April 19, 2020
The gestures associated with pride seem simple enough, but you need to be careful because there are other emotions that can have similar features. In this article I will give some tips on how to spot true pride.
Signals that demonstrate pride can also be seen in a person experiencing simple satisfaction. The two emotions are not the same at all, but the body language is similar. Also, hubris can have many of the same characteristics.
Curiously, the gestures for contempt are very close to those of pride, so you need to be a bit careful.
Let’s pick apart the specific gestures and see if we can isolate those that are most associated with pride as opposed to other emotions.
The most important part of the body associated with pride is the chin. When a person is proud, the angle of the chin will be up. The head is generally slightly backward but vertical from side to side and not tilted at all. If the chin is down, then you may be looking at satisfaction rather than pride.
A person experiencing pride will have a slight smile associated with a symmetrical pulling back of both cheeks. If only one cheek is pulled back then the smile is gone, and the gesture is probably that of contempt or distrust as opposed to pride.
This would be like the famous gesture of “unimpressed” that McKayla Maroney made while receiving the Silver Medal in gymnastics in 2012 and later mimicked with President Obama, as in the attached photo.
Eyes and gaze
A person who is proud will have a fixed gaze and make good eye contact with the person he is facing. Someone experiencing hubris may have more shifty eyes indicating lack of confidence. With pride, the eyes will be relaxed and steady, but that can also be said of someone experiencing satisfaction.
When a person is expressing pride, the eyebrows are relaxed and not furrowed at all. Pride carries a connotation of confidence and sometimes even dominance, so there is no indication of worry or stress in the eyebrows, as would be the case with hubris.
A person demonstrating pride will not be slouched over. His shoulders will be erect and slightly back. The back will be arched. Pride often reflects a kind of military stance that is often seen with service members on the assembly field. Similarly, if a proud person is seated, his back will be straight and his shoulders held high with no sign of a slouch.
Hands and arms
With many emotions, the hands are somehow involved touching various areas of the face or head. Pride rarely calls for interaction between the head and the extremities. It would be unusual to see a person who is feeling pride holding his jaw or putting his finger in front of his mouth.
What to do
When you see a person showing body language signals reflecting pride, the first thing to do is see if you can, if need be, through dialog, uncover the source of the pride. Quite often, when a person is experiencing pride it is pretty obvious why that is the case. You can make an affirming statement or gesture indicating you agree with the person’s right to be proud and endorse that emotion. That gesture of support will tend to enhance the trust between you both.
The only caveat here is that if you support the person’s pride, it needs to be genuine. If you are putting on an act to avoid conflict, then the other person is likely to detect that, and you will do damage to the relationship.
On the other hand, you may feel that pride is not warranted in this situation. That becomes a delicate situation, because there is lack of agreement that the person should be proud.
In our highly polarized society, there can be disconnects between the way two people will view an issue, so it is important that if you detect this is the case to proceed with caution. An open discussion may draw out the true source of pride and whether it is false pride. It could also mean that you did not understand the background well enough so you felt the person didn’t have a right to be proud when he really did. Either clarify the disconnect, or it may be a good strategy to agree to disagree on this particular issue.
Pride is rather easy to spot when you see it, but you need to be careful because several other emotions have some of the same characteristics. Whether it is true pride or something else, an appropriate response is important. This brief article attempted to sort out a few key differences.
This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”
March 20, 2020
When someone is completely exasperated or enraged, it is usually easy to tell. The body language gestures are rather specific and well known.
Rage is an extreme form of anger that has a special category because the person experiencing it nearly loses all control of her body. The extreme gestures of exasperation or rage are usually short lived and give way to more typical expressions of anger.
Here are a few things to look out for when dealing with an exasperated person.
Puffed out Cheeks
The genesis of this gesture is an exhale but with a closed mouth so the cheeks puff out. Of course, the steam coming out of her ears is imagined, but the look is unmistakable. This person is really upset.
Followed by open mouth with verbal gasp
The mouth opens and the person shows her teeth as she either screams or just gasps. The connotation here is that whatever happened to her is so extreme that she cannot imaging how to contain her anger and finds it hard to find adequate words to describe the situation rationally.
With a person who is exasperated, the hands are usually involved in the body language. Usually you will see both hands extended in front of the sternum with fingers rigidly curved as if the person is holding two invisible grapefruits. This symbolic gesture is a visual signal that the exasperated person needs to be restrained so as to not strangle the person causing her the angst.
Hands to face
The secondary gesture may also include hands to the face. The person would put both hands to her cheeks as she tries to restrain herself. Another form would have the person putting her hands on the top of her forehead as if she is trying to keep her skull from exploding due to the extreme pressure.
Eyes, eyebrows, and neck
The most common gesture with the eyes and eyebrows is a furrowing of the brows to reflect anger.
Another common gesture is a complete wide-eyed show of rage. A person who is totally enraged may have bulging eyes that look like they are about to pop out of the face.
You may also see obvious bulging ligaments in the neck, which is a common occurrence with rage.
An exasperated person will often roll her eyes in disbelief. It is like she is saying “How can you be so stupid?”
If the object of her anger is right there, you may see pointing with the index finger or a rigid vertical hand as she starts to verbalize what is upsetting her so much.
What to do when another person shows exasperation
People at this extreme need space to come to grips with what is going on inside. They need to feel heard, even if that cannot say a word. They often need time before they can speak. They are also looking for some form of response, but you need to be careful how you respond.
The first thing to do is not escalate the situation by mirroring the body language of the person expressing rage. Remain calm and let the other person blow off the initial steam without any comment. In this moment, it is so tempting to fight back, but that almost always makes things worse.
Think about being kind and caring at this moment. Don’t brush aside the whole thing, but also try to not appear condescending. Do not belittle her for losing control. Let the enraged person have her full say and consider carefully what response would de-escalate the situation.
By remaining calm, you take the fuel away from the anger of the exasperated person, but recognize that in some circumstances remaining calm can further enrage the person, so you need to read the body language accurately to know how to respond. It may be helpful to allow a cooling off period before trying to make a difference.
Once the person has regained composure, ask open ended questions to draw her out. Once she has expressed the root cause of the problem, then she may be able to hear and consider some ideas for how to move forward.
I think it helps to acknowledge the other person’s situation and show as much empathy as you can, once you are convinced the person is ready for dialog. If the situation were reversed, you might have had a similar reaction. By this method you can talk the other person down to earth and begin a constructive conversation of how to address the problem in a mature and rational way.
These actions will form a basis to start rebuilding trust with the other person. It may be a long way back to full trust, but you have to start with the proper baby steps.
Things to avoid doing
Do not go on the defensive or walk out. Do not attack or blame the person experiencing exasperation or rage. Refrain from snide remarks or making character assassinations.
Do not block the other person from expressing herself. Do not bully her into talking if she is not yet ready to talk. Don’t crowd the person; give her space. Refrain from dismissing the person.
The other side of the equation
The other side is what is going on inside the person who is witnessing the rage of another person. Someone expressing rage may be a trigger to those who have been abused in prior situations with someone else, like a parent or abusive spouse. A set of coping mechanisms may kick in as needed.
For example, the person may completely withdraw as a means of physical protection or experience genuine terror. If she was the potential trigger for the rage she is seeing, then strong feelings of guilt or shame may surface.
Both parties must use good judgment to de-escalate the situation and regain control. Once the situation has stopped boiling over, it is a good idea to debrief the flare up to identify things to do in the future that will prevent a recurrence. If done with sensitivity and kindness, the ugly incident may become the foundation for building higher trust between the individuals involved.
This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”