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.”
Does your organization establish goals that seem impossible to reach? If so, you are not alone.
Many organizations go through a negotiation process with individuals and teams to establish annual performance goals. Often, the person or team is asked for their opinion on the best that can be achieved in the following year.
Then, just for good measure, senior managers tack on an additional 15 to 25% and set that as the target goal.
When employees learn to anticipate this markup process, they instinctively sandbag their initial offer to account for the anticipated bump by senior management. It becomes a game of cat and mouse to establish reasonable stretch goals, and in the end, the organization and its employees suffer.
I believe a better process starts with an understanding of what the entire organization needs and then breaks down individual and team performance goals that will ensure the organization meets its commitments.
Quite often, goals set by senior managers seem unrealistic or unobtainable, which has a significant negative impact on trust. When this happens, employees take on a fatalistic viewpoint that the team has no chance to perform up to expectations. Team members hope they can achieve the goal, but deep down they don’t believe it is possible.
This sequence creates a Pygmalion effect where the negative outcome is nearly guaranteed.
The truth is, you cannot “hope” your way to success. You must believe and expect success for it to become reality.
When stretching for seemingly impossible goals, the most important ingredient is not technology, market size, manufacturing capacity, quality processes, sales force expertise, HR policies, or any other tangible enablers. The most important ingredient is belief.
This fundamental principle has been identified by philosophers and social psychologists numerous times throughout history. It seems that, through the ages, our civilization keeps discovering the same ideas. Here are a few famous quotations from historical figures you may recognize. Notice how they all say the same thing in different words.
Zig Zigler – “When you believe it, you will see it.” Earl Nightingale – “We become what we think about.” Brian Tracy – “If you think you can do it and hang on to that vision, you will accomplish it.” Henry Ford – “If you think you can, or if you think you can’t… You are right.” Lou Holtz – “If you get people to believe in themselves, they will set bigger goals.” Maxwell Maltz – “What you believe will happen actually becomes physical reality.” Norman Vincent Peale – “The power of positive thinking: No success occurs without it.” Andrew Carnegie – “You will not be able to do it until you believe you can do it.” Tony Robbins – “Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy.” Napoleon Hill – “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
This list is just a small sample of available quotations on the same topic. The phenomenon of creating success by visualizing it already being accomplished is well known.
Unfortunately, most teams in the working world have forgotten this time-honored wisdom. They wring their hands and lament that achieving the goal set out by management is simply impossible. Well of course it is impossible if they believe that.
Quite often, teams believe they can’t accomplish the goal because they cannot visualize how it could possibly be done. It is important to not get discouraged at the start because the “how” is not evident. Forget about how you will accomplish a goal; simply set out to believe that it will happen.
There are many tools available that can help you accomplish the goal. Resolve to find the right ones for your situation. If you do that, you will achieve the goal in ways you could not possibly imagine at the outset. Unfortunately, it is easy to experience the pangs of fear, especially in an environment of low trust.
The antidote is to teach individuals and teams to re-train their brains so that they drive out any thought of failure. Set the goal high, and then use all the power of mind over matter to make that goal a reality.
That sounds so simple, but it is very difficult to gain the skills required to believe rather than doubt.
Experts like the ones above, have taught us that if we reiterate an affirmative statement that we not only intend to meet the goal but to exceed the goal, then repeat that phrase in earnest at least twice a day for 30 consecutive days, we will actually bring forth a vital energy that was unavailable prior to the new mindset.
It is not the rote repeating of an affirmation that makes the difference. The method gives us a chance to catch the difference between the positive attitude and any negative thoughts or feelings that arise. We then have a moment of truth where we have the opportunity to examine what is holding us back.
As we address these self-limiting beliefs, we can come into mental and emotional alignment and resonance with the affirmation. We become energetically congruent with the vision, and that brings forth powers that are truly amazing.
Having this resonance and congruity changes everything. Of course, a positive mental attitude is not the only factor that will allow us to meet difficult goals.
We have to have a good plan, we have to execute well, we have to have high trust and great teamwork, we have to work incredibly hard, we must employ lean and six sigma principles, we need the right technology and resources, and, yes, we sometimes need some luck.
The truth is that by having the right frame of mind at the outset, we enable the other necessary elements to materialize in the physical world. When we expect and believe we will achieve the goal, sometimes the elements required to accomplish it materialize as if by magic. It is not magic; it is simply how the universe works.
I am not reporting anything new here, but I believe it needs to be reiterated, especially when goals for the next increment of time are being set. This is the time to create a new mindset that will allow you and your team to consistently reach or exceed seemingly impossible goals.