Body Language 97 Twelve Layers

October 20, 2020

For the final few articles in this series on body language, I am highlighting some of the excellent content in a program entitled “Advanced Body Language” by Bill Acheson of the University of Pittsburgh.

In this article, I will summarize his Thinking on how we pick up twelve layers of information when we interface with another person. Most of the time the signals are processed by us unconsciously, but that does not mean they don’t matter to us.

The body language is most important when we are meeting someone for the first time. According to Bill, what we can observe in the other person is ten times more important than what we say.

The 12 layers are the management of:
1. Time
2. Space
3. Appearance
4. Posture
5. Gesture
6. Voice
7. Eye Contact
8. Facial Expression
9. Breathing
10. Touch
11. Smell
12. Congruence

Actually, in his recording he left off the 12th item, so I added the concept of congruence, because when one part of body language is out of step with the others, it sends a warning signal that something is wrong here, even if we cannot put our finger on it consciously.

When we see conflicting signals, the caution flag goes up in our mind, and we have a much more difficult time establishing a relationship of trust. That caution flag, even if it is subconscious means it will take substantially longer to trust the other person than if all signals were consistent.

According to Malcolm Gladwell in the book “Blink,” human beings have a remarkable ability to size each other up in a heartbeat. He estimates that we form a first impression of another person within the first three seconds. He calls the phenomenon “thin slices” after the analogy that if you slice something, like a cucumber, thin enough, you can actually see through it.

Near the start of his program, Bill shares some data he took when working with a group of 600 business woman. His question was, “In a business setting, how do you know when a man cheats on his wife?” The top 7 responses were all body language.

In the video Bill shares the top two responses. The first was if a man wears too much cologne or aftershave. The second giveaway, mentioned by 70% of the women, is if the man is wearing a pinky ring. What male would have guessed those two responses?

Another fascinating statistic has to do with trust. The research shows that 97% of the women he polled said they do not trust a man who wears more jewelry than they do. I suppose that one seems pretty obvious.

In his program, he makes several general observations comparing men and women. Bill is always careful to point out that these observations do not hold in every case, but there is enough of a trend to make them a valuable tool.

For example, he has measured that of out of all the emotions, there is only one emotion that men project with far greater accuracy than women. That emotion is guilt. He suggests that if women experience guilt, they usually do it to themselves.

I hope you have enjoyed these few articles summarizing the entertaining and sometimes startling research of Bill Acheson. I hope that you are interested enough to pick up a copy of his program. You will find it fun, entertaining, and insightful.



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



Body Language 92 Plastic People

September 3, 2020

Way back in the 1960’s there was a rock group led by Frank Zappa called The Mothers of Invention. Their sound was a kind of punk rock that had little structure or melody, but they were popular for a time due to their grotesque appearance and sound.

I recall one song they did called “Plastic People.” The recurring line in the song was “Plastic people. Oh baby now you’re such a drag.”

Probably many readers of this blog were not even alive in the 1960s, so the title has no context for them. With body language, you do sometimes run into plastic people who may choose to not show much emotion through their facial or body configurations.

Also, you may find some people who are expert at putting on an expression that effectively masks their true emotions. I believe that when people try to hide our true feelings, there is a kind of incongruence to their body language that is a tip off that the person is hiding something.

There are numerous physical and psychological conditions that may prevent a person from showing his or her true feelings in body language. It is not the purpose of this article to enumerate all the combinations that can lead to a person show very little emotion.

I do want to share some ideas on how you might attempt to draw out a person, but recognize that in many situations, the best approach is to just leave the person alone. The correct approach will depend on the person and the current situation.

You probably know someone in your circle of friends who is expert at giving almost no body language information about what is going on in his or her brain. It can be very disconcerting. What can you do in a case like that? Start with listening and observing.

You might try a direct approach and say something like, “I am finding it hard to read your feelings at the moment.” That would potentially annoy the other person if he or she is just attempting to be private.

Another approach is to engage the person in some dialog by asking Socratic Questions. You would need to do this carefully in order to avoid talking down to the person or some other form of insulting dialog that might be interpreted as openly prying.

The need to keep one’s emotions private may be for a number of different reasons, but I suspect a common one is insecurity. The person may have opened up in the past only to get hurt rather badly. So, from that point on, this person would guard his or her emotions rather closely and not give out a lot of information.

Short of trying to psychoanalyze the root cause of this situation, you are better off just letting the person be circumspect. Let the other person decide whether or when he or she wants to make a change.

Another thing you could try is to just be kind and gentle with the person.

If you notice that the person is able to be more human around certain people, dig into why that might be. It could be that your approach is too direct or even threatening.

We all have a tendency to warm up to some people more than others. You may remind the person of another individual who has tangled with him or her in the past. If so, that can be a cause of the withdrawal.

When dealing with a person who is consciously trying to be a plastic person, you need to use patience and emotional intelligence. Do not try to fix the situation quickly, but pay attention to any signals given out that may provide some insight.

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