The Body Language Rules (5 page)

BOOK: The Body Language Rules

attracted him in the first place . Did you never go for the shy guy above all the mouthier ones?

how To self-Assess

I If you're not sure of your core image strengths, ask people

you trust .

I Ask as many people as possible and find out what they first

thought of you when they met you .

I compile your own list of descriptive words and try to discover

why people came to those conclusions . I promise you'll be

surprised if the people you ask choose to be honest .

This is a very valuable exercise but must be done in

an open way with no stress or pressure .

I never start arguing with people's opinions or becoming

defensive . If you do, you'll find the evaluation process

will break down rather quickly .

STeP ThRee: hOW TO WORk ThROUgh BODy LAngUAge chAnge Assessing your own body language is hard because catching yourself unawares is as physically impossible as tickling yourself . (A brief pause to give those of you who didn't know you couldn't tickle yourself a chance to try .)

In perception terms you are either aware of your own body language or very unaware . Once you become aware you also become inhibited, which has an instant and traumatic effect on your gestures and movements, altering 52 T he B O Dy LA ng U A ge R U Le S

them out of all recognition . Take my word for it; I know this to be true . The minute I tell people what I do for a living their muscles undergo a form of rigor mortis and their movements become wooden .

Nevertheless, tweaking your own body language to create improvement is so absolutely necessary that you're going to have to move through the pain barrier and launch yourself on a voyage of self-discovery . Why the pain? Because very few people are naturally gifted body language performers . A lot of people have the body language charisma rating of a sea urchin . When you start to become observant of your own behavior you will find it's like looking at party photos: embarrassing and depressing . You'll fail to recognize yourself or identify with your gestures, facial expressions, and nervous tics and twitches . You'll wonder aloud why no friend has told you about this before . You'll stop laughing at Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Mr . Bean and start to feel empathy instead .

Not all the changes you're going to make will be traumatic; in fact, the good news is that very few of them are, unless you're going to be a wuss .

What's a body language wuss? Well, they're those people who turn up on my courses to work on their body language but who then--like the runt of the litter at the school gym--produce a sick note . hOW TO m A k e y O U R B O D y LA n g U A g e W O R k F OR yO U 53

By "sick note" I don't mean a written letter from their mommy explaining why they don't have to join in; instead, I'm talking about a series of verbal sick notes explaining why they do what they do in body language terms .

Instead of simply moving toward improved nonverbals, they prefer to stall by explaining why they do what they do, as in: "I only play with the change in my pocket because I'm nervous . I can't help it," or, "I couldn't help frowning when my colleague walked in; it wasn't rudeness, it's just the way my face goes ."

These are sick notes . You crossed your arms because you were cold, not to create a barrier from the person talking to you . You drummed your fingers out of anxiety, not boredom . It was shyness that prevented you from using eye contact, not rudeness .

The problem with body language sick notes is that we can't go through life handing them out . With your visual image you only really get the one shot . People will sum you up in as long as it takes to blink an eye, and if you look hostile or pointless then that's how they will think you are . If you're lucky and have more time they might discover the "real" you buried under all that dodgy-looking rubble, but the big problem with modern life is we see way too many people per day to go rooting around for any hidden gems .

People tend to read by what they see and are often too busy to look for alternative reasons or causes . They get 54 T he B O Dy LA ng U A ge R U Le S

what they'll call a gut reaction about you and no amount of excuses will make up lost ground .

Anyway, when did you last apologize verbally for your own body language? If your partner accuses you of giving him or her a dirty look, do you apologize and say you had an eyelash in your eye or do you shrug it off, assuming it's their problem if they misread your signals?

I yawned recently in a client meeting . We all know what that signals and--although in this case the boredom factor was teetering toward the unbearable--the only reason for my yawn was that I'd seen someone else yawning in an office across the way . Yawning is contagious, but try telling that to a client who thinks you've just been hugely disrespectful!

Body lAnguAge Rules Rule 1:

no siCk noTes!

Don't make excuses to yourself . If it ain't working, fix it . The only thing that matters about your body language is how it's perceived and read by the people who matter to you . Strive to get it right the first time; you might not get a second chance .

Body lAnguAge Rules Rule 2:

you CAn ChAnge youR BehAvioR! hOW TO m A k e y O U R B O D y LA n g U A g e W O R k F OR yO U 55

Hurrah! There's no need for you to keep on fiddling with your cuffs or twiddling your hair every time you speak . There's no law of nature that says you can't do something else, like use some fabulous emphatic gestures instead . It's your choice, honestly! It takes twenty-one to thirty days to change a habit . After that you'll barely remember what it was you used to do .

eASy TWeAkIng The really good news for you is that I will give you some easy tweaking tips that will have a huge effort versus reward ratio, meaning you'll make some seemingly small changes with a hugely positive and potentially life- changing effect . I always claim that most politicians are only two body language tweaks away from looking human; it's just that either nobody seems to give them advice or they choose not to take it .

Most of my trainees turn up with worrying problems, like years of being passed over for promotion, being ignored at business meetings, or getting feedback from their manager that their personal impact is negligible . You might think it would take months of counseling and coaching to create changes in their behavior that are profound enough to have an effect, but not a bit of it . Often it's embarrassingly easy to pick out where they're going wrong . 56 T he B O Dy LA ng U A ge R U Le S

Take a guy I was coaching from the food industry, who wanted to have more impact with his customers . Although he communicated quite well, I noticed that when he mentioned any of his products his voice dropped . He even referred to his products as "units ." He also used what is called a very telling micro-gesture, by which I mean his facial features changed into something like an expression of disgust or dislike when he referred to them . He was totally unaware of all this nonverbal signaling . The client would also have been unaware, but only consciously . Subconsciously the message received would have been that the product was crap . By coaching him to lose the facial micro-gesture and to mime something related to the product rather than its packaging, I was able to change his impact as well as his sales figures . It's not always that easy, but the point I'm making is that small tweaks can have big results .

Then there will be the bigger changes . By this I mean habits you've had from birth and possibly beyond . These gestures, movements, and rituals will have been with you so long they'll feel like part of your personality, but they're not . What they are is just behavior, remember?

Body lAnguAge Rules Rule 3:

Be PRePARed To geT ouT of youR ComfoRT zone hOW TO m A k e y O U R B O D y LA n g U A g e W O R k F OR yO U 57

And here's the rub: by choosing to change your body language signals you will be tip-toeing outside your comfort zone . Awareness of your own movement creates a good deal of discomfort in itself . Recognizing that some of the things you currently do make you look like a bit of a jerk doesn't make for happy thoughts, either . And pushing your body through changes will make going back to a state of blissful ignorance and unconscious error very, very tempting .

But here's the thing: if you're prepared to shelve your dreams and goals in life for the sake of a little physical discomfort you're a wuss . What we're talking about here is a different kind of sick note . They are the sick notes you send to yourself to give you reasons for quitting . In essence they'll sound much the same as the "why I broke my diet" or "why I had that cigarette after I'd decided to give them up" sick notes, all mainly trivial stuff that sounds even more trivial in retrospect .

So here's the deal: if you want to make excuses to yourself about why you should go on producing low-impact or poor-quality body language messages that could well be sinking your career and your love life, then you're an idiot and a sissy and you need to put this book down right now and go back to The Lady or The Idiot's Guide to Cross-stitch or something because we're about to part company at this juncture . 58 T he B O Dy LA ng U A ge R U Le S

It might occur to you that I'm sounding a bit bossy right now . If so, you're absolutely right . What else did you expect? Would you hire personal fitness trainers and then tell them you don't want to put in any physical exertion to get fit? Or tell Jillian Michaels that you didn't mind losing weight as long as you didn't have to give up your ten-burgers-a-day habit? Bossy is entirely appropriate at this stage of the book . Once you start to show you can work hard and once your body language begins to improve I'll start to sound nicer and we can be friends .

This chapter has shown how you are judged by other people, and how you're analyzed subliminally . This has alerted you to the reasons why it's so important for you to make appropriate changes to your body language "state ."

You've also been motivated into moving forward! And remember--no sick notes!

key PoinTs:

� Be aware of your blink factor--what do your first impressions say

about you?

� Start by goal planning.

� Create small toolkits of behavior for specific situations.

� Know your strengths and USPs.


inneR' s guide A Beg

To P osTuRe


n this chapter you'll be working on your own body

language signals, as well as discovering some new tricks and techniques to make sure you're marketing yourself to the max . This is the key work-out section of the book, a kind of body language gym where you can start to hone your skills and increase your competency .

The ulTimATe PoweR Pose This simple but effective technique will form the basis of all the rest of the work you're going to do . In body language terms it's a one-size-fits-all . This realignment technique will be appropriate whatever your circum- stances . It creates a perfect springboard for all your other gestures and signals . Get this one wrong and you'll never get the other stuff right . 60 T he B O Dy LA ng U A ge R U Le S

There are two very good bits of news about doing this:

1 . It's quick and easy .

2 . It will affect the way you feel .

chAngIng yOUR STATe You can use your posture to motivate, invigorate, uplift and even nourish yourself . The Power Pose you're about to do will make you look better, feel healthier, and grow in confidence and self-esteem . It's an instant body language make-over .

Let's take a look at your "normal" posture . How do you normally stand or sit?

I Are you straight-backed or stooped?

I Do you pull your shoulders forward in a self-protective gesture or

stretch your chest wide, looking confident or confrontational?

I how do you stand or sit when you're under pressure? Does

your posture become more compliant or more

arrogant? Do you curl up or does your chest

widen out?

I how do you stand or sit when you're tired or depressed? Do

you slump more? Do you lie with your knees

pulled up?

Power Posing is part of the technique called changing your state . By looking more confident you'll start to feel more confident . Body language affects your emotional A B e gI n n e R ' S g U I D e T O P OS T U Re 61

and mental well-being hugely . It's hard to look positive and feel down at the same time . The latest psychological thinking states that putting your best face forward is much more important than previously thought . We're now told that actually putting on a "best face" of the type you'd use with strangers when you're trying to be polite is really good for you! It makes you feel better! The act is self-prophesying! What you look like is what you feel .

POWeRIng UP Now that I've sold you on Power Posturing, you're about to feel cheated . Why? Because it's so darned easy . Virtually effortless, in fact . You'll wonder how something so basic can also be so life-changing . You'll think I overestimated by telling you it will make you feel better, look better, lose weight, and get a partner . You'll think "no pain, no gain" and wonder if I'm selling snake oil . But try it . It really does work . No one says everything good has to be hard to do .

Get yourself in front of a full-length mirror . If possible, find a place where you can see your back and side views too . Stand nude or in your underwear (unless you're doing it in a public place of course, but I suggest you'll feel safer in the privacy of your own bathroom or bedroom) .

Stand normally . And I mean normally, no cheating . 62 T he B O Dy LA ng U A ge R U Le S

Now, take these ten simple steps:

1 . Pull yourself up to full height by stretching your

spine as though you're trying to touch the ceiling

with the top of your head . This will make you look

pounds lighter .

2 . Keep your head straight, so that your chin is held

at a right angle .

3 . Wriggle your toes to make yourself feet-aware .

Your feet are your power base, like the roots of

a tree . If your feet aren't "well-planted"--for

example, you're wearing wobbly high heels or

your body weight is unevenly distributed because

you're shifting between one foot and the other or

your legs are crossed--then you're depleting your

own personal power dramatically . I'm no fan of

sensible shoes but it's possible for women to wear

boots or well-balanced shoes that create a feeling

of power . A higher heel can add to this perceived

self-confidence but please steer clear of anything

that makes you teeter about . Men's shoes are

designed for proper power walking but women

tend to wear shoes that aren't practical . This adds

to the perception of inequality and an unequal

power-versus-status balance in the workplace .

Stand with your body weight evenly balanced on

your feet . A B e gI n n e R ' S g U I D e T O P OS T U Re 63

4 . Roll your shoulders in a circle, upward first and

forward, then back and down . Keep them in the

back and down position .

5 . Allow your fingertips to brush against the sides of

your thighs .

6 . Subtly push your lower pelvis forward a little

so that your spine is completely straight . This

entails pushing your bottom in and under . (Men

should be rather more subtle with this move

than women .)

7 . Take a deep breath in, and then allow all the air to

be expelled from your lungs in a slow exhale .

8 . Pull your stomach in .

9 . Realign your shoulders in case they've slumped as

you exhaled .

10 . Smile!

Look in the mirror again . How do you look? How do you feel? Better? More positive? How long did that take? A couple of seconds? I told you it was easy . Now all you've got to work out is how to get that charismatic posture in motion so you can get off to work .

youR Pole PosiTion I am no fan of overly choreographed body language but in this book I shall be coaching you to be charming . 64 T he B O Dy LA ng U A ge R U Le S

Please don't confuse charm with smarm . Charm is a genuine component of charisma . Smarm is something else, though . Smarm means using overcongruent body language, falling over yourself to impress or be liked . We'll find out more about charm in later chapters, but for the moment just keep the thought in your head that smarm is illegal, at least according to The Body Language Rules .

Forget being too perfect, then .

Body lAnguAge Rules Rule 4:

geTTing iT All RighT meAns geTTing iT wRong

However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't get it at least half right .

I always impress on people that it's a very good idea to at least start right with your body language . I call this getting into pole position . Start well and finish better, but start well and go slowly downhill and at least you'll know they saw you looking good during the blink, or first impression . Start badly and go downhill and you might as well give up .

Get in front of the full-length mirror again, only this time take a prop with you . Your prop for pole position training will be a chair, only don't use it yet because we're going to do the standing stuff first . A B e gI n n e R ' S g U I D e T O P OS T U Re 65

POSTURe I hope you know how to stand . If you don't then you're either a spectacular drunk or you have a serious couch potato habit .

But how do you feel about standing when people are looking at you? What about when you stand to make that business presentation or wedding speech, or to chat with that girl you like in the bar? Suddenly standing isn't so easy any more because you feel self-conscious . By creating a standing "pole position" you can rehearse a pose beforehand, meaning you won't feel awkward at all next time it happens .

I Stand normally and look at your reflection . How do your

hands feel? Are you using barrier gestures like

folded arms or clasped hands to make you feel more

comfortable? Then unclasp them . Let your arms

hang by your sides as you did with your Power Pose .

I now, think feet . No need to look down at them

because that will just make you feel off balance,

just think of them instead . Get the weight of

your body firmly balanced between the sole and

the heel of your foot . And keep your weight right

down the middle of each foot, too . Stand with your

feet about shoulder-width apart (less for women)

and have your toes pointing either straight or

slightly outward . 66 T he B O Dy LA ng U A ge R U Le S

I now work on your legs . Straighten them but don't make

them so rigid that your knees lock .

I Pull your spine straight, your shoulders back and down, and tilt

that pelvis slightly forward as you did in your Power Pose .

I Look at your arms and hands in the mirror . These will need

some working on . Try to pick a position where

they look good, rather than one where they just

feel comfortable . Your ideal pole position might

be so alien to you that it feels odd, but I promise

this feeling will vanish after you've been doing it

for a while . Your body needs to learn what's called

muscle memory, which means it gets used to the

feeling of a new movement .

There is no one-size-fits-all with your arms and hands, which is why I'm not going to be overly prescriptive . A lot depends on your body shape, your arm length, the size of your belly, and so on . If you're tubby with short arms it's no good me telling you to clasp your hands in front of your body because this is going to look downright silly . If you're skinny and long-limbed like me you'll have arm length to spare, but then you might end up in the fig-leaf pose, which for men means hands clasped across the genitals, which is not a good look unless you're defending a free kick in soccer .

You can try out a variety of hand/arm poses . Once you see how dumb most of them look you'll be glad you put A B e gI n n e R ' S g U I D e T O P OS T U Re 67

in some practice now, rather than halfway through that business presentation or pick-up line . I'll be giving you more specific tips in the next few chapters, coaching you through killer moments like business meetings or social events, but for now just make sure you've got at least one pose that works . Then it's up to you to keep using it until it both feels and looks natural and comfortable .

Now's the time to bring your prop in . Pull that chair in front of the mirror and sit down . Your second pole position needs to be done sitting down because that's the way you usually communicate in meetings .

You'll need to work on two sitting pole positions, one for a chair with arms and one without . The second option is the more challenging because it makes your arm movement more limited .

I Sit into the back of the chair unless you're so small this means

your feet dangle off the ground . If this happens sit forward

until they touch the floor .

I Straighten your back and don't slump .

I either cross your legs at the thigh (for a man or a woman) or sit

with them slightly open (if you're a man) .

I If your chair has arms, rest your elbows on the arms, with your

hands loosely clasped in front of you . If the arms are too

wide apart, rest one elbow on one arm and let your

other elbow rest on your leg so that your hands can

be loosely clasped . 68 T he B O Dy LA ng U A ge R U Le S

I If your chair is armless, clasp your hands loosely and place

them in your lap .

I Or try resting one elbow on the back of the chair, with your

arms clasped loosely . (This is quite casual so not for

formal occasions .)

I And watch that hand clasp . You can mesh your fingers or

just place one hand lightly over the other but don't

use a tight clasp or do what's called finger steepling,

by which I mean pointing some fingers into a

V-shape, either aimed at your own chin or toward

the person you're talking to . I'll explain why not

later in the book, but for now I'll just say it can

make you look very arrogant .

POWeR WALkIng Now that you've perfected the art of standing and sitting (your key pole positions that will get you started) it's time to get your coordination going sufficiently to walk .

Sounds easy? You've been walking since you were a toddler--how hard can it be? The problem is you've been walking without thinking about it . Your walk techniques have been subconscious, reproduced on a regular basis by your muscle memory . Now's the time to drag the skills kicking and screaming into the conscious mind, which will make you feel uncomfortable, awkward, and too self-aware . A B e gI n n e R ' S g U I D e T O P OS T U Re 69

Like all your bodytalk, though, it's vital that you're aware of the current reality . If your walk is "ideal" you're very lucky and very much in the minority . Did you ever people-watch from a window, studying people as they walk down the road? How many walks looked okay and how many were in dire need of urgent restruc- turing? Grab a pair of your oldest, most well-worn shoes from the closet . Take a glance at the heels . How are they worn? What angle are they at? Do you have a chip out at the back, or are the sides worn at an angle? This should begin to give you a clue about your own alignment .

I spent several years as a runway model and several more years teaching models--including Naomi Campbell--how to walk . Very few people have what I would call a naturally good walk and some of the top catwalk models had to have their entire walk pulled to pieces before being reconstructed into something that looks fabulous but effortless .

So--get in front of that full-length mirror again, only this time stand as far back as possible . Get into your Power Posture pose (stretched spine, dropped shoulders, chin level, and so on) .

I Tuck your pelvis in and under (less so for the guys!) .

I Allow your arms to hang loosely by your sides, keeping them

slightly to the back . 70 T he B O Dy LA ng U A ge R U Le S

I keep looking straight ahead . It might feel as though

you need to look at your feet but this will have a

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