Body Language 36 Crossing Ankles

July 13, 2019

When young girls are posing for a class picture, they are taught that the proper sitting position is with ankles crossed and hands folded in their laps. Boys are taught to put both feet on the floor.

According to “Miss Manners,” as a cultural preference in the US, crossing ankles is the proper position for a seated woman. You rarely see that gesture actually used in a business setting.

Most women sit with their legs crossed where one leg is on top of the opposite knee. Men cross their legs by putting the ankle of one leg on the knee of the opposite leg in a “figure 4” position.

When a person crosses his or her ankles in a professional setting, it can be an indication of holding something back. The implication is the same whether the person is standing or sitting.

You can observe this gesture in many different contexts, but the underlying meaning is normally uncertainty. Here are some situations where you might see a person with crossed ankles. Later in this article I will share some tips on how to get people to uncross their ankles.

In job interviews

This situation is normally an uncomfortable time for all people. Even folks who are highly confident in their abilities will feel a bit ill at ease, because there is a lot at stake in an interview. Most often the person is sitting across a table or desk from the person conducting the interview.

It is too casual to sit with legs crossed in the normal manner during an interview, but sitting with both feet on the floor has a rigidity that many people want to avoid. Given these two extremes, it is common to see a person sitting with ankles crossed in a job interview.

In court or in a legal proceeding

These situations also are packed with tension for most people. Trying to find a comfortable sitting position when you are on the witness stand is a daunting task. Just recognize that the opposing lawyer is observing your body language in microscopic detail. If you cross your ankles, you can expect the cross examination to probe deeply to find out what you might be hiding or holding back.

At the doctor’s office

In this case, you want to picture the doctor as your friend and ally, yet there can be a lot of discomfort involved, especially if you are not telling the absolute truth about your personal habits. The doctor will pick up on your level of nervousness and make some judgments about how candid you are being. That may affect the level of trust you are able to achieve with your physician. If you have never been uncomfortable in the doctor’s office, I suspect you are an unusual case.

Buying a car or other major investment

In this case there is an assumed adversarial relationship between you and the sales person. You recognize that the sales person does this kind of negotiation every day, so this person is assumed to have a big advantage over the insecure person sitting across the table who buys a car only about once a decade. Your anxiety will often show by the way you are sitting.

Disciplining another person

Whether it is a disrespectful youth or a worker who has done something wrong, you will find yourself in a position of authority having to admonish another person from time to time. Recognizing there are right and wrong ways to have these crucial conversations, it is common for both parties in the discussion to be a bit nervous.

Working in a high stress environment

Telemarketers will often sit with ankles crossed as they try to make their points to a person on the line who often just wants the conversation to end. In addition, customer service people will sit that way as they try to resolve an issue for a person if they find it difficult to understand the customer’s problem. They want to help but realize that sometimes that is difficult to do.

How can you get a person who is sitting with ankles crossed to relax and uncross them? The methods to do this are highly cultural specific, but there are some general ideas that often can work. The first hint is to modulate your voice to be soothing and helpful. Use the “golden rule” and address the other person in a way that you would like to be addressed if the roles were reversed.

If you are sitting across a table or desk, you might move to another chair on the same side of the table as the other person, but only if the conversation is friendly and informal, otherwise it might be interpreted as an aggressive move. Also, if you hand something to the person, it causes him or her to move the upper body, which may cause the person to resettle the lower extremities.

If the person is crossing her ankles because that is how she was taught to sit in formal situations, these fixes may not work well, so don’t belabor them.

Be more alert to how people sit and you can often pick up signs of a person who is holding back. Knowing there may be an issue will allow you to ask some clarifying questions and perhaps clear the air.

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.


Leadership Barometer 6 Inclusive Culture vs Bunker Mentality

July 9, 2019

One obvious way leaders can demonstrate excellence is by continually building an inclusive culture. I will define that term here and also discuss the contrast with a bunker mentality or exclusive culture.

Builds an Inclusive Culture

Organizations where people at all levels are part of the action and are appreciated for the diversity of talent they bring to the organization are run by enlightened leaders.

You can observe the leader going out of her way to include as many people as possible in discussions about issues and decisions in the organization. People are not left in a vacuum when important information is available.

Bunker Mentality

Less talented leaders surround themselves with a clique of insiders who guide the fate of the rest of the organization. I visualize a kind of shell around the anointed people on the inner circle.

It is hard to communicate through the shell, and people who try to penetrate it are repelled and scorned. The controlling group has a noble intention of making fast decisions, but the price they pay in terms of disengagement of the bulk of people is usually devastating.

If you have a leader who operates from a small command and control type style, you can see the bunker mentality in most activities.  This exclusivity leads to lower empowerment throughout the organization.

It may feel like an efficient way to run things to have an inner circle, but it leaves so much useful muscle and energy off the table. The way to build trust and engagement is to be as open as possible.

Create a Winning Organization

To be a winning organization, all of the talents of everyone are required fully aligned behind the vision of the organization.  Good leaders know this and instinctively get people involved as much as possible.

Oh sure, there are occasions when it is necessary to operate behind closed doors while decisions are being cast. That is no reason for the normal daily routine to mimic the College of Cardinals who have to send a smoke signal out to the masses when their deliberations are over.

Most activities can be visible, transparent, and inclusive of the general population. In return, people will give their best to accomplish the goals of the organization.

 

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 35 Head Tilting

July 5, 2019

A slight tilting of the head is a really interesting bit of body language.

I will share my own interpretation first, and then I will describe some useful insight provided by body language expert, Bill Acheson, in his excellent DVD on “Advanced Body Language.”

I view a slight head tilt as a sign of high interest on the part of the person doing the tilting. I liken it to a situation many of us have experienced at a pet store.

A Puppy Trick

You walk in and see a pen with 6 puppies in it. They are all jumping up on the fence and yipping to have you pick them up.

Then you see the slight head tilt of one of those puppies who seems to be saying, “Pick me! You are the most important person in my world right now.”

If you are going home with a puppy that day, it will be the one with the tilted head. You may not even be conscious of how you made the selection, but it was unavoidable.

Translated to humans

I believe the same feeling can be generated in human beings. I once met a young man (22) who had the ability to model the gesture instinctively.

He was able to establish a feeling of trust within me toward him even before we shook hands. It was a powerful moment that I will always remember.

Very few people I have met in my life have the ability that young man had. When we finally did shake hands a second later, I did not say, “Nice to meet you.” Instead my first spoken words to him were, “Congratulations! You are going to be a very wealthy man.”

Acheson’s research showing gender differences

In Bill Acheson’s program, he stresses that head tilting is seen to be a sign of good listening, and it is perceived consciously more by woman than men.

He recounts some research he performed at University of Pittsburgh in the year 2000. He separated the men and women and showed each person two pictures of the same woman, one with her head erect and one with her head tilted.

Their research question was, “Which one is the better listener?” Seventy one percent of the females responded within three seconds that the tilted head person was the better listener. When asked why, they were able to identify, “because her head is tilted.” They saw it consciously.

Of the men, many of them puzzled over the two pictures for up to 12 seconds before making a response. Finally, about three quarters of them said, “Dude, that’s the same person, so they would listen the same.”

Other meanings of head tilting

Tilting the head can also be a means of showing mental activity. We can observe students with a slight tilt of the head when they are pondering a concept just explained in class.

Excellent teachers pick up on the body language and make sure to inquire if there is a question.

Tilting of the head can also indicate that a person is puzzling over something or working on a problem.

Pay attention to the way people hold their head when interfacing with you. When you see someone with a slight tilt while listening to you, note the mental reaction you have to that person. It is a really powerful signal.

One word of caution here. As is the case with all body language, if you are making the gesture, keep it genuine.

If you physically try to tilt your head, you are likely overdoing it, and the result will be not what you wanted. Insincere or put-on gestures often send the opposite message from what was intended.

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.


Body Language 34 Proximity

June 29, 2019

Have you ever been talking with another person from a different culture and had the distance between both of you cause you to be uncomfortable? It happens all the time to business people who deal with multiple cultures.

If you want to see how uncomfortable proximity can be, take a look at this hilarious two-minute clip of a Seinfeld episode. Just go to Youtube and search on “Close Talker.” It illustrates the issue perfectly.

Proximity rules between cultures

The rules for comfortable proximity are mostly governed by the home country of the people involved. The comfortable distance between you and another person is one thing for you and may be something very different for the other person. There are some general trends that will help you navigate this sticky part of body language successfully.

According to Sue Bryant in Country Navigator, “Contact cultures – southern European, Latin American and Arabian – engaged in more touching and stood closer during conversation than non-contact cultures in northern Europe, north America and parts of Asia.”

In the USA, most social conversation happens in the range of three to five feet. Conversation at a distance less than 18 inches is considered an invasion of a person’s “intimate” range. The “personal” range is 18-36 inches, while the “social” range is 3 to 12 feet.

Argentina is generally considered the most close proximity culture, whereas USA and Great Britain have more space between individuals when talking.

“Romanians clearly take longer to establish trust; they came out with the widest distance you should stand from a stranger – more than 1.3m – but one of the narrowest gaps for close friends…” (Bryant)

Staking out territory

Most creatures are territorial by nature. I have a bird that drives me crazy by pecking at my window. The bird sees its reflection and thinks it is an intruder.

Dogs have a unique way of marking their territory as they raise their leg next to a fire hydrant.

Humans are more subtle than animals, but we also have numerous territorial gestures.

You can observe a person sitting on the subway with brief case on the seat on one side and a newspaper on the seat on the other side. The message is “stay away, these seats are taken.”

Think about how you jockey for position when several lanes of traffic compress to just two when entering a tunnel or a tollbooth.

How about your behavior at the open buffet or waiting in line at the airport. We all have ways of indicating areas we claim and subtly suggest that others steer clear.

Greeting others

The normal ritual for greeting a person you are just meeting is to use a handshake. It is best to use the right hand only when meeting a person for the first time. Sometimes special situations call for fist bumping or other gestures.

A two-handed handshake is fine once you have become acquainted with a person, but it is far too presumptuous when first meeting someone.

Some people like to give a hug or “abrazo” as a cordial way to greet someone they already know. I think it is wise to use caution as the rules on hugging are becoming more restrictive. It is best to hold back until you see the other person extending his or her arms for a hug.

Sending Signals

We constantly send signals to other people about our desires relative to proximity. Normally, people are sensitive enough to pick up the signal and act appropriately; however, sometimes people are just clueless as to what is going on.

Many an individual has misinterpreted a signal as one to get closer only to be rejected later.

Misunderstandings can happen in any setting: business, social, formal, informal, in public, in private, and even within families. Be alert to the obvious and subtle signals from others about your proximity to them. Doing so can be good for your reputation and enhance your friendships.

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


Leadership Barometer 4 Absence of Fear

June 24, 2019

Here is a quick and easy way to measure the caliber of any leader.

Lack of Fear

Fear is the enemy of trust, and trust is what you must foster in order to be a great leader.  My favorite quote on this connection is “The absence of fear is the incubator of trust.”

In any group, if the leader creates an environment where there is very low fear, the trust will grow to a high level.  It is as reliable and unstoppable as the mold on last week’s bread.

Good leaders create an environment where there is less fear. That does not mean there is never any fear within the organization.

Sometimes scary stuff is needed in order for the organization to survive. But in those times of uncertainty, great leaders redouble their communication activities to keep people aware of what is going on.

In draconian times, it is the lack of solid reliable information that causes the most fear. When leaders are as transparent as possible, it leads to open communication. This practice means lower fear, and higher trust, even when things are not pleasant.

Nature hates a vacuum. If you have a bare spot in your lawn, nature will quickly fill it in with something, usually weeds. If you take a bucket of water out of a pond, nature will fill in the “hole” immediately. When you open a can of coffee, you hear the rush of air coming in to replace the vacuum.

So it is with people, if there is a void of information, people will find something to fill in the void – usually “weeds.”

That is why rumors attenuate in a culture of high trust. There is no fuel to keep the fires of gossip going. Leaders keep people informed of what is going on all the time. This transparency helps people vent their fears and focus on the tasks at hand, even if they are involved with unpleasant things.

Eliminating fear is much more than just sharing information openly.  Most fear in organizations comes from the feeling that it is not safe to voice a concern, especially if it is about something the leader wants to do.

There is ample evidence in most organizations that people who voice their concerns about what the leader is doing get punished in numerous ways. They learn to hold their observations inside rather than risk getting clobbered.

Trust cannot grow when people are fearful, so in most organizations, it is the lack of ability to be candid with the leader that hampers the growth of trust.

Contrast this pattern with one where the leader is enlightened to welcome and REWARD people for their candor, even if it is contrary to what the leader thinks is right at the moment.  In that kind of culture, trust grows because fear is extinguished.

If you see an organization where people know it is safe to express their opinions (in an appropriate way and time) it is the result of a great leader at work. If you see an organization where people are afraid to speak their truth, the leader of that organization is weak and has a potential to change and grow into a stronger leader.

 

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 33 Mirroring

June 22, 2019

You have probably noticed that people have a tendency to mirror or mimic the mannerisms of other people, particularly if they are interested in the conversation.

For example, you may be chatting with another person at a table and realize that you have folded your hands in the same way the other person has already done. You did not make this move consciously, but the mirrored configuration happened by instinct.

Mirroring can be a very powerful force. Let me share a real example to see if it works for you. If I use the word “yawn” in this article, some percentage of the readers will find themselves yawning within a minute. See if you are one of them. Did I bait you?

The most common form of mirroring is a smile, You will instinctively smile at a person who smiles at you. Try this experiment next time you are walking down a hallway. As you pass a person, show a smile and see that in most cases the person you smiled at will return the smile to you.

According to Psychologia, the mirroring is primarily caused by a neuron that affects part of the brain. That neuron causes you to mimic the facial expression you see in others. The gesture shows affinity for the other person and is a way of bonding. Mirroring is a way of controlling your mood.

You can change your mood simply by thinking thoughts consistent with the desired state. If you smile and think you are happy, it will tend to cheer you up.

If you feel deep anger, chances are that emotion is becoming evident on your face. Likewise, if you think successful thoughts, you have a tendency to move in the direction of higher success.

The science is called Psycho-Cybernetics as described in the book by the same name by Maxwell Maltz in 1960. He described techniques to develop positive inner feelings as a means to enable positive outcomes. Another common way of expressing the phenomenon is “fake it till you make it.”

Try another test. Next time you are discussing something with a friend, try steepling your hands by having fingers together and palms apart. You should notice that you feel more confident about what you are saying. That is because steepling is a means to show confidence or even superiority.

Mirroring occurs in voice mimicking as well as body positions. You can observe people modifying the volume, cadence, and even accents to match the person the other person. It can be a great way to develop rapport and trust, but there is a major precaution.

You have to be careful with mirroring, because if you do it consciously, you will likely overdo it, and you will annoy the other person. If you have ever been on the receiving end of someone trying too hard to mirror you, then you know how exhasperating it can be.

The best approach with mirroring is to observe it in others, but let your subconscious do the mirroring for you. It will be more natural then and will likely be well accepted.

As you go about your daily routine, try to count the number of times you see people mirroring other people. If you count accurately, you may be astonished at the number of times you see this type of gesturing.

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 32 – Using Volume

June 15, 2019

Volume is a type of body language that we often overlook, but it can be really important.

Actually, our natural instincts take us in the wrong direction, so it is important to grasp and internalize this information.

It is human nature that when a person is upset or otherwise agitated, the volume goes up. In the extreme, a person may be literally shouting at another person.

The irony is that if you really want to be heard, it is better to have a very low volume than a blustery overtone.

Professional speakers know that when they have something really important to share, they get maximum attention when they lower rather than raise the volume. Of course, the level of volume needs to be mindful of those who have difficulty hearing.

Speakers who bellow on and on lose the attention of the audience because it seems like every word is critical. I recall one speaker I heard once who put maximum energy into every word or phrase. He was actually a very boring speaker, and I checked out mentally about halfway through his talk.

To be a successful speaker requires compelling content with delivery appropriate to the audience and the ability to shift to meet their needs. Great speakers constantly read the body language of participants in order to determine if they are fully engaged in the content.

The best pattern of volume is to have a variety not only in intensity but in cadence. Slow down your pace, lower the volume and people will pay the most attention. However, be aware that overuse of this technique can be as annoying as just shouting all the time.

These tips for public speaking also work remarkably well when interfacing with an individual. If you and the other person are shouting at each other and talking over the other person’s points, there is actually very little communication going on. It is easy to break the tension and get your points heard by going low and slow.

The same thing happens when parents rant at their children in a loud voice explaining why it is important to not run with scissors. The problem is that the kid is internalizing only what a tyrant the parent is. There is not much teaching going on.

By toning the volume down to a loving and gentle tone, the child will be much more alert to the message and may even follow the rule next time.

You can try this technique in any setting and make much more progress than pushing back against the other person.

The next time a cop pulls you over for speeding, rather than give the officer a piece of your mind about how late you are and how other cars were whizzing by you, try a soft and humble approach. You just might find it’s more effective.

A similar technique worked for me last summer when I was pulled over for doing 46 mph in a 30 mph zone. It was just as I was entering a small town, and the officer was parked just beyond a little rise blocking my view so there was no time to slow down once I saw him.

By engaging the officer in conversation that my destination was a nearby camp that I attended when I was a boy and that I was not familiar with the speed patterns in his town and must have missed the sign, he let me off with a warning.

He might have attended that famous camp as well when he was a boy. By lowering my volume, the officer listened to my request.

It is human nature to raise our voice when we are upset. Since we communicate with people constantly: in a family setting, at work, or even when making a presentation, the success of getting our message across is a function of many factors, including our volume. If we think about the alternative to raising our voice, life can be a lot more pleasant for us and for others around us as well.

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