THE SECRETS OF PROJECTING SUCCESSFUL BODY LANGUAGE

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Imagine for a moment that you are sitting across from an interviewer for a job. But you and the interviewer are not alone: a thin, evil-looking demon sits beside you. You say, “I’m excited at the prospect of joining this company–”

But the demon interjects: “No, you are bored and unmotivated.” This scenario happens every day to countless aspies everywhere. The demon of improper body language frustrates all sorts of personal interactions, not just job interviews. The most frustrating aspect of all is that rarely is the demon obvious: usually, the aspie doesn’t even know he has been subverted. Our task is to exorcise this demon and replace him with more thoughtful, honest body expression, so that aspies can practice their many skills and achieving success.

Read on for the entirety of GroovyDruid’s article about projecting successful body language!

Imagine for a moment that you are sitting across from an interviewer for a job. But you and the interviewer are not alone: a thin, evil-looking demon sits beside you. You say, “I’m excited at the prospect of joining this company–”

But the demon interjects: “No, you are bored and unmotivated.”

“I love this kind of work and know I can give an excellent performance,” you counter.

“Baloney!” The demon sputters. “You lack self-confidence and can’t really perform any of these duties!”

You leap out of your chair: “I’ve been maintaining hardware since I was knee-high to a wombat! I can write code so fast it will make your head sp—”

But the interviewer stops you both. She wears a confused frown. She says she’s sorry, but you just aren’t suited to the position.

What happened at this interview? First, let’s break down the characters: the interviewer is the interviewer, you are the aspie, and the demon is your body, which is screaming volumes of information at the interviewer, much of it contradictions and lies. The interviewer tried hard to determine the truth of your abilities and attitudes, but the yelling of the demon overwhelmed her faculties, and she gave up.

This scenario happens every day to countless aspies everywhere. The demon of improper body language frustrates all sorts of personal interactions, not just job interviews. The most frustrating aspect of all is that rarely is the demon obvious: usually, the aspie doesn’t even know he has been subverted. Our task is to exorcise this demon and replace him with more thoughtful, honest body expression, so that aspies can practice their many skills and achieving success.

Fiend! Thy Name Is…

It’s always handy to be able to call a demon by his name during an exorcism. In the story above, the demon goes by the name Incongruence. To understand Incongruence, we must realize that there are three channels of communication in a face-to-face encounter: vision, voice, and verbal communication, or talk. Incongruence rears its ugly head whenever one channel conveys a different message from the others. An easy example would be someone crossing his arms, screwing his face into a scowl, and saying, “I’m open to suggestions.” The voice and visual message (body language) contradict the verbal message. Incongruence creates drama. Drama has its place, but you don’t want it popping up in your career unless you’re bound for Broadway.

Incongruence might have subverted the aspie in the opening scenario in a number of ways. He might have sat back and put his hand to his face when talking about how excited he was to join the company, indicating that he really recoiled from the opportunity. He might have failed to make eye contact and stimmed by wringing his hands when he spoke of his competence and experience, thus giving an impression of insincerity. Or he might have crossed his arms and “held back” when the interviewer asked to know more about his hobbies and personal life. Aspies lack certain intuitive abilities for giving and receiving subconscious body language, and because of this, Incongruence wreaks havoc in their dialogues. No matter what an aspie says, his NT conversation partners perpetually feel vague distrust and antipathy for him. Not so strong that they would say it out loud: “I think you’re not telling me the truth!” In fact, the NT might not even admit the feelings of distrust and antipathy to herself. Instead, she follows her intuition and says, “I don’t think you’re really suited to the position…”

The Look of Success

Aspies are noted for having a headlock on verbal communication. They know what they want to say and 1,000 synonyms with which to say it. Writing about voice is pointless. That leaves just the vision component of the vision-voice-verbal communications triangle for us to discuss. That’s okay, though: according to studies, visual communication accounts for an astounding 40-60% of the total face-to-face communication. So what does successful body language look like?

Here, it is important to define “success.” I am a strong proponent of using body language to express congruence and the true thoughts and feelings one has, especially for aspies. To do otherwise is to create drama and lies. It’s tempting to create deliberate incongruence. In fact, good actors do just that: they speak the text and promptly contradict the text with a subtext brought out through body language. (Actors are also notorious for losing whatever jobs they had prior to being obscenely paid cultural icons.) Interesting, but I say let’s try to get the straight talk first.

You might begin by making a self-inventory: “What sort of person am I?” You can’t describe your personality to others with your body until you have decided for yourself. Are you a leader, a type-A figure with the skills to lead men and nations? Are you a solid supporting player? Are you a quiet, reserved person? I won’t lie and say this sort of self-analysis is easy, but it’s important. You’ll get a terrible mess if you project the body language of a dominant leader and then back down when it comes to deeds and actions.

An inventory is also necessary for any given interaction: you must decide what relationship you want. If you are talking to your boss, then open, cooperative, and slightly submissive body language takes precedence. In a romantic conquest you want confident, aggressive body language. If you know the relationship you want, then you can direct your body to match your voice, words, and intentions.

The Boss and the Team Player

As an example, we will run through two common species of body language, the Boss and the Team Player. Both of these species are broad, highly successful patterns to emulate. First, what body language does the Boss use?

It doesn’t matter if the Boss says a word: an NT feels his body language instantly. Whether the Boss is a woman or a man, the Boss walks out in front, and he usually swings his arms more than his subordinates. He sits at the head of a table, and he faces the door. When sitting in a line of subordinates, he’s likely to be found at the end of the pew. When he shakes hands, the Boss is apt to roll his hand over so that his palm faces down over yours, and he’s got a strong, solid grip. He is literally “on top” of the handshake. He makes solid eye contact and stands aggressively. This means his legs are apart, and his hands sit on his hips or his thumbs stuck in his belt with his shoulders back. This guy doesn’t fold up his arms or put them into his pocket except to pull out the cigar he’s got. The Boss doesn’t move or talk a lot, either. Studies have shown that maturity in body language transmits through sparse, focused movement and that leaders just as often listen as talk. When the Boss moves, he does so with efficient, calculated movements, and his body language and verbal communication possess very strong congruence.

The Boss fears no one, and he shows it. How? By standing with one hand clasped in the other behind his back and his chin up high. This posture exposes his throat, heart, and bowels to anyone who dare attack. (Not to be confused with one hand behind the back holding the other’s wrist or elbow, which means the person is restraining himself.) When the Boss sits, he often puts his hands behind his head. This posture exposes the bowels, heart, and the huge subclavian artery that runs through the armpits. It seems to say, “I’m so smart, I could incinerate your attack with my gaze…” The Boss radiates charisma with his body language.

The Boss makes gestures of doubt, relaxation, and interest at times, just like normal people. From moment to moment, though, his typical behavior falls into the clusters described, and anyone who takes them on will send the message, “Challenge me at your peril, for I am the Boss!”

The Team Player

Another successful paradigm that pops up is the Team Player. This fellow usually likes his work, and his work likes him. He gets promoted easily and has less stress than others less skillful at handling the social landscape.

The Team Player adapts well to others. When he shakes hands with the Boss, he presents his hand palm-up, in a submissive gesture. As the Boss begins to describe his plans, the Team Player displays non-verbal signs of interest. These include cocking the head slightly to one side, nodding occasionally, and giving grunts of understanding. The Team Player leans forward in his chair, sometimes on the balls of his feet, and he stands leaning forward in an open stance, signaling his eagerness and openness to proceed.(Think of the way football players sit on the bench waiting to go into the game, leaning forward with their hands or elbows on their knees.)

Moreover, the Team Player is savvy: he knows that people like people like themselves, hire people like themselves, marry people like themselves, and promote people like themselves. He mirrors the arm movements, leg movements, head position, eye contact frequency, posture, position, voice tone, and voice cadences of the person to whom he speaks right from the moment they face each other. With this subtle mime show, he creates instant rapport and comfort with the other person. Whomever he speaks to knows the Team Player really “agrees” with him. The Boss loves him, but his co-workers know that he’s really one of the crew and not just a suck-up. It’s the same in a meeting as in a face-to-face conversation: the Team Player sits the way other people are sitting and speaks the way they speak, especially the person in charge of the meeting. (For more information on mirroring, read my previous article “The Secrets of Successful Small Talk”.)

The Team Player avoids body language calculated to inflame people. He rarely uses aggressive “Boss” body language, and only when strictly appropriate with his own subordinates. This includes putting his feet up on desks and chairs, or leaning against the doorway of someone else’s office, all of which are overt displays of ownership and intimidation. He resists the urge to cross his arms or legs in a sign of unresponsiveness, even when he feels the urge—that is, unless he is mirroring someone. He avoids slumping in his chair and conveying boredom or malaise. He knows to literally bring himself to someone’s level when talking to them, by sitting when they are sitting, standing up when they approach, or kneeling so as not to talk down to them as they both look at a plan on the floor. He makes solid eye contact as appropriate to avoid any hint that he is not paying attention to whomever is speaking.

Choosing Roles

Taking on the mannerisms of the Boss sends a strong signal and should only be done when you are sure you are, in fact, the Boss. The Team Player, on the other hand, is welcome in a wide range of roles and positions. He shows respect and congruence with the group and often finds much success. It’s advisable to follow the Team Player mold until one finds a niche.

The Dead Fish (Things to Avoid)

The polar opposite of both the successful types we have described I call the Dead Fish. I bring him up because aspies have the misfortune to unknowingly imitate the Dead Fish because of their neurological differences, and they draw flack for it they don’t deserve. The poor Dead Fish sends out unsuccessful body language at every turn, and most of it he’s unaware of. He can’t understand why he doesn’t get promoted, sent on critical assignments, or accepted by the Boss.

The Dead Fish will often broadcast classic signs of boredom in meetings or face-to-face encounters. He will put his chin in his hand, not face people when speaking, and slump back in his chair. He wiggles his foot and taps his pencil. He makes poor eye contact when meeting people for the first time, and he has a limp handshake that people note immediately when they grip his hand. His poor eye contact spills over into his listening habits, too. When his colleagues talk to him, they feel ignored and can never be sure whether he understood what they said to him.

The Dead Fish, whether he means it or not, comes across as critical and defensive. He crosses his arms and legs often, signaling to all present that he’s defensive and has a closed attitude. He drops his chin when speaking. When he wears his reading glasses, he lets them drop down his nose and looks over the top at people, which makes them feel judged. When under fire, the dead fish wrings his hands, grips the armrests tightly, and locks his ankles together, showing his need for reassurance. When confronted, he is liable to rub the back of his neck or clasp one wrist with his hand behind his back, indicating he’s restraining himself from violent outburst.

The rest of the crew talk about the Dead Fish around the water cooler behind his back, and his plight is sad to behold.

Settling In

A group never forms into an undifferentiated, egalitarian mass. From the moment of its inception, a group immediately singles out its leaders, followers, administrators, artists, team players, geniuses, builders, and priests. Each finds success in his own way as a part of the whole. The sorting out of all these trades and vocations happens non-verbally, for the most part. People project a piece of their essence through what they do and the way they do it, and often find their niche because others recognize this essence as suited to some vocation. Body language plays a big part in this selection process, and it should be given the consideration it deserves. I hope the knowledge of some of the successful species of body language opens doors to more exploration in the area for you, so that you may drive the demons of unsuccessful body language from your life forever.

Suggested Readings

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Body Language by Julius Fast
Signals: How to Use Body Language for Power, Success, and Love by Allan Pease
How to Read a Person Like a Book by Gerard Nierenberg and Henry Calero

_________________
“DEAR ASPIE…”
Do you have questions about body language, small talk, flirting, and other non-verbal mysteries? Want to get some straight answers? PM your questions to GroovyDruid and read them published and explained in his blog!

One thought on “THE SECRETS OF PROJECTING SUCCESSFUL BODY LANGUAGE”

    Comments

    • mariakatosvich on July 29, 2016

      Recent research coming out of Harvard University, The University of Oregon, The University of Texas and many other places is revealing that powerful and effective leaders not only share similar mindsets, but also similar hormone levels. More specifically, powerful leaders tend to have higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol.

      Higher levels of testosterone (in both men and women) lead to increased feelings of confidence. Meanwhile, lower levels of cortisol lead to decreased anxiety and an improved ability to deal with stress.Well, it turns out that one of the physical cues that impacts these two hormones is body language. And if you understand how to improve your body language, then you can increase your testosterone, decrease your cortisol, and “magically” feel more confident and risk tolerant.
      Thanks
      sky’s contact number

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