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.


Use Your RAS

April 4, 2015

X-ray brain pathologyThe human brain is a remarkable organ. It has many fascinating properties that can give us insights on how to live a better and more effective life. One of these phenomena occurs at the base of the brain: the Reticular Activating System (RAS).

RAS is an incredible filtering system that allows human beings to sort out and pay attention to things that are important to us while disregarding the bombardment of other things that are not critical. It is the mechanism that allows us to focus attention on the vital few and ignore the trivial many.

I will leave how the RAS works to the brain experts, but the impact of it is a wonder to behold. In this article, I want to explore RAS along with how you can use it to improve your life.

The best way to appreciate the power of RAS is through examples.

Imagine you are in a theater during intermission. The crowded lobby is abuzz with the cacophony of voices, and it is impossible to hear any conversation except the one closest to you. In the crowd, within earshot, someone mentions your name.

All of a sudden you are able to laser focus on that conversation, ignoring all the rest, and actually hear what that person is saying about you. If the person had not uttered your name, there would be no way you would hear what she was saying. That is RAS in action.

Let’s look at another typical example. You just came out of a car dealership after having ordered a red Ford truck. On the way home, you start to notice red Ford trucks everywhere. Driving into the dealership, you paid no attention and did not notice any trucks at all.

Once the RAS is activated, it allows all kinds of miraculous things to happen. RAS is a very powerful tool, but we need to be continuously aware of that power if we are to harness it for use in our lives.

Try this little exercise. Try to identify 5-10 times in each day where you are applying the understanding of RAS to improve how you manage your life.

For example, you might be sitting in a cafeteria with hundreds of people. In the distance, you spot an old friend you had been thinking about recently and realize you have not spoken to him in over a year.

You resolve to call him that afternoon. Immediately you recognize that RAS helped you find that person and renew the acquaintance. That counts as one of the 10 opportunities to use RAS.

That evening, while scanning a magazine, out of the corner of your eye you catch a glimpse of an ad for a boat and immediately remember that you had intended to buy a new fishing reel this week.

The association was made possible by RAS. That would be number two example. Try to find 5-10 examples a day.

By focusing your energy on understanding how you can use RAS to filter your thinking as opposed to following random thoughts, you will actually be doing a kind of “meta RAS” where the technique is helping you identify opportunities to use its power for you daily. It sounds complex, but it is really pretty basic.

Do not overlook the power of RAS to improve your life. The more you practice identifying the phenomenon within you and using it, the more creative ways you will find of having it guide you to a better life.


Develop Your EI not IQ

April 26, 2014

TIntelligence tests, like the famous IQ test have been around since the early 1900s. French psychologist Alfred Binet developed what was called the Stanford-Binet Test in 1905.

The objective of IQ tests is to measure the ability of a person to understand and learn complex intellectual concepts. It is a good measure for determining academic success, but it is less useful at predicting happiness or success in life.

The IQ score is normalized for a mean of 100 with a standard deviation of 15. That means roughly 95% of the population will fall between 70 and 130 IQ.

Lower than 70 means some form of mental deficiency while scores above 140 signify genius-level intelligence.

The reason a higher IQ does not always spell success in life is because genius-level individuals are often reclusive or socially maladapted.

In the 1980s several social scientists developed the concept of Emotional Intelligence (commonly called EI) which is not a numerical scale like IQ. Rather, EI is a measure of the ability of an individual to work well with people at all levels. Higher Emotional Intelligence is a good predictor of success in professional life and also in social activities.

Keith Beasley coined the term Emotional Quotient (EQ)in 1987 but the term Emotional Intelligence was popularized by Daniel Goleman in the mid 1990s. Goleman wrote several books and articles on the topic and is still active today.

There are some interesting facts about the difference between IQ and EI. One’s IQ is very difficult to change. Whatever IQ we have as a child is pretty much what we are stuck with or blessed with throughout life.

Sure, we can increase our knowledge through education of all forms, but our ability to learn intellectual material is mostly a fixed quantity.

By contrast, it is possible to develop one’s Emotional Intelligence rather easily at any point in life. That is because we have the ability to train our brains to react differently to conditions if we choose.

That is a highly liberating thought, because it means that we can enhance the quality of our lives through study and effort to develop higher EI.

Can you improve your Emotional Intelligence by plowing your driveway? I think so, and I will explain a fascinating analogy later in this article. I read a recent book on Emotional Intelligence by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves entitled Emotional Intelligence 2.0. If you have not been exposed to this book, perhaps my article will whet your appetite to purchase it.

The authors start out by giving a single sentence definition of Emotional Intelligence

“Emotional Intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.”

This leads to a description of the four quadrants of EI as described by Daniel Goleman in 1995.

1. Self Awareness – Ability to recognize your own emotions
2. Self Management – Ability to manage your emotions into helpful behavior
3. Social Awareness – Ability to understand emotions in others
4. Relationship Management – Ability to manage interactions successfully

The book contains a link to an online survey that lets you measure your own EI. This is an interesting exercise, but it lacks validity, because people with low EI have blind spots, as described by Goleman.

You might rate yourself highly in EI when the truth, in the absence of blind spots, is somewhat lower. Still it is nice to have a number so you can compare current perceptions to a future state after you have made improvements.
Most of the book consists of potential strategies for improving Emotional Intelligence in any of the four quadrants described above. You get to pick the quadrant to work on and which strategies (about 17 suggestions for each quadrant) you think would work best for you.

The approach is to work on only one quadrant, using three strategies at a time for the most impact. The authors also suggest getting an EI Mentor whom you select. The idea is to work on your EI for six months and retest for progress, then select a different quadrant and three appropriate strategies.
The trick is to train your brain to work slightly differently by creating new neural pathways from the emotional side of the brain to the rational side of the brain. This is where plowing your driveway comes in.

We are bombarded by stimuli every day. These stimuli enter our brain through the spinal cord and go immediately to the limbic system, which is the emotional (right) side of the brain.

That is why we first have an emotional reaction to any stimulus. The signals have to travel to the rational side of the brain for us to have a conscious reaction and decide on our course of action.

To do this, the electrical signal has to navigate through a kind of driveway in our brain called the Corpus Callosum.

The Corpus Callosum is a fibrous flat belt of tissue in the brain that connects the right and left hemispheres. How easily and quickly the signals can move through the Corpus Callosum determines how effective we will be at controlling our emotions.

This is a critical part of the Personal Competency model as described by Goleman. Now the good news: whenever we are thinking about, reading about, working on, teaching others, etc. about EI, what we are doing is plowing the snow out of the way in the Corpus Callosum so the signals can transfer more easily.

Translated, working with the concept of EI is an effective way to improve our effectiveness in this critical skill.

After reading the book, my awareness of my own emotions has been heightened dramatically. I can almost feel the ZAP of thoughts going from the emotional side of my brain to the rational side. Oops, there goes one now!
Given that roughly 60% of performance is a function of Emotional Intelligence, we now have an easy and almost-free mechanism to improve our interpersonal skills. I hope you will go out and purchase this little book, particularly if you are a leader.

For leaders, EI is the most consistent way to improve performance and be more successful.


Situational Emotional Intelligence

May 5, 2012

Emotional Intelligence (also called EQ) is your ability to understand emotions and your skill at using that insight to manage yourself and your relations with other people. A high EQ is a prerequisite for good leadership because Emotional Intelligence governs the ability to work well with people. Many people view EQ as a static quantity within each person, similar to IQ. In reality, EQ is a dynamic quantity that changes and grows as we gain life experiences.

I participated in an online discussion while teaching a graduate course recently that highlighted the dynamic aspects of EQ. I was asking students to rate their current level of EQ. One person got back that he was strong in EQ, but because of his military background, that skill was not as developed as it might have been. He believes EQ is less important in the military because of the command and control nature of the service. People expect to be ordered around and do not take umbrage at the drill sergeant for yelling. That same behavior in the corporate world would cause instant revolt.

EQ is really situational; it morphs depending on the current circumstances and prevailing culture. That is actually good news, because it means we have some control over our level of EQ and are not stuck with our current level forever.

Suppose a man who had spent most of his adult life as a mediator for contract negotiations in the corporate world decided to change and become a Jesuit priest. Would his perspective on the emotions of other people change with that transformation? In Rochester, New York, Rev. Edward Salmon made that exact conversion. Salmon admits that in many ways running a local Catholic High School is similar to corporate work, but the whole framework of challenging the youth to be all they can be takes a much deeper skill of listening and sensitivity.

As we go through life, our skill at using Emotional Intelligence becomes developed and changes with each new situation. For example, the EQ skills required to convince an ornery teenager to do his homework are not the same as those required to coach a 99-year-old blind man to remain optimistic when confined to a nursing home. Some of the psychological thoughts would be similar, and the values might be roughly the same, like following the Golden Rule, but the emotional framework in the two environments is vastly different. A different set of tools is required to succeed in each of these situations.

I suspect the skill of EQ and how to apply it would be different in unique cultures around the world. For example, one’s behaviors toward other people in the USA might be totally different than that person would show if he or she was brought up in Japan. The cultural differences would drive unique opportunities and challenges.

We know that there is a big difference between how men and women experience Emotional Intelligence. In “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” John Gray describes the gender paradigm differences that cause men and women to deal with emotions in totally different ways. For example, women will consult with other women to analyze and resolve problems, while men would rather retreat to their “cave” to deal with difficulties.

It is widely believed that the Corpus Callosum in the female brain is larger than the same organ in a male. The Corpus Callosum is the “highway” in the brain that connects the right side (limbic, or emotional system) to the left side (rational brain). That allows women to process emotions into logical thought much faster and easier than men.

Your background, skill set, and even gender, along with the environment you experience will determine how you employ Emotional Intelligence in a way that is unique to you. That application of EQ will morph as you go through life in ways that nobody else on the planet can experience.


Your Attitude

February 19, 2012

The one thing you really can control in life is your attitude, yet most people view their attitude as the result of external things happening to them rather than a conscious decision they make every minute of every day. In this brief article, I would like to explore some ideas that can help make your choice more intentional. These ideas are not new or unique; they have been expressed by numerous authors or scientists, and yet they are easily forgotten by anyone in the heat of the moment.

When you react to a stimulus, an emotion is created in the limbic system (right side) of your brain. That emotion will translate into a “feeling” about the stimulus immediately. The reaction is a chemical one that you have no control over at all. Instantly you are caught by the emotion, and this will form into an attitude if you let it.

For example, if someone cuts in front of you in heavy traffic, causing you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident, you instantly have the emotion of fear, realizing this might be the last conscious moment in your life. You are decidedly unhappy about this. The fear quickly gives way to rage as the stimulus crosses over to the rational (left) side of your brain. That idiot nearly killed you!

Now comes the part where you have a choice. Up to this point, the entire sequence was automatic, and it happened in less than a second. As you decide whether to honk your horn at the other driver, or even tailgate to teach him a lesson, now you are using your rational brain to translate your current attitude into actions. The actions can either be good for you, or they could lead to making a bad situation considerably worse. The choice is up to you. How can you grab on to a choice that is in your long term best interest?

The moment of truth is just after you recognize the situation in the conscious side of your brain. Before taking action, if you can program in a little self talk, that slows the process down enough for you to make a rational decision, you have the opportunity to make a good rather than poor choice. To do this, you need to suspend judgment about how you will react until there is enough time to think about alternatives and consequences. Even though the temptation is to blast the jerk with a heavy dose of your horn, if in that split second you can suspend the action, it gives you a chance to change your attitude.

One simple technique is to try to envision the best possible intent on the part of others who provide unhappy stimuli for you. In our example, you might envision that the person who cut you off might really be a victim of something else that happened to him. Perhaps he spotted a loose tire iron in the road and swerved to prevent hitting it and sending it airborne to crash through your, or someone else’s, windshield. Even though the scenario might seem far-fetched, taking the time to envision the best possible intent does slow down the urge to take action simply based on your rage. It prevents the flash point reaction.

Now you have the opportunity to think through two or three options and focus on the alternatives and potential consequences. It only takes a second or two. You have the opportunity to consciously manage your attitude, and that is truly liberating. When you train your brain to slow down just long enough to think through some options, it puts you in control of your attitudes rather than the other way around. That analysis can save you from making some serious judgment errors that you will regret later.


Boost Your Emotional Intelligence

January 14, 2012

Can you improve your Emotional Intelligence by plowing your driveway? I think so, and I will explain a fascinating analogy later in this article. I read a recent book on Emotional Intelligence by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves entitled Emotional Intelligence 2.0. If you have not been exposed to this book, perhaps my article will whet your appetite to purchase it.

The authors start out by giving a single sentence definition of Emotional Intelligence (which is abbreviated as EQ rather than EI, and proves that whoever invented the acronym did not have a high IQ). Emotional Intelligence is “your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.” This leads to a description of the four quadrants of EQ as described by Daniel Goleman in 1995.

1. Self Awareness – Ability to recognize your own emotions
2. Self Management – Ability to manage your emotions
3. Social Awareness – Ability to understand emotions in others
4. Relationship Management – Ability to manage interactions

The book contains a link to an online survey that lets you measure your own EQ. This is an interesting exercise, but it lacks validity, because people with low EQ have blind spots as described by Goleman. You might rate yourself highly in EQ when the truth, in the absence of blind spots, is somewhat lower. Still it is nice to have a number so you can compare current perceptions to a future state after you have made improvements.

Most of the book consists of potential strategies for improving Emotional Intelligence in any of the four quadrants described above. You get to pick the quadrant to work on and which strategies (about 17 suggestions for each quadrant) you think would work best for you. The approach is to work on only one quadrant, using three strategies at a time for the most impact. The authors also suggest getting an EQ Mentor whom you select. The idea is to work on your EQ for six months and retest for progress, then select a different quadrant and three appropriate strategies.

The most helpful and hopeful part of the book for me is where the authors discuss the three main influences on performance: Intelligence, Personality, and Emotional Intelligence. The observation is that it is impossible to change your IQ (Intelligence) and very difficult to change your Personality, but without too much effort, you can make huge progress in your EQ.

The trick is to train your brain to work slightly differently by creating new neural pathways from the emotional side of the brain to the rational side of the brain. This is where plowing your driveway comes in. We are bombarded by stimuli every day. These stimuli enter our brain through the spinal cord and go immediately to the limbic system, which is the emotional side of the brain. That is why we first have an emotional reaction to any stimulus. The signals have to travel to the rational side of the brain for us to have a conscious reaction and decide on our course of action. To do this, the electrical signal has to navigate through a kind of driveway in our brain called the Corpus Callosum.

The Corpus Callosum is a fibrous flat belt of tissue in the brain that connects the right and left hemispheres. How easily and quickly the signals can move through the Corpus Callosum determines how effective we will be at controlling our emotions. This is a critical part of the Personal Competency model as described by Goleman. Now the good news: whenever we are thinking about, reading about, working on, teaching others, etc. about EQ, what we are doing is plowing the snow out of the way in the Corpus Callosum so the signals can transfer more easily. Translated, working with the concept of EQ is an effective way to improve our effectiveness in this critical skill.

After reading the book, my awareness of my own emotions has been heightened dramatically. I can almost feel the ZAP of thoughts going from the emotional side of my brain to the rational side. Oops, there goes one now!

Given that roughly 60% of performance is a function of Emotional Intelligence, we now have an easy and almost-free mechanism to improve our interpersonal skills. I hope you will go out and purchase this little book, particularly if you are a leader. For leaders, EQ is the most consistent way to improve performance and be more successful.


New Eyeballs

October 8, 2011

The human brain is a remarkable organ. It has many fascinating properties that can give us insights on how to live a better and more effective life. One of these phenomena occurs at the base of the brain: the Reticular Activating System (RAS). RAS is an incredible filtering system that allows human beings to sort out and pay attention to things that are important to us while disregarding the bombardment of other things that are not critical. It is the mechanism that allows us to focus attention on the vital few and ignore the trivial many.

I will leave how the RAS works to the brain experts, but the impact of it is a wonder to behold. In this article, I want to explore RAS along with some implications it can have in our professional and personal lives. The best way to appreciate the power of RAS is through examples.

Imagine you are in a theater during intermission. The crowded lobby is abuzz with the cacophony of voices, and it is impossible to hear any conversation except the one closest to you.  In the crowd, within earshot, someone mentions your name. All of a sudden you are able to laser focus on that conversation, ignoring all the rest, and actually hear what that person is saying about you. If the person had not uttered your name, there would be no way you would hear what she was saying. That is RAS in action. 

Let’s look at another typical example. You just came out of a car dealership after having ordered a red Ford truck. On the way home, you start to notice red Ford trucks everywhere. Driving into the dealership, you paid no attention and did not notice any trucks at all. Once the RAS is activated, it allows all kinds of miraculous things to happen. Let’s explore how RAS can be useful in helping you be more successful at work.

Marcus Buckingham wrote a famous book entitled Now, Discover Your Strengths: How to Develop Your Talents and Those of the People You Manage. His thesis was that we can make much faster progress at self improvement if we focus energy on our areas of strength rather than trying to improve our weaknesses.  If you doubt that conclusion, pick up a copy of his book. It gives a mountain of data to support the conclusion. The book also contains a link to an online survey you can take to determine your own strength areas.

After reading the book and doing the assessment, I found two dominant strengths I had that were not evident to me before. I found out that I am a “Maximizer” (one who tries to achieve excellence) and that I am particularly strong in “WOO,” (which stands for Winning Others Over). Being a Maximizer allows me to accomplish more in one day than most other people, and WOO allows me to have significant influence when it is important.  Let’s now explore how this knowledge, coupled with RAS, has made the ideas useful to me.

I am a visual communicator and tend to think in terms of images. I have the image of walking around all day with imaginary “arrows of opportunity” flying in the air, just over my head. The arrows represent a constant stream of opportunities to interface with people or do things that help me be more effective. I just need to pick the correct arrows and reach up and grab the right ones as they fly by. The difficult part used to be that there were so many arrows, how was I to select the ones that could help me the most?  Enter RAS.

Now that I know my two greatest strengths, when I view the arrows in my mind, a few of them are in vibrant color. These are the ones that represent a chance to use my skills at Maximizing and WOO.  The rest of the arrows are black.  Using this filtering technique, I am able to “see” the most important opportunities coming at me (even when they are far off) and grab them to flex the strengths within me much more frequently. Voila! My performance improves simply based on the application of my strongest traits.

RAS is a very powerful tool, but we need to be continuously aware of that power if we are to harness it for use in our lives.  Try this little exercise. Try to identify 5-10 times in each day where you are applying the understanding of RAS to improve how you manage your life.  For example, you might be sitting in a cafeteria with hundreds of people. In the distance, you spot an old friend you had been thinking about recently and realize you have not spoken to him in over a year. You resolve to call him that afternoon. Immediately you recognize that RAS helped you find that person and renew the acquaintance. That counts as one of the 10 opportunities to use RAS.

That evening, while scanning the newspaper, out of the corner of your eye you catch a glimpse of an ad for a boat and immediately remember that you had intended to buy a new fishing reel this week. The association was made possible by RAS. That would be number two example. Try to find 5-10 examples a day.

By focusing your energy on understanding how you can use RAS to filter your thinking as opposed to following random thoughts, you will actually be doing a kind of “meta RAS” where the technique is helping you identify opportunities to use its power for you daily.  It sounds complex, but it is really pretty basic.

Do not overlook the power of RAS to improve your life. The more you practice identifying the phenomenon within you and using it, the more creative ways you will find of having it guide you to a better life.

Robert Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for ProfessionalsUnderstanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.  To bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763.