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 11 Finger or Foot Tapping

January 19, 2019

Finger or foot tapping is another very well-known form of body language. The implication is almost always impatience.

You might expect to see this gesture while at the counter in the airport waiting for the person behind the counter to finish fiddling with her computer and answer your question directly.

You also can see finger tapping a lot in the classroom when teachers keep going over the same point in order to drum it into the brains of the slowest members of the class. Other members of the class will be tapping their fingers down on the table as an indication to “get on with it already!”

When a person ignores the person doing the finger tapping, it is a sign that the talker has low sensitivity. If this goes on for more than a few seconds, then trust between the people will begin to diminish.

It is best to be alert for this obvious signal of impatience and at least acknowledge you have received the message through your own body language or modified cadence.

The same signal may be sent by tapping the foot, although there are a number of foot moves that make this area a bit more complicated to decode.

If you are standing or sitting with your feet flat on the floor, then tapping your toes would have the same connotation as tapping your fingers, except that the gesture may be partially or totally hidden. Other foot movements may have different meanings.

For example, women habitually sit with legs crossed in what is known as the aristocratic leg cross. This is where one knee is placed directly over the second knee.

Miss. Manners teaches that it is more professional to cross the legs at the ankles for modesty purposes, but the majority of female professionals I have observed actually cross their legs at the knees.

This is a comfortable position with females for two reasons. Women do not have external organs between their legs, so there is no specific pressure on these organs, as would be the case for a man. Second, when a woman is wearing a skirt, crossing her legs in this manner makes it less likely that other people will be seeing too much of her underwear.

When women sit with legs crossed in this manner, they will sometimes bounce the upper foot (the one that is not currently on the floor). They will also often dangle their shoe as they bounce the foot. This gesture can indicate a number of different things, so it is wise to exhibit care with interpreting what you see.

It may be that the woman is exhibiting impatience, as with finger tapping. It may also indicate the woman is wanting to share some information, like telling a story, or visiting, or something else. She may also be bouncing as an indication of stress. In addition, letting the shoe dangle is thought to be an indication of flirting. You will need to look for more clues to get an accurate read.

Another interesting phenomenon with women’s feet while sitting with legs crossed is pointed out by Bill Acheson in “Advanced Body Language.” She may be happily sitting and bouncing her upper foot, and then, as a result of something said to her, point her toe upward for just a moment. The woman is having a negative reaction to what was just said. It can be a form of rejection. Sometimes the foot can speak as loudly as the mouth.

Because of anatomical differences, men usually sit with legs crossed in a stance that resembles the number four. Depending on age and culture, men will put their upper ankle to either the inside or outside of the lower knee. In some cultures, men will more often sit with the aristocratic leg cross. For example, this posture is more common in Europe.

Acheson believes that how a man crosses his legs is one indication of status in terms of wealth and power. Men of higher status will tend to sit using the aristocratic leg cross as opposed to the figure four leg cross. Also, men of higher power tend to lean back in a chair more decidedly than men of lesser wealth and power.

These gestures and body configurations are important to notice. It is also necessary to separate out habitual behavior from that triggered by a specific situation. If a person has a habit of sitting a certain way, then the signal is less apparent from a situation where the BL is triggered by a specific stimulus or statement.

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


Body Language 8 Chin Gestures

December 29, 2018

When people touch their chin, it can mean a number of different things depending on gender and exactly how the chin is touched.

Teachers frequently see this body language in the classroom. When I see several students holding their heads up, I know it is time to break things up with a physical activity or an actual break to use the facilities.

When just one person is assuming the position, the signal is much weaker. Perhaps this student stayed up all night last night to finish her paper and is simply tired.

Chin touching for a male may also signal boredom or the exact opposite. When a male holds his chin between the bent forefinger and thumb, it usually means the man is listening intently. Chin propping is thought to be good listening behavior for a male, according to Bill Acheson of the University of Pittsburgh. Men also are usually listening when they are stroking their facial hair slowly.

Females will also stroke their chin, but not nearly as often as men, and they more likely have an open hand rather than a closed one.

Another aspect of touching the chin is that doing so blocks an attack to the throat from the front. It may be an unconscious protective gesture in some circumstances when a person is feeling vulnerable. The protection is largely symbolic, but that happens frequently in body language, and it is important to consider the symbolism that may be in play. The need for this protection may spring from a perceived lack of trust between you and the other person.

Holding the chin also keeps the head from moving. Suppose you are negotiating with a car salesman and are listening intently. You want to hear all the points being made, but you do not want to indicate agreement by head nodding until you have all the information. Holding the chin would make it less likely for you to give out premature information on your state of mind. It adds a subconscious layer of security when you may be feeling vulnerable.

When someone of either gender reverses the hand and puts the chin in the palm of the hand, holding up the head as in the attached picture, it is a sign of fatigue or boredom. The implication is that the person needs to hold his or her head up or it will fall onto the table.

Jutting the chin in a specific direction is a kind of pointing motion that directs other people where you want them to look. It is a way to acknowledge a transfer of attention. The chin is raised in a quick jerking motion. This is less obvious than pointing with a finger, and it is less susceptible to being interpreted as a hostile gesture.

The angle of the chin can be important as well. Generally, when the chin is raised, it is a positive sign. It is often a gesture indicating pride or alertness. Conversely when a person has his chin down, it will indicate a negative mindset. The person may be sad or depressed when the chin angle is downward.

Pay more attention to the signals you see relative the chin. As you study body language, there are many important but fleeting gestures with the chin that contain information about the mental state of another person. It is just one small part of an amazing language that we all use but rarely talk about consciously. The more adept you are at decoding the language the more astute you will become at interpersonal relations.

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


Working With Millennials

September 12, 2016

There are numerous books and articles on the differences in generational work groups and how to manage them successfully. In this brief article I want to share some thoughts of my own on the topic of working with Millennials (defined as people born after 1980).

In no way will this be a complete treatise on the topic, rather I wanted to point out some of the dangers I see in some things I have read.

Beware of stereotypical generalities. We often read that millennials are lazy or less loyal than previous work groups. There may be some truth to the trend in specific cases, but individual differences make it dangerous to label everyone in a specific group as having specific traits.

It is important to understand each person as an individual and not deal with an entire generation with broad brush and biased labels.

I do agree that we need to pay attention to the different environment that each person grew up in as a significant force in shaping the way a person thinks or acts.

Way back in the late1980’s Dr. Morris Massey, who was at the University of Colorado at Boulder, did a series of programs entitled, “What You Are is Where You Were When (you were value programmed).”

At the time, Dr. Massey was focusing on the differences between Boomers (born between 1945-1964) and Generation X (born between 1965-1980). His conclusion was that significant behavioral patterns could be explained by the environment that an individual grew up in, but we had to leave significant room for individual differences before trying to pigeonhole people.

Undoubtedly the most significant difference between millennials and prior generations is in the area of communications. Millennials were the first fully digital generation, so their whole approach to interfacing with other people is different.

It is astonishing to me that millennials prefer to communicate via the juxtaposition of individual letters and spaces (with interspersed “emojis” and their own abbreviations)as has been the custom for centuries.

Curiously, the keyboard layout thumbed by all millennials to “text” each other was invented by Christopher Sholes in 1867.

You would think that their main mode of communication with each other would be voice and video. While there is plenty of that, the preferred method of conversation (even when sitting right next to the other person) is by the juxtaposition of letters and spaces projected onto a little screen.

One generality that I believe is true is that on average, millennials are less patient with a slow pace of their own development. This is a hint for all managers who are working with millennials.

It is much more important for people in this group to have a concrete development plan. This should include milestones and projected advancement. The danger here is that advancement opportunities are not totally predictable, and that could lead to frustration.

Once a person has gained the skills for the next level of career position, it is tedious to wait in line until the next opportunity to move up appears. Hence, we see millennials willing to job hop in order to move up if no opportunity is available in their current organization.

The antidote here is to cross train the person on additional skills so he or she becomes more valuable to the organization through the passage of time.

The lesson here is that if you try to keep a millennial static or keep promising movement that does not occur, you are usually going to lose the person to another organization. That pattern leads to high turnover, which is a major cost problem for any organization.

The Wegmans Grocery Chain was just awarded one of the best organizations for millennials. They have been on the list of 100 Best Workplaces for the past 19 years. The secret of their success is to train and cross train the young people constantly. It adds to bench strength and it allows Wegmans to operate with lower than 10% turnover in an industry that often runs in excess of 40% turnover. That is a huge financial advantage.

Another way to appeal to millennials is to have a principle centered business. These people are more interested in the social responsibility of the organization for which they work, because they are convinced that it leads to long term success.

The younger generation is less tolerant of hypocrisy and bureaucracy than more seasoned workers because they see it as a conscious choice, and they want to work at a place that has staying power.

Working with Millennials may seem frustrating if you are trying to apply the operating philosophies that worked for the Boomers or Generation X. You cannot fight the trends, and they are not going away. The best approach is to embrace the younger generation into the workforce and impress them with your operational excellence and vision for the future.

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 500 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