For the final few articles in this series on body language, I am highlighting some of the excellent content in a program entitled “Advanced Body Language” by Bill Acheson of the University of Pittsburgh.
In this article, I will summarize his Thinking on how we pick up twelve layers of information when we interface with another person. Most of the time the signals are processed by us unconsciously, but that does not mean they don’t matter to us.
The body language is most important when we are meeting someone for the first time. According to Bill, what we can observe in the other person is ten times more important than what we say.
The 12 layers are the management of:
7. Eye Contact
8. Facial Expression
Actually, in his recording he left off the 12th item, so I added the concept of congruence, because when one part of body language is out of step with the others, it sends a warning signal that something is wrong here, even if we cannot put our finger on it consciously.
When we see conflicting signals, the caution flag goes up in our mind, and we have a much more difficult time establishing a relationship of trust. That caution flag, even if it is subconscious means it will take substantially longer to trust the other person than if all signals were consistent.
According to Malcolm Gladwell in the book “Blink,” human beings have a remarkable ability to size each other up in a heartbeat. He estimates that we form a first impression of another person within the first three seconds. He calls the phenomenon “thin slices” after the analogy that if you slice something, like a cucumber, thin enough, you can actually see through it.
Near the start of his program, Bill shares some data he took when working with a group of 600 business woman. His question was, “In a business setting, how do you know when a man cheats on his wife?” The top 7 responses were all body language.
In the video Bill shares the top two responses. The first was if a man wears too much cologne or aftershave. The second giveaway, mentioned by 70% of the women, is if the man is wearing a pinky ring. What male would have guessed those two responses?
Another fascinating statistic has to do with trust. The research shows that 97% of the women he polled said they do not trust a man who wears more jewelry than they do. I suppose that one seems pretty obvious.
In his program, he makes several general observations comparing men and women. Bill is always careful to point out that these observations do not hold in every case, but there is enough of a trend to make them a valuable tool.
For example, he has measured that of out of all the emotions, there is only one emotion that men project with far greater accuracy than women. That emotion is guilt. He suggests that if women experience guilt, they usually do it to themselves.
I hope you have enjoyed these few articles summarizing the entertaining and sometimes startling research of Bill Acheson. I hope that you are interested enough to pick up a copy of his program. You will find it fun, entertaining, and insightful.
This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”
The body language gestures of a person who is pondering are rather easy to spot and there is not much confusion in interpreting this emotion.
Pondering is closely associated with puzzling, and the body language of one versus the other may be difficult to sort out. In reality, the mental activity for puzzling and pondering are virtually the same.
A pondering person is usually looking upward. You see a kind of “far away” look in the eyes as the person contemplates something. The person is looking off into space with no particular energy given to focusing visually on anything.
If the person is actually trying to visualize something, then sometimes you can detect a slight squinting of the eyelids along with a lowering of the eyebrows.
Upper nose and eyebrows
There is often a slight wrinkle at the bridge of the nose as the person is contemplating what to make of the situation. The nose itself is not wrinkled but the eyebrows are pulled in slightly causing a vertical wrinkle
The head will be slightly tilted as the person is deep in thought. Also associated with an upward gaze, the person’s head may be tilted backward. We see no indication that the person is getting ready to speak, rather the mind is completely occupied trying to figure out what is happening.
Hands and arms
Often one hand will be in contact with the facial region. Most commonly, as in the attached picture, the one hand is connected to the chin with one bent forefinger and thumb pinching the tip of the chin lightly. When making this gesture, it is common to see the other arm in support of the arm propping the chin.
Sometimes a finger may be extended to cover the mouth region as if to prevent the person from speaking too soon.
Alternatively, the one hand may be holding the head or even scratching the head in puzzlement.
The mouth may be in a neutral position as in this picture or it may be pulled slightly to the side. If the issue being contemplated is a serious or dangerous matter, the mouth may be pulled further to the side as a signal of stress.
People who are pondering rarely show their teeth at the same time. The mouth is generally closed, but it is a relaxed closure and not pursed lips or grinding of teeth. If the subject matter has a tinge of danger associated with it, you may see the person bite the side of his lower lip in anxiety as he ponders.
What to do
The advice when you see a person showing signs of this gesture is to leave him alone. Do not interrupt his mental process unless there is a fire in the building. Let him work on the problem until he emerges from his trance with some clarity of thought. If you would interrupt the process, it would likely be highly irritating.
If the person appears to be just day-dreaming or procrastinating from something that he should be doing, then a gentle word to bring him back to reality may be helpful. Just be gentle and kind if you do have to interrupt a person who is pondering.
This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”
Have you ever been talking with another person from a different culture and had the distance between both of you cause you to be uncomfortable? It happens all the time to business people who deal with multiple cultures.
If you want to see how uncomfortable proximity can be, take a look at this hilarious two-minute clip of a Seinfeld episode. Just go to Youtube and search on “Close Talker.” It illustrates the issue perfectly.
Proximity rules between cultures
The rules for comfortable proximity are mostly governed by the home country of the people involved. The comfortable distance between you and another person is one thing for you and may be something very different for the other person. There are some general trends that will help you navigate this sticky part of body language successfully.
According to Sue Bryant in Country Navigator, “Contact cultures – southern European, Latin American and Arabian – engaged in more touching and stood closer during conversation than non-contact cultures in northern Europe, north America and parts of Asia.”
In the USA, most social conversation happens in the range of three to five feet. Conversation at a distance less than 18 inches is considered an invasion of a person’s “intimate” range. The “personal” range is 18-36 inches, while the “social” range is 3 to 12 feet.
Argentina is generally considered the most close proximity culture, whereas USA and Great Britain have more space between individuals when talking.
“Romanians clearly take longer to establish trust; they came out with the widest distance you should stand from a stranger – more than 1.3m – but one of the narrowest gaps for close friends…” (Bryant)
Staking out territory
Most creatures are territorial by nature. I have a bird that drives me crazy by pecking at my window. The bird sees its reflection and thinks it is an intruder.
Dogs have a unique way of marking their territory as they raise their leg next to a fire hydrant.
Humans are more subtle than animals, but we also have numerous territorial gestures.
You can observe a person sitting on the subway with brief case on the seat on one side and a newspaper on the seat on the other side. The message is “stay away, these seats are taken.”
Think about how you jockey for position when several lanes of traffic compress to just two when entering a tunnel or a tollbooth.
How about your behavior at the open buffet or waiting in line at the airport. We all have ways of indicating areas we claim and subtly suggest that others steer clear.
The normal ritual for greeting a person you are just meeting is to use a handshake. It is best to use the right hand only when meeting a person for the first time. Sometimes special situations call for fist bumping or other gestures.
A two-handed handshake is fine once you have become acquainted with a person, but it is far too presumptuous when first meeting someone.
Some people like to give a hug or “abrazo” as a cordial way to greet someone they already know. I think it is wise to use caution as the rules on hugging are becoming more restrictive. It is best to hold back until you see the other person extending his or her arms for a hug.
We constantly send signals to other people about our desires relative to proximity. Normally, people are sensitive enough to pick up the signal and act appropriately; however, sometimes people are just clueless as to what is going on.
Many an individual has misinterpreted a signal as one to get closer only to be rejected later.
Misunderstandings can happen in any setting: business, social, formal, informal, in public, in private, and even within families. Be alert to the obvious and subtle signals from others about your proximity to them. Doing so can be good for your reputation and enhance your friendships.
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. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or 585.392.7763