Body Language 54 Doubt

November 16, 2019

The physical manifestations of doubt are pretty easy to spot. We have a special way of contorting our face and upper torso to convey the message.

This kind of analysis is very much culturally specific, as are many body language gestures. This article is focused on facial and upper torso expressions of doubt in a Western Society.

We need to pay close attention when we see signs of doubt, because it has a direct impact on the trust between people. I will describe some tips to use at the end of this article.

While the facial postures below may be observed in association with various other emotions in some circumstances, these are the ones that are typically involved with an expression of doubt. When you see many of these gestures at the same time in a cluster, it sends a strong message conveying doubt by the person doing them.

Eyebrows

Typically, you will see one eyebrow up and the other normal or slightly down (if the doubt has a tinge of anger associated with it). Sometimes both eyebrows can be raised at the same time. That would normally signal surprise along with doubt.

If both eyebrows are down and furrowed, that indicates anger or frustration with some amount of doubt.

Forehead

The forehead of a person who is experiencing doubt will often be wrinkled, especially if the eyebrows are raised.

Head Tilted

Usually the head will be slightly tilted for a person who is experiencing doubt. The gesture goes along with a pondering stance that suggests analysis on the part of the person with feelings of doubt. You will rarely see a doubtful person with a completely erect head.

Eyes

For a person who is experiencing doubt, the eyes are usually looking to the side, and often upward. The connotation is that the person is trying to reason something but cannot reconcile it in his or her mind. The eyes looking sideways and upward indicate mental activity trying to rationalize what is going on.

Nose

The nose is neutral when a person is in doubt. For example, you will not see a person wrinkle his nose as part of this gesture. If you see that, the other person is likely experiencing some form of disgust along with the doubt.

Mouth

There is a lot going on with the mouth for a person in doubt. Most likely you will see the mouth pulled slightly to one side. The mouth may be open, showing teeth, or completely closed. If the upper lip is curled up, then the doubt is usually accompanied by some disgust or distrust.

The corners of the mouth may be down as a sign of bewilderment or negative feelings about what is going on.

Chin

If the doubt is a part of puzzlement, then the chin is often stroked or grabbed by one hand.

Hands

Sometimes you can see the hands held up with palms up to either side of the body. The connotation there is “what the heck is going on?”

The gestures associated with doubt are numerous and usually easy to decode. Look for a cluster of the ones mentioned above. When you see it in a Western Society, you can be pretty sure the person is having feelings of doubt.

What to do

If you see this cluster of gestures, do not just ignore it. Instead, try to gently understand the genesis of the concern. Ask open-ended questions that will give the other person a safe way to describe what is bothering him or her. Listen carefully to the response, and do not try to correct the person on the spot.

Ponder the input and see if you can create a helpful discussion about what alternative approaches might have led to a different outcome. Thank the person sincerely for sharing some insight about what you did that you might not have known otherwise.

These sincere opportunities for closure can go a long way toward making a large trust deposit with the other person. Congratulations! You took a negative situation and turned it into a trust-building moment between you and the other person.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”


Leadership Barometer 23 Creates Winners

November 5, 2019

Here is a good barometer to test the quality of your leadership.

Leaders Create Winners

On this dimension it is easy to see the difference between a good leader and a poor one. Just look at the faces of people in the organization as they go about their daily tasks. Do they look like winners or losers? This is the easiest and quickest way to measure the caliber of a leader.

Great leaders find a way to create a whole society of winners in their organization. Oh sure, not 100% of the people are going to feel great 100% of the time.

That would be impossible, but the overarching mood is one of turned on people who are really in control of their fate as much as society will allow them to be.

They feel good, and people who feel good work well. Also winners tend to have high trust in their leaders and their peers. That is a significant advantage in any culture.

They are what Ken Blanchard refers to as “gung ho.” Coming to work is exciting and rewarding because they are making a better world for themselves.

That is the true definition of success as coined by Earl Nightingale. He said, “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” People under a great leader are successful according to this definition because they are realizing their worthy ideal on a daily basis.

The contrast here is pretty stark, because people who work for poor leaders feel trapped.

They need a job in order to eat and support their family, but they are far more turned on by organizing a Cub Scout picnic than by making cars or airplanes at work.

They live for the things they get outside work and tolerate the abuse on a daily basis to fund the next mortgage payment and buy the meat.

If you want to measure how good a leader is, just talk to the people and find out where on this spectrum most people live.

If it is toward the empowered side and people feel like winners, their leader is a good one. If they feel like victims and work simply to get by, chances are their leader is not a very good one.

We do have to be careful in these comparisons to take into account the time a leader has been around.

You cannot expect a sick culture to be turned around in a couple weeks. But my contention is that it does not take years for a really good leader to turn around a tough situation.

In my experience a great leader can make a huge impact in even the most challenging organization within a year, often within 6 months.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations. He can be reached at bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585-392-7763.


Body Language 51 Slouching

October 26, 2019

Slouching is the opposite of sitting or standing erect. It is most often seen as a sign of tiredness or apathy, but there are many other things that can cause a person to slouch.

Be alert for other possible signals before assigning a meaning to a slouch.

Physically, there are a number of different types of slouches. When sitting, the slouch usually occurs when a person puts most of the weight on the lower spine rather than the buttocks. It comes across as half sitting and half lying down.

The slouch can also occur when sitting by leaning forward and holding the arms out to the side. A depressed person will sometimes assume this position.

When standing, the telltale sign of a slouch is forward-drooping shoulders rather than having the shoulders held high and pulled slightly backward. The slouching position forces the arms to dangle precariously from the shoulders in front of the body rather than at the sides.

This position is usually accompanied by sticking out the belly and pulling in the buttocks. The spine takes on a more pronounced curvature a little like the letter “S.”

There are several different meanings of a slouch, regardless of how it is done physically. Let’s take a closer look at conditions that typically cause people to slouch.

Overtired

This gesture is a signal that the other person is so tired that he or she can hardly stay awake. The person is saying, “I just need to get some rest.”

Apathy

Alternatively, the slouch can signal a negative reaction to another person or thing that is going on. The person is signaling that he or she just does not care. The slouch signals lack of alertness or interest.

Heavy Weight

A slouch can be caused by grief or extreme sorrow. If a person is in a personal crisis, you may see the slouch gesture as an indication of needing some help.

Yawn

Slouching can also be a signal of boredom. Most people tend to slouch a bit when watching TV. It is a way to relax the body and just take things in without having to respond in any way.

Captive

Students will frequently slouch as a way to signal the teacher that they are bored with the topic and wish they could be doing something else.

Detached

You can frequently observe people slouching in the pews during a church service. In some churches the exact opposite is true; people are hopping up and down to upbeat music or sitting erect and fully engaged in the service with their hands in the air.

Physical condition

Some people have physical issues that cause them to slouch much of the time. There can be a number of medical causes for this condition that render the person nearly incapable of sitting or standing up straight.

For people with habitual slouches, there are some body braces that can help keep them erect. I have never worn one of those contraptions, and they don’t look very comfortable to me.

When you see a person who is slouching, first ascertain if the person is doing it most of the time or if it is triggered by something that is currently going on. That knowledge will help you interpret the most likely meaning of the slouch.

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.


Body Language 50 Clothing

October 22, 2019

On the surface, it seems like clothing has very little to do with the signals that are being sent or interpreted by body language, but that is not true at all. Just as the cultural background for some forms of body language has major impact on the interpretation, so do the trappings we wrap ourselves in.

Let’s examine some examples of ways clothing might make us interpret body language in a specific way.

Business Woman

Suppose you were on an elevator with one other person who looks like a female executive. She is dressed in a neat gray suit and has her hair tied back in a businesslike manner. She is carrying a black folio that is neatly zipped up. As she leaves the elevator you say, “have a nice day,” and she gives you the OK sign, which you interpret as “Thanks, I appreciate the good wishes.”

Maid

Now when the door opens on the next floor, a maid comes in with frumpy clothes and a dust rag over her shoulder. You say “Good Morning” and she flashes an OK sign at you. She seems to be saying “I’m bushed. I have been working since 11 pm.”

Millennial

After the maid reaches her floor, she leaves and is replaced by a much younger female. She looks to be in her mid 20’s. She is dressed in a trendy outfit that is very tight on her. She is concentrating on her cell phone and is in the process of texting a friend while chewing gum. You remark, “Isn’t it a beautiful day?” She doesn’t even look up from the phone but flashes an OK sign with the hand she has been using to text. It seems like she is saying “whatever.”

Shoes

How we present ourselves to the world has a lot to do with how other people will interpret our body language. For example, even the footware we choose will cause people to interpret our actions as those of a stodgy blowhard or a creative free spirit.

Mix it up

If you want to try an interesting experiment, simply change the style you normally wear and go through your normal daily routine. You might wear a different style of jewelry or a hoodie rather than a button down shirt. People will look at you in a funny way. You appear to be different from your normal self, but often others cannot pinpoint what the difference is until you tell them.

Suspenders

For a man, there are usually two options for keeping your pants from falling down. The first is a belt pulled tight enough to keep the pressure between the pants and your stomach from allowing the pants to drop. The other option is suspenders, where the pants cannot fall because their weight is being held up by both shoulders.

If the man was your superior, would you rather have him be uncomfortable with the pressure on his abdomen or would you like to see him express his artistic nature with a pair of bright red suspenders? If you felt insecure with the man, which option would make you feel more at ease?

Uniform out of place

If a man came to a business meeting dressed as a baseball umpire, would that suggest there is tension in the group that requires some judgments to be made?

Wrong costume

If a neighborhood child that you know well rang your doorbell on Halloween and you opened the door to see him dressed in his normal play clothes saying “Trick or Treat,” how would you react?

Unexpected bizarre attire

Suppose you were on a plane that just landed and was at the gate. Now the pilot steps out of the cockpit wearing a bathing suit; would you freak out? I’m pretty sure that I would.

Keep in mind that how we present ourselves to the people we interface with has a lot to do with how they will interpret our actions.

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.


Body Language 49 Babies

October 12, 2019

In previous postings I have dealt with numerous aspects of adult body language, body language in children, and even the body language of animals. It is time to deal with the only remaining category of creatures: babies!

When we think of babies and their limited ability to move, ambulate, articulate, and communicate, it seems like there would be not much to report in terms of body language for babies. The exact opposite is true.

Babies have an amazing ability to let others know what is happening in their brain as well as all other parts of their bodies. This realization underscores that most of body language is instinctive, and we do it unconsciously.

For example, the baby in the above picture is curious about something. We can tell that by the shape of the mouth and the wide-eyed expression with the eyebrows held high.

The baby has no cognition of these signals, and is not doing them intentionally; they are just there.

Here is another typical baby expression that is pretty hard to misinterpret. The baby was not trained to make these expressions. The expressions in the two pictures are both unmistakable, and even though some things are the same, the messages we get are completely different.

Here is an interesting question to ponder. They say that a high percentage of body language is culturally specific. A person living in Eastern Europe will have different body language signals than a person from Canada. Do babies from different cultures have different body language patterns? If so, how did they come by these habits?

A more plausible explanation is that all humans are born with the same set of body language regardless of location and are conditioned as they grow to emulate the patterns of the specific culture in which they live.

The bond between a mother and the baby is particularly strong. The mother will know long before another person if the baby is hungry or wet. She will be able to interpret a runny nose far before things start to get messy. I suspect that the baby has a very good idea of the emotions of the mother without the ability to understand any words.

If the mother is sad or tired, the baby will know about that, at least to some extent.

I have no way to verify that and am reminded of the joke made by Steven Wright. He said that when he is with an infant, he writes down all the noises the baby makes so he can go back years later and ask the child what she meant.

Did you ever watch an infant communicating with a dog or cat? There is so much information being transmitted in both directions it is astounding. As adults, we have learned long ago to just absorb these signals and not think about them consciously. But the signals are still there throughout our lives, and we are constantly interpreting them in our subconscious.

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.


Leadership Barometer 19 Generates Passion

October 8, 2019

A really good measure of the skill of leaders is how much passion they are able to generate in the organization.

Generates Passion

A hallmark of great leaders is that they are not only passionate people themselves, but they have an uncanny way of infusing the entire population with that passion.

That ability is a real gift. I believe most leadership skills can be learned, but the ability to spread one’s passion to others is usually an inherited trait.

If there is no seed, you cannot get it from reading textbooks or from going to courses. The good news is that most people do have the seed of potential in their DNA. They just need to hone the skill so it is optimized.

Get a great mentor

So, how does a leader develop this skill? One way is through a great mentor or a role model. If you do not have any charismatic leaders in your organization that can teach this skill, I recommend you go online and look up some of the great people from history or present who are particularly good at this skill.

I think of people like Zig Zigler, Earl Nightingale, Warren Bennis, Napoleon Hill, Lou Holtz, or Vince Lombardi.

There are literally hundreds of great role models, and they all have content on the WEB or in programs that can be purchased. A great source of inspirational tape programs on this topic is the Nightingale Conant Corporation.

You can find enough material to keep you learning about spreading passion for years. I know because I have invested in most of the tapes in their library and listen to them often. I have memorized the key points and seek to apply them whenever I can.

Passion is closely aligned with the sense of ownership. If you can get people to recognize the quality of their life is really more in their own hands than they realize, you are on the right track.

Teach people to reject being victims and to take control of their situation. Once that is accomplished, it is easy to generate passion because passion is all about an intense desire to achieve something because it will improve the quality of one’s life or help other people.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations. He can be reached at bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585-392-7763.


Leadership Barometer 18 Handling a Crisis

October 1, 2019

There are hundreds of ways to test the greatness of leaders.  Here is one of my favorite measures.

Handling a Crises

One easy way to measure the caliber of a leader is to observe him or her in a crisis. Great leaders take command, but do so in a special way that weaker leaders try unsuccessfully to emulate. In the first place, they have the ability to diffuse internal crises and avoiding a kind of mob scene where workers gang up on the leader.

The distinction begins even before the crisis is evident. It is a mindset. Average leaders take rest when things are going smoothly. They focus on the little fires and beat them down so they do not spread. Other than that, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is the mentality. We might as well enjoy the way things are going, since it is smooth sailing.

By contrast, the great leader sees the world as a series of calm times and storms, some of them hurricanes. The calm times are opportunities to sharpen our skills and reactions for the next storm. For sure, it will come, so we ought to be looking at our past successes or failures in prior storms to get ready for the next one.

In business, the character or timing of the next storm is far less predictable than in nature. For example, in late summer, we can expect several hurricanes to crop up in the Atlantic and work their way toward the mainland U.S.. Once they form, computer models can predict with various levels of accuracy if, when, and where the storm will come ashore.

Most crises in business are less predictable. Some trends can be tracked, but usually the big disruptive events are things that are impossible to forecast. For example, if we are manufacturing aircraft, we can plot the seasonality and long-term trends, attempting to anticipate peak loads. Then, a fire in the factory causes a crisis that is a total surprise. The impact of the crisis on our business dwarfs anything we had been planning based on market projections, yet we are forced to deal with it immediately.

Once the crisis hits, the average leader becomes unglued for a while. There are so many things to do at once, and triage in the business world is often a neglected skill, so the leader wonders whether to call a meeting or let the front line people work on the most urgent issues without interruption.

Communication channels have not been set up to handle the chaos, so instructions or intentions come through as garbled signals. Think of the first responders in the World Trade Center after the first tower fell. Instructions were not getting through to all responders, and many additional lives were lost because of it.

The average leader somehow manages to deploy an effort to fight the situation, but it is often meager compared to the proportion of the disaster. People wonder why there was not more specific leadership coming through when it was needed most. When a leader appears to be unprepared for the disaster, then there is a loss of trust.

By contrast, the great leader has refined the procedures for communication and action ahead of time. Even though the exact nature of the crisis is not known, the preparation phase is an ongoing high priority. There are often mock “fire drills” to practice damage control and hone communication procedures to be ready in case the real thing happens.

For example, a CEO might arrange to distribute a fake internal news release that the toy being sold by his chain was causing deaths in children. This would force people to react with everything from recalls, to insurance negotiations, to government briefings, to press statements, etc.

After practicing the mock disaster, they could hold a debrief meeting and might determine the internal communication between executives was practically nonexistent during the crisis. All of the managers were doing their best to keep a lid on the damage, but the total effort was not well coordinated. This debrief would allow the team to design an information dissemination process, so if a crisis ever surfaced, they would be in a far better position.

I know one college president who had to endure three different embarrassing public issues in just a few weeks time. None of the problems were caused by the president, and none of them could have been predicted, yet he had to deal with them in a way that upheld the values of the college and gave all stakeholders confidence that the institution was not out of control.

If you are the head of an organization, you need to be prepared for these kinds of disruptions. You know there is a comet or two heading your way, you just don’t know specifically what it will look like or when it will arrive. Warren Bennis, my favorite all time leadership author, put it this way:

Leaders learn by leading, and they learn best by leading in the face of obstacles. As weather shapes mountains, so problems make leaders.

The best leaders look at these kind of crisis situations as a way to test themselves and their teams.  The best advice is to keep practicing your response and communication methods. You cannot anticipate the nature of the comet that is heading your way, but you can prepare your team to deal with anything.