Body Language 41 Strange Handshake

August 16, 2019

At first glance, the handshake in the picture looks fine. It is two men who appear to be meeting for the first time or at least agreeing on something of consequence.

I use this picture of body language in the classroom as just one example to analyze.

As I studied the picture, there were several areas where the whole thing seemed to be staged and phony. Can you spot the issues?

Here are five areas where I believe the signals being sent are at least mixed and at most actually negative.

Body Position

The man on the right is standing with his shoulders at ninety degrees from the shoulders of the man at the left. A good handshake occurs when the shoulders are parallel. It is called “square shoulders.”

With the man on the left turned, it is hard to tell if he is planning to flee or maybe he just got up out of his chair. Regardless, try to aim to be square shoulder to the other person for a good, equal handshake.

Incidentally, while not part of this particular picture, it is a good idea to always take a half step forward with your left foot as you extend your right hand for the hand shake.  This action provides some forward momentum that is a positive sign to the other person. Don’t stand flat footed or step backward while extending your hand.

Hand in Pocket

Bill Acheson, in his excellent program on “Advanced Body Language,” described that you can get a lot of information by noticing what the non-shaking hand is doing.

What you want to see is the left hand moving forward and upward in the direction of the other person. Having a hand in your pocket or behind your back is a negative sign that you are feeling cautious or have something to hide.

There is a famous picture of Obama and Romney after the 2012 election. Obama invited Romney to lunch at the White House as a way to patch up election wounds.  Standing in the oval office, they shook hands with remarkably the same body language as in the picture for this blog. Click here to see the picture.

Phony Smiles

Both parties have pasted-on smiles that do not look genuine. They are forced and come across as duplicitous. A genuine smile starts with the eyes and forms a kind of oval with the facial muscles. It is called a “Duchenne Smile.”

It is a good idea to show your teeth when you smile while shaking hands with another person. This aspect of facial expression goes back centuries to when having good teeth was a signal of good breeding or higher status.

Bolt Upright

The man on the left is rigidly upright and leaning slightly backward. He is leaning away from the other man. It is better to be leaning slightly toward the other person. The man on the right is leaning in, but he is turned so that the gesture loses impact.

The entire position of both men looks stiff and phony.

The Grip

In this case, the grip seems to be OK from what we can tell in a picture. It is a firm grip with poth parties contributing equally. One person is not trying to wrestle the dominant (palm down) configuration.

We cannot ascertain from the picture if the pressure being imposed by each man is the same. For an ideal handshake, it should be medium pressure with both people contributing the same level of intensity.

When one person tries to impress the other with a firmer grip, it becomes a contest rather than an expression of equality. The rule I like to use is, if the other person can feel the handshake after it is over, you have used too much pressure.

Use care, because you have no way of knowing the other person’s physical condition. I know this is true because I have a hand disorder that makes certain movements and heavy pressure quite painful. Lucky for me, the problem is in my left hand, so it does not affect me personally when shaking hands, but it does remind me that I cannot assume the other person’s physical condition.

While the picture looks OK for a handshake, a closer examination reveals many things that are not ideal. Learn how to shake hands well, and you will have a significant advantage in life.

Ignore the rules, and you will find yourself wondering why people have trouble trusting you early in your relationship.

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.TheTrust 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.


Body Language 35 Head Tilting

July 5, 2019

A slight tilting of the head is a really interesting bit of body language.

I will share my own interpretation first, and then I will describe some useful insight provided by body language expert, Bill Acheson, in his excellent DVD on “Advanced Body Language.”

I view a slight head tilt as a sign of high interest on the part of the person doing the tilting. I liken it to a situation many of us have experienced at a pet store.

A Puppy Trick

You walk in and see a pen with 6 puppies in it. They are all jumping up on the fence and yipping to have you pick them up.

Then you see the slight head tilt of one of those puppies who seems to be saying, “Pick me! You are the most important person in my world right now.”

If you are going home with a puppy that day, it will be the one with the tilted head. You may not even be conscious of how you made the selection, but it was unavoidable.

Translated to humans

I believe the same feeling can be generated in human beings. I once met a young man (22) who had the ability to model the gesture instinctively.

He was able to establish a feeling of trust within me toward him even before we shook hands. It was a powerful moment that I will always remember.

Very few people I have met in my life have the ability that young man had. When we finally did shake hands a second later, I did not say, “Nice to meet you.” Instead my first spoken words to him were, “Congratulations! You are going to be a very wealthy man.”

Acheson’s research showing gender differences

In Bill Acheson’s program, he stresses that head tilting is seen to be a sign of good listening, and it is perceived consciously more by woman than men.

He recounts some research he performed at University of Pittsburgh in the year 2000. He separated the men and women and showed each person two pictures of the same woman, one with her head erect and one with her head tilted.

Their research question was, “Which one is the better listener?” Seventy one percent of the females responded within three seconds that the tilted head person was the better listener. When asked why, they were able to identify, “because her head is tilted.” They saw it consciously.

Of the men, many of them puzzled over the two pictures for up to 12 seconds before making a response. Finally, about three quarters of them said, “Dude, that’s the same person, so they would listen the same.”

Other meanings of head tilting

Tilting the head can also be a means of showing mental activity. We can observe students with a slight tilt of the head when they are pondering a concept just explained in class.

Excellent teachers pick up on the body language and make sure to inquire if there is a question.

Tilting of the head can also indicate that a person is puzzling over something or working on a problem.

Pay attention to the way people hold their head when interfacing with you. When you see someone with a slight tilt while listening to you, note the mental reaction you have to that person. It is a really powerful signal.

One word of caution here. As is the case with all body language, if you are making the gesture, keep it genuine.

If you physically try to tilt your head, you are likely overdoing it, and the result will be not what you wanted. Insincere or put-on gestures often send the opposite message from what was intended.

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.TheTrust 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.


Trust is a Mirror

May 7, 2019

Here is an interesting conundrum. Everyone else on the planet knows how you are coming across to them. The only person who really does not know how you are coming across is you.

Basically, we cannot see ourselves the way others do.  You know how other people are striking you, but you are really blind to what others are thinking about you in the back of their minds.

Of course, you can learn to infer how your actions and words are being received as you listen to others and observe their body language. However, both of those things can disguise what the other person really thinks about you.

Would it be valuable to have a way to see yourself clearly as other people do? I think that would be incredibly valuable.

I believe there is a kind of “mirror” that will allow you to see yourself as others do. When you develop a relationship of high trust with another person, you create a mirror where you can accurately know how you are coming across at any point in time.

With trust, you will have the blessing of knowing, real-time, when you are coming on too strong, when you are being too pedantic, when you appear uncommitted, when you seem duplicitous, and any number of other maladies or admirable actions.

Why does trust enable this kind of magic feedback that is so powerful? Trust allows other people to feel safe telling you what they are thinking without fear.

In normal relationships, people are on guard, because giving direct feedback will often lead to unintended consequences, and that means damage control. Trust allows people to give you feedback with love and care that prevents the need to protect themselves from your reaction.

I believe that trust and fear are incompatible; when you remove the fear between people, trust will grow spontaneously. My favorite quote on this phenomenon is,

“The absence of fear is the incubator of trust.”

Key Point:

Once true trust is established, then you have the gift of knowing how you are coming across to other people.

We are all a work in progress. Nobody is perfect as we exist today. In fact, a major part of life is learning and growing. I have always believed that when you stop growing, it is time to order a pine box.

If you believe what I have written thus far, then the obvious question is, “How do I go about building relationships of higher trust?” The answer is as simple as the question. You build trust by creating a safe environment for the person who would share information with you.

If, by your past reactions, you have convinced the other person it is safe to share things that may be difficult to say, then you have enabled trust between you and the other person to kindle.

The analysis may sound like circular reasoning, but it has the simplicity and validity of all truly universal laws.

When you take a baseball and drop it out of a window, the result is without question due to a law we call gravity.

Trust is the same way, if you create an environment where people feel safe sharing difficult messages with you, then you develop trust. That trust means that you will now have the ability to see yourself the way other people do. This knowledge will allow you to take corrective or preventive actions that you would otherwise not even consider.

An additional benefit is that by creating a “real” environment with other people, where you are not playing games, you now have the ability to tell them things that will help them improve. That reciprocal relationship is the basis on which two people can help each other on the journey that is life.

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


Successful Supervisor Part 52 – Successful Mentoring

November 11, 2017

Mentoring is one of the most powerful ways organizations can improve. When you see organizations that thrive, you often see a culture that encourages and rewards employees for mentoring others.

Over several decades I have seen numerous “mentoring programs,” and most of them don’t last very long or have much success. I have also seen groups that thrive on mentoring, such that it is sustained and grows with time.

This brief article is about the contrast between those two visible extremes.

Why Mentoring Programs Fail

The core reason mentoring programs fail is imbedded in the word “program.” When we think of a mentoring effort as a mechanical process that brings mentors together with protégés, we get off on the wrong foot. Even with the use of sophisticated computer algorithms, the ability to match people up perfectly has a dismal record of success. Here are some reasons why:

1. Chemistry Missing

Great mentoring relationships grow organically. One person admires another, usually more senior, person and they become friends. They usually do not even use the word “mentor.” It is the quality of the relationship that adds value in both directions that keeps the momentum going.

When the match is cooked up by some outside process other than genuine admiration and chemistry, the taproot of stability rarely has a chance to grow.

2. Time Commitment Too Structured and Demanding

If a mechanical process is used, there are often periodic meetings with some form of documentation of what was discussed. In the frenetic pace of business and the chaos in which most executives live, the ability to carve out a specific hour on every Tuesday is unrealistic.

The intention may be there, and the meetings may actually happen for a few weeks, but unless the relationship is extremely valuable, the meeting schedule will start to slip out, and a few months down the road it becomes a rare exception that the “normal” meeting occurs.

Contrast that with a more informal mentoring relationship that has no fixed schedule. The two people meet only when there is a reason and then it is a drop in or call in situation rather than a scheduled commitment.

3. Value Mostly One Way

To endure, the value gained from the relationship needs to be bilateral. The protégé gains specific knowledge and seasoning that is shared, but the mentor also gains from the ability to see the organization from a different vantage point.

Being able to experience what is going on through the eyes of another (often younger) person is a huge advantage for busy executives. Managers often become insulated from the actual environment as perceived by the numerous people in the organization.

4. Lack of Trust

All mentor relationships are based on trust. Each individual needs to be sure the information passed back and forth will only go outside the confides of the two individuals if permission is given by the other person. If a violation of the trust is verified or even just suspected, the mentor relationship is in serious jeopardy.

This challenge is particularly acute for the mentor, because information may become known independent of the mentor, yet the protégé may suspect it was leaked.

For the mentor, it is important to be keenly alert to changes in body language that might reveal a weakening of the relationship that was not caused by that person.

A Better Way

To gain the most from mentoring, make the concept ubiquitous in the culture. Do not seek to pair certain people up, rather let them select each other via natural processes.

Avoid having a documented “Mentoring Program,” but foster an environment that encourages people to pair up as they wish. Let them choose how often and under what circumstances to meet. Let them select the best methods of communication, so the system is not a burden on either party.

For example, I had a great relationship with a boss for over two decades. He liked to communicate mostly using voice mail, so the majority of our discussions were in that mode rather than in scheduled meetings. The asynchronous nature of the communication allowed us to be unfettered, yet very closely connected. He could deal with hundreds of other managers across the organization, yet I was always available.

I recall this person sending a voice mail at about 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning. His comment was, “I always like interfacing with you, Bob, because whenever I pick up the phone, you are always right there.” He and I never used the word “mentor” to describe the relationship; that really helped make it successful.

For the protégé, the challenge is to be accessible in the right way at the right frequency, yet avoid being a pest. It is a fine line, and body language is the most sensitive way to pick up signals that you are coming on too strong.

A mentor would likely never say, “You are taking up too much of my time,” but an astute observer would be able to detect the input through dozens of body language signals.

Make sure you have at least one mentor in your life, and also make sure to guide some other people on their journey. These relationships add significantly to the quality of one’s life and work.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision 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 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