confined to the area in front of the sternum, or Scandinavian folks who rarely gesture at all.

It is important to consider the home culture when trying to gain insight by the type of hand and arm gestures you see.

It is easy to misinterpret hand and arm gestures, and it can lead to rather serious problems.

We see evidence of miscommunication in families, in organizations, and especially in government, where people are frequently working in the international areas.

To avoid serious consequences, it is important to be educated on the norms of the culture in which you are currently working.

Hand Gestures

Beyond culture, there are numerous gestures that are very well known and usually similar in different areas of the world. Just for fun, make the hand signals for the following concepts.

• Only a little bit (index finger and thumb slightly apart)
• Great job (thumbs up)
• I completely disapprove (thumbs down)
• I am nervous (pretend to bite finger nails)
• Go faster (two fingers extended and hand revolving around at wrist)
• Stop (hand upright with palm facing the other person)
• This stinks (finger and thumb pinching nose)
• Time out (tips of fingers on one hand to palm of other hand)
• Call me (pinky and thumb extended with pinky at mouth and thumb at ear)
• Text me (finger pecking at empty palm)

We know that by learning to sign, one can convey any concept using hand gestures. I find it fascinating to watch professional signers as they are able to keep up with a presentation in real time. It must be exhausting. I watch the signers in some of my classes when there are deaf students in the class. They are amazing.

Arm Gestures

When you add the arms to hand gestures it becomes much more complex to interpret. Several gestures with the arm are pretty much universal. For example, see if you can make an arm gesture that can contain the following meanings:

• I’m cold (clenching arms across the chest)
• This is going to be huge (arms spread wide apart)
• Just go away (hands in front of chest with fingers down then flicked up)
• Close the door (arm movement showing person closing a door)
• Keep the noise down (Palms down and arms showing a downward movement)
• I will drive you there (pretend to be moving a steering wheel)
• We won! (arms straight up overhead like the touchdown sign of a referee)

There are several broad categories of arm gestures with many sub meanings underneath them. The most frequent gesture with arms is folded arms.

Folded Arms

The most common meaning for someone folding arms is to signal a defensive posture or a closed mind. You need to look closer to detect some of the sub gestures. You might be restraining yourself from bashing someone. If the person is grabbing the upper arms tightly, it usually implies agitation. If the fingers are tucked into the arm pits, it may be a sign that the person is feeling cold.

Studies have shown that crossing arms leads to lower retention of information and less positive impression of the person who is talking. An interesting way to get someone with crossed arms to open up is to hand the person something, like a book or a card. This action will soften the gesture and often a more cooperative spirit can be achieved.

Flapping Arms

The gesture of mimicking a bird in flight is very rare, but the meaning is pretty clear when it is. The person wants to get out or wants you to get out. The implication is, “Why don’t you fly on out of here?”

The Muscle Pose

Holding the arms up at a 90 degree angle with clenched fists is a sign of superiority and power. It is most often shown by men to indicate that “I am stronger than you.”

Be on the lookout for arm and hand gestures as you observe other people, and don’t forget to note the signals you are sending with your own hands and arms.

In the business world the arm and hand gestures can tip you off about the mental state of another person, but only if you are alert to the meaning and can properly decode the message by observing clusters of signals.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language.” The entire series can be viewed on https://www.leadergrow.com/articles/categories/35-body-language or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.TheTrust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 600 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Your Workforce: Expense or Asset?

May 14, 2019

Pay close attention to how managers view the commodity called “labor.” In most organizations, the perspective is that labor is an expense. It is handled on the financial statements as an expense.

In most cases, labor is the highest monthly expense for an operation. It is the payment made in order to secure the resources needed to create the products or services sold by the organization.

As the largest expense for many operations, labor is watched and managed very closely. The profitability of the operation is directly impacted by how many workers there are, so all kinds of techniques are used to keep this variable under tight control.

Managers want to have exactly the right number of people on the roster, so perhaps they utilize temporary workers during peak times to mitigate overtime. They need to be careful because the temporary workers need to be sufficiently trained so there are no safety issues or quality lapses.

In many professional settings, the workers are stretched to the elastic limit and beyond. Managers ask individuals to take on responsibilities that were formerly done by two people or even more. This is done in the pursuit of maximum productivity, which is thought to be the prime governing mechanism for profit.

When budgeting, managers at various levels play games trying to pump up the size of the workforce realizing there will be cuts down the road. Alternatively some managers cut the estimated number of people to the bone in order to show positive yearly trends in productivity. The sequence goes on year after year in many organizations. The charade is well known by managers at all levels, and the posturing or tactics sometimes go beyond annoying to downright fraudulent.

Only in a small percentage of organizations do they view employees not as expense items but as assets. Oh sure, most companies have a value on the plaque in the lobby that states, “People are our most important asset,” but the managers’ daily actions reveal the hypocrisy of that platitude.

If people were the most important asset, then during times of low demand, the managers would be selling inventory or buildings and training the employees for future service. Instead, you inevitably see layoffs or at least furloughs to control labor expenses in slack times.

Try looking through a different lens

What if we really did think of employees as assets rather than expenses? Would that provide some unique and amazing possibilities for profits? I think so. Here are some benefits you might see…

1. People would feel valued

In most organizations, people feel like pawns. The investment is always minimal, and the expectation is that employment is a temporary condition at the whim of management and the vicissitudes of the fickle marketplace.

Treating people as valued assets would bring out the best in people because they would feel more engaged in the business. The magnitude of this effect can only be estimated, but it is a lot larger than most leaders realize.

For example, several studies have shown that the productivity multiplier between low trust groups and high trust groups is two to five times. When people are engaged in the work, they perform significantly better because they feel valued.

2. Development of people would be emphasized

The mindset of treating employees as assets would lead to continual training. When you invest in an asset, you take care of it and make sure it is performing at peak levels. This creates a situation where employees truly want to stay with an organization, which reduces the issue of turnover.

Turnover is often the most controllable expense in an organization, yet the true cost is hidden somewhat. World class organizations achieve turnover rates below 5%, while many organizations habitually live with a 30% or higher turnover rate. Do you know the turnover rate for your organization? Do you have an estimate of the cost for turnover?

3. The culture would be uplifting

When employees are learning and growing, they become more valuable not only for what they can do but for how they influence others. The workplace takes on a feeling of freedom and joy rather than of being an oarsman on a Viking ship. When people are treated like assets, they band together as a strong team or family that is unstoppable. The power of synergy is obvious, and the productivity gained from lack of quarreling is immense.

4. The focus would be on the right stuff

In most organizations, where people are considered expenses, the daily focus is myopic. People are grumbling about each other and trying to protect their turf and future. The atmosphere is one of scarcity where the resources are not there to do what is needed to survive. People are always clamoring for more resources.  I knew one professional who spent about 40% of his time going around grumbling about not having enough resources to do his job.

When people are assets, the atmosphere is one of abundance where there is high value internally. People focus on the customer and on the mission of the unit. Since there is no longer a need to protect your back, you have the ability to move beyond just satisfying the customer or even delighting the customer to actually amazing the customer. That focus becomes a competitive weapon which further entrenches security for the future.

5. Organizations could be flatter

The need for numerous hierarchical levels has to do with control. When people are treated as expense items, they need to be kept in line. That means the span of control for any one manager cannot be too great. There is a lot of accounting work that needs to be done in order to assure the expense of labor is optimized.

When people are treated as assets, trust grows naturally. That dynamic means less supervision is required, so over time the hierarchy can become flatter. The overhead cost savings available to most organizations is staggering.

6. Improved Teamwork

If people are assets, the organization is going to do a lot of cross training, especially during slack times.  That increased capability pays off handsomely when the cycle reverses and there is a need to cover some critical positions based on bench strength.

When workers cross train each other, they form a kind of bond that is intangible but highly valuable in times of high need.

These are just six ways an organization can prosper by considering employees as assets instead of expenses. The operation can be much more profitable in the long run with this kind of mindset. Try it in your organization and experience the difference for yourself.

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Trust is a Mirror

May 7, 2019

Here is an interesting conundrum. Everyone else on the planet knows how you are coming across to them. The only person who really does not know how you are coming across is you.

Basically, we cannot see ourselves the way others do.  You know how other people are striking you, but you are really blind to what others are thinking about you in the back of their minds.

Of course, you can learn to infer how your actions and words are being received as you listen to others and observe their body language. However, both of those things can disguise what the other person really thinks about you.

Would it be valuable to have a way to see yourself clearly as other people do? I think that would be incredibly valuable.

I believe there is a kind of “mirror” that will allow you to see yourself as others do. When you develop a relationship of high trust with another person, you create a mirror where you can accurately know how you are coming across at any point in time.

With trust, you will have the blessing of knowing, real-time, when you are coming on too strong, when you are being too pedantic, when you appear uncommitted, when you seem duplicitous, and any number of other maladies or admirable actions.

Why does trust enable this kind of magic feedback that is so powerful? Trust allows other people to feel safe telling you what they are thinking without fear.

In normal relationships, people are on guard, because giving direct feedback will often lead to unintended consequences, and that means damage control. Trust allows people to give you feedback with love and care that prevents the need to protect themselves from your reaction.

I believe that trust and fear are incompatible; when you remove the fear between people, trust will grow spontaneously. My favorite quote on this phenomenon is,

“The absence of fear is the incubator of trust.”

Key Point:

Once true trust is established, then you have the gift of knowing how you are coming across to other people.

We are all a work in progress. Nobody is perfect as we exist today. In fact, a major part of life is learning and growing. I have always believed that when you stop growing, it is time to order a pine box.

If you believe what I have written thus far, then the obvious question is, “How do I go about building relationships of higher trust?” The answer is as simple as the question. You build trust by creating a safe environment for the person who would share information with you.

If, by your past reactions, you have convinced the other person it is safe to share things that may be difficult to say, then you have enabled trust between you and the other person to kindle.

The analysis may sound like circular reasoning, but it has the simplicity and validity of all truly universal laws.

When you take a baseball and drop it out of a window, the result is without question due to a law we call gravity.

Trust is the same way, if you create an environment where people feel safe sharing difficult messages with you, then you develop trust. That trust means that you will now have the ability to see yourself the way other people do. This knowledge will allow you to take corrective or preventive actions that you would otherwise not even consider.

An additional benefit is that by creating a “real” environment with other people, where you are not playing games, you now have the ability to tell them things that will help them improve. That reciprocal relationship is the basis on which two people can help each other on the journey that is life.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 600 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Body Language 26 The Nose

May 4, 2019

Unless your name is Pinochio, your nose does not contain a lot of body language information by itself, but when you interact with your nose, how you do it can mean a lot of different things.

Of course, the most obvious body language with the nose is when we pinch it between our thumb and index finger. This gesture is always done in response to some situation or action, and it means “this stinks.”

According to M. Farouk Radwan, touching the nose is often a sign of a person having a negative reaction or feeling. It is often done without the person even being aware of it, since the gesture is done subconsciously.

When a person touches his or her nose while making a response to a question, it is usually a sign that the person is exaggerating or lying. Lawyers in the court room are quick to pick up on this signal if they see someone on the witness stand touch his nose while answering a specific question.

I never realized the connection myself until I once viewed a video tape of myself giving a presentation. All of a sudden, I was touching my nose as I answered a question from a participant.

Looking objectively at my response, while I was not telling a lie, I was not totally transparent with my answer either. There was another aspect that I could have discussed but chose to withhold in order to avoid going off on a tangent. I was pressed for time.

The curious thing is that I had no recollection of touching my nose at all. It was only when I reviewed the video that I saw myself making the gesture. Even though I gave myself a pass on truncating my reply because of the time constraint, my body knew there was more to the story.

As a general rule, only a small fraction of the body language signals we make are done consciously. That is why it is difficult to conceal emotions. Other people can see the small gestures that we are not conscious of making. Of course, most people are not well schooled on the various meanings of gestures.

That is why this series of articles can be a big benefit to you. The more you know, the more accurately you can interpret the signals other people make and the more you can be conscious of your own signals.

Sometimes you will encounter a person showing flared nostrils. This is an obvious gesture of displeasure. Physiologically, the person is trying to increase the air flow into the lungs. He may be preparing for either fight or flight.

Wrinkling of the nose is another gesture that signifies a negative reaction. It may be that what was just said does not pass the smell test, or it may be your reaction upon viewing your child’s poor report card. The implication is “this stinks.”

If you do not have a cold, sniffing is another nose gesture that has a negative connotation. You may be trying to “sniff out the truth,” or you may be on a fishing expedition to see what the other person knows.

It is dangerous to ascribe meaning to a single gesture of the nose. The mucus membranes inside the nostrils are highly sensitive, and there is no way you will be able to feel what is going on inside of another person’s nose. The best way to interpret meaning from gestures that include the nose is to look for patterns or clusters of different signals that all point in one direction.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language.” The entire series can be viewed on https://www.leadergrow.com/articles/categories/35-body-language or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.TheTrust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 600 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Body Language 25 Ears and Hearing

April 27, 2019

Interpreting the body language associated with ears is challenging activity. For the most part, ears are receivers of information rather than providers. Ears rarely move; they are just stuck on the side of the head to enable listening. However, if you know how to observe them, ears can send some strong signals about what is going on with a person.

You can wiggle your ears by contracting the muscles on the back of your head. Other than that, ears do not move much. One exception was my father, who could actually wiggle his ears without moving his facial muscles. I could never figure out how he did that.

If you observe someone who is wiggling his ears while listening or speaking, he may have an uncontrollable tick or other nervous disorder. How else, other than movement, might we gain insight from observing the ears? The answer is color.

Normally the ears are the same color as the cheeks, but there are several situations that can cause the ears to blush or become red. Let’s examine some of these conditions.

Anger

When a person becomes enraged, the blood naturally flows to the ears and they will become much redder than the surrounding body parts. Of course, to read this type of body language, one must be able to see the tops of the ears. Women or men with hair covering up the tips of their ears have the ability to hide this condition under most circumstances.

Arousal

The ears become reddened when a person is aroused. Anything from a mild desire to raw passion will affect the color of the ears. I have not seen a study to indicate that the exact shade of the ear correlates with the level of passion. I would be interested in knowing this if anyone knows of such a study.

Embarrassment

The ears may also become red if a person is feeling embarrassed. However, usually when this occurs, the rest of the face will turn red as well.

Stress

Extreme stress can also cause the ears to become red for some people.

Temperature

Just as very cold temperatures can cause the ears to appear slightly blue, very hot conditions or intense exercise can create red ears. In this case you would know the reason because the face would be red and the forehead would be showing perspiration. Other conditions causing ears to become red rarely cause the sweat glands to secrete as well.

Sound Modulation

When a person cups his hand behind his ear, it is a call for more volume. Likewise, hands over the ears means too much volume, or it might be an indication the person is just not wanting to hear what is being said.

When communicating with another person audibly, make sure your volume is adequate for the other person to really hear the input. It is best to be in the same room with a person you want to communicate with, because that allows the other person the ability to view your entire body language and even read your lips as you speak.

The relation of complete hearing to trust is simple.  With incomplete information, people will make assumptions (sometimes incorrect) about your meaning.  They may believe that accurate communication has happened when it has not.

If a person has a hearing condition, such as tinnitus (ringing or hum in the ears), you need to take that into account to provide enough volume for the person to really hear you. Sometimes hearing loss is so subtle that the person is unaware of a problem. The antidote for this is to get a periodic hearing test.

Make sure there is not another source of sound closer to the listener than you. For example, if I am standing next to a molding machine you need to raise your voice or I am not going to hear your input. This situation is intuitively obvious, but it is often a source of poor communication at work and in the home.

If you have a particular person who often does not receive the full message, he or she may have a hearing condition or you may be communicating in a way that does not allow the person to hear you accurately. It could be that audio input is not the preferred channel of communication for the person. Check it out and modify your speaking pattern accordingly.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language.” The entire series can be viewed on https://www.leadergrow.com/articles/categories/35-body-language or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.TheTrust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 600 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Ten Concrete Steps to Rebuild Trust

April 23, 2019

Several authors (including Stephen M.R. Covey) have suggested that trust between people is like a bank account. The balance is what determines the level of trust at any point in time, and it is directional.

I might trust you today more than you trust me. We make deposits and withdrawals in the trust account nearly every day with the things we say and do. Usually the deposits are made in small steps that add up to a large balance over time.

Unfortunately, withdrawals can be massive due to what I call “The Ratchet Effect.” All prior trust may be wiped out quickly. Nobody is happy when trust is lost.

I believe trust withdrawals can lead to a long term higher level of trust if they are handled well. Just as in a marriage when there is a major falling out, if the situation is handled well by both parties in a cooperative spirit, the problem can lead to an even stronger relationship in the long term.

Let’s investigate ten steps that can allow the speedy rebuilding of trust.

1. Act Swiftly

Major trust withdrawals can be devastating, and the trauma needs to be treated as quickly as possible. Just as a severe bodily injury requires immediate emergency care, so does the bleeding of emotional capital need to be stopped after a major letdown. The situation is not going to heal by itself, so both parties need to set aside normal routines in order to focus significant energy on regaining equilibrium.

2. Verify care

Both people should spend some time remembering what the relationship felt like before the problem. In most cases there is a true caring for the other person, even if it is eclipsed by the current hurt and anger. It may be a stretch for some people to mentally set aside the issue, but it would be helpful to do that, if just as an exercise.

If the problem had never happened, would these people care about each other? If one person cannot recognize at least the potential for future care, then the remedial process is blocked until that happens.

3. Establish a desire to do something about it

If reparations are to be made, both people must cooperate. If there was high value in the relationship before the breach, then it should be possible to visualize a return to the same level or higher level of trust.

It may seem out of reach if the problem was a major let down, but it is critical that both parties really want the hurt to be resolved.

4. Admit fault and accept blame

The person who made the breach needs to admit what happened to the other person. If there is total denial of what occurred, then no progress can be made. Try to do this without trying to justify the action.

Focus on what happened, even if it was an innocent gaffe. Often there is an element of fault on the part of both parties, but even if one person is the only one who did anything wrong, an understanding of fault is needed in this step.

Sometimes neither party did anything particularly wrong, but the circumstances led to trust being lost.

5. Disagree without being disagreeable

If both parties cannot agree on exactly what happened, it is not the end of trust forever.  The first rule is to disagree with a constructive spirit while assuming the best intent on the part of the other person.

Suspend judgment on culpability, if necessary, to keep the investigation on the positive side. This is a part of caring for the other person and the relationship.

6. Ask for forgiveness

It sounds so simple, but many people find it impossible to verbalize the request for forgiveness, yet a pardon is exactly what has to happen to enable the healing process.

The problem is that saying “I forgive you” is easy to say but might be hard to do when emotions are raw. True and full forgiveness is not likely to happen until the final healing process has occurred. At this point it is important to affirm that forgiveness is at least possible.

7. Determine the cause

This is a kind of investigative phase where it is important to know what happened in order to make progress. It is a challenge to remain calm and be as objective with the facts as possible.

Normally, the main emotion is one of pain, but anger will often accompany the pain. Both people need to describe what happened, because the view from one side will be significantly different from the opposite view.

Go beyond describing what happened, and discuss how you felt about what happened. Do not cut this discussion off until both parties have exhausted their descriptions of what occurred and how they felt about it.

Sometimes it helps in this stage to do some reverse role playing where each person tries to verbalize the situation from the perspective of the other.

8. Develop a positive path forward

The next step is the mutual problem solving process. Often two individuals try to do this without the preparatory work done above, which is more difficult.

The thing to ask in this phase is “what would have to happen to restore your trust in me to at least the level where it was before.” Here, some creativity can really help.

You are looking for a win-win solution where each party feels some real improvement has been made. Do not stop looking for solutions just because it is difficult to find them.

If you have gotten this far, there is going to be some set of things that can begin the healing process. Develop a path forward together. What new behaviors are you both going to exhibit with each other to start fresh.

9. Agree to take action

There needs to be a formal agreement to take corrective action. Usually this agreement requires modified behaviors on the part of both people.

Be as specific as possible about what you and the other person are going to do differently. The only way to hold each other accountable for progress is to have a clear understanding of what will be different.

10. Check back on progress

Keep verifying that the new behaviors are working and modify them, if needed, to make positive steps every day.

As the progress continues, it will start getting easier, and the momentum will increase. Make sure to smell the roses along the way. It is important to celebrate progress as it occurs, because that reinforcement will encourage continued progress.

If there is a another set-back, it is time to cycle back on the steps above and not give up on the relationship just because the healing process is a challenging one.

In many cases, it is possible to restore trust to a higher level than existed before the breach. This method is highly dependent on the sincerity with which each person really does want the benefits of a high trust relationship with the other person.

That outcome is really good news because it allows a significant trust withdrawal to become an opportunity instead of a disaster.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 600 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Body Language 24 The Chin

April 20, 2019

Watching how people deal with their jaw and chin can help you understand what they may be thinking. A good example is to watch for clenching of teeth.

When a person clenches his teeth, the muscles on both sides of his face bulge out noticeably. This gesture might be accentuated by the jaw muscles getting red.

In the accompanying picture, the man has clenched teeth and a closed mouth, but the overall meaning is “So what” or “Who cares” because of the palm up arm gesture.

Anger

If the clenched teeth are showing, it is usually a sign of anger or exasperation. It is like the person is biting on an imaginary silver dollar to keep from blurting out how stupid your last remark was.

Sometimes the person clenching his jaw is not even aware he is doing it. I recall one boss I had who used this gesture a lot, and it was always a prime signal to those who were smart to back off.

Surprise

A dropped jaw is usually a sign of surprise. The person is momentarily incapable of grasping the magnitude of the event going on, so he or she opens the mouth wide while usually giving a verbal equivalent to OMG.

The dropped jaw can also be a kind of phony smile where the person is actually showing both his upper and lower teeth at the same time. The gesture is overdone, so it appears insincere.

Direction

Another chin gesture is where a person juts his jaw in the direction he wants to direct you. It may be to advise you to listen to another specific person and keep your own mouth shut. This gesture is often accompanied by a slight upward jaw movement.

Stroking of the chin while listening is a gesture that signals the person is contemplating the input or evaluating which option is more palatable. Men tend to use this gesture a lot, especially if they have facial hair.

Strength

Thrusting of the chin is a form of aggressive behavior. You can see this gesture if you watch a bully in a school yard. You can also see it in a Corporate Board Room. The connotation is “I am stronger than you, so back off.”

General Tone

We often speak of the “angle of the chin” as indicative of a person’s mental state. Chin up is a sign of pride. You might hear “She walked out of his office with her head held high and her chin up.” A slight upward angle of the chin is often seen when a person is emoting trust for another person. The connotation is “I am listening and I believe what you are saying.”

The opposite gesture is when a person has his chin down. This is a sign of feeling weak or dejected. It is usually coupled with a lowering of the entire head and gaze of the eyes. This gesture may also be a sign of shame.

Some people move their mouth from side to side with the lips closed. The best interpretation is that the person is evaluating what is going on. It is neither a positive sign nor a negative one. It is like the person is rolling around options in his or her mouth.

Wake Up

An interesting chin move is where a person will repeatedly slap under the chin with the back of his hand. This gesture is trying to make the person doing it more conscious of what is going on. It is a kind of “wake up” move.

A puckered chin is a sign of being protective. It goes along with a lowering of the entire chin area in order to protect the neck region.

Be alert to these chin movements, because they can tell a lot about the person’s mental state. Like all body language signals, you can be more confident you are interpreting it correctly if you see a cluster of signals.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language.” The entire series can be viewed on https://www.leadergrow.com/articles/categories/35-body-language or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 600 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763