Body Language 80 Bored

June 23, 2020

Identifying when a person is bored seems very simple. The outward signs are pretty obvious and well known.

You need to be careful, however, because the gestures for a person who is fatigued are almost the same as for one who is bored.

Here are some tips to separate the two concepts.

First of all, consider what is going on around the person. If this is hour three of a four-hour lecture on pollution containing hundreds of detailed PowerPoint slides, then when a person has his chin in his palm, it is likely out of boredom.

On the other hand, if a student is holding her head up with her hand, during a lively or funny class, you might want to inquire if she was up all night finishing her paper.

The Eyes

The big difference between fatigue and boredom is in the eyes. A bored person is usually sitting and staring out with a blank stare and heavy, but not closed, eyelids. A tired person usually will have her eyes shut or nearly shut.

If you see a person unable to maintain focus with her eyes, then suspect boredom as the cause. You may also observe a rolling of the eyes with boredom but not fatigue.

The Hands

The usual position of the hand is for one hand to be propping up the head. Occasionally you may see both hands doing this at the same time, but the predominant gesture is just with one hand.

A person experiencing extreme fatigue will often put his or her head down on the table rather than try to hold it up with a hand.

The Mouth

The telltale sign of a bored person is to yawn. Unfortunately, it is difficult to separate a yawn induced by boredom from one caused by being overtired. It is often the case that both fatigue and boredom may be occurring simultaneously.

It is interesting to observe how infectious yawning is. When a person sees another person yawn, it is common to see the first person yawn within about 10 seconds. You can observe yourself yawning shortly after observing another person doing it. You may even yawn immediately after seeing your dog do it, or vice versa.

General Posture

The most common forms of boredom occur when people are seated. People who are bored generally lean forward rather than backward. The opposite is often true for people who are fatigued.

Props

Look for fidgeting or doodling as another indication of boredom rather than fatigue. A tired person is trying to sleep, so there is no energy to play with a paperclip or make a paper airplane.

A person who is bored has some energy that is likely to come out in the form of interfacing with a handy object, like a pencil.

What to do

Usually teachers or those who facilitate group activities will see these kinds of gestures.

Obviously if many of the students are exhibiting these kinds of symptoms, you need to take note and call a break or an activity that will get people moving or engaged some other way.

With fatigue, you normally will see the reaction in only one or two people, while boredom can spread over an entire group.

Be alert for the problem and change your methods to keep people engaged. When their outward gestures are extreme enough to see, they are not listening to you anyway.

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


Body Language 71 Guilt

March 12, 2020

The body language associated with the emotion of guilt makes an interesting study.

In his wonderful program on Advanced Body Language, Bill Acheson of the University of Pittsburgh has a humorous section relative to guilt. Let me start by relating the way he describes it, then give some of my own observations.

Bill’s research has uncovered that out of the ten most common emotions, there is only one emotion that is conveyed more accurately by men than women. That emotion is guilt. With tongue in cheek before an audience made up of more women than men, he joked, “It turns out that women are so busy creating it, they are not getting the practice time.”

To go along with Bill’s research, I will be using the male pronoun for the remainder of this article. I do believe it is possible for women to convey guilt, though perhaps not as easily or frequently as men, but women can and do assume any of the body gestures in this article as well.

Just for fun, try to assume a facial gesture that conveys guilt. If you are like me, you will find it more difficult than trying to project other emotions, like sadness, happiness, fear, shock, love, etc.

Guilt is a little more elusive. Let’s go into how to show guilt and how to decode it when others try to hide that emotion.

Blank stare and looking down

Generally, for a man experiencing guilt, his eyes are looking down and there is a kind of far-away look in his eyes. He is perhaps trying to cover up the facts or just does not want to face the awful truth of what he did.

In the picture above, notice the blank stare on the face of Lance Armstrong, who was caught doping and disgraced as a world class cyclist. I have not found a picture that reflects guilt better than that one.

Anxiety

When experiencing guilt, we are highly anxious. That may manifest itself in all kinds of body language cues.

In the photo, the finger in the collar is a classic form of anxiety. The literal meaning is trying to loosen the collar to get in more oxygen.

Another signal of anxiety is the wringing of hands. The person is fretting because he has to admit to something that is unpleasant.

Another gesture you might see with guilt is biting of the finger nails. This is also a sign the person is experiencing anxiety.

Holding the head

Often a person feeling guilt will instinctively hold his head with one or even both hands. The hands often are covering the eyes, because he would rather not see other people while feeling guilt.

The posture here is similar to a “woe is me” type of feeling. It is like the person is trying to ask “What have I done?”

Shaking the head from side to side

This is another form of denial. The person is scolding himself for whatever he did and shaking his head as if to say, “How could I have been so stupid?”

Part of the head shaking routine may be a decoy to deflect attention away from the thing that was done. If the person shows enough remorse, perhaps other people will cut him some slack.

Closing eyes

This is an attempt to hide in plain sight. If he cannot see out, then he can play incognito for a while and maybe figure out how to change the subject.

Summary

The gestures for expressing guilt are numerous, and it also matters what caused the guilt. An empty cookie jar would be a mild form of guilt, whereas a larceny or extramarital affair would be major and have lasting consequences.

Whenever guilt is being experienced, a loss of trust is happening as well. Since it takes a lot of effort to rebuild lost trust, it is no wonder that people try to avoid guilt if they can.

You can help a person who is feeling guilty by gently trying to get the person to talk. Verbalizing the issue is one way to begin the healing process. Just recognize that sometimes the guilty party does not want to discuss the issue yet. You need to pick your timing and approach carefully.

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