The Body Language Rules (6 page)

BOOK: The Body Language Rules
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negative effect on your balance .

I extend your right foot, placing your right heel lightly down on

to the floor .

I Begin to peel off your left foot, keeping your weight over that

foot, rather than tilting forward and leading with your head .

I Let your arms swing very slightly with the left arm coming

forward at the same time as your right leg .

I keep your pace slightly smaller than usual .

I keep walking, coordinating all these movements until they

become smooth and natural looking .

If you're trying this workout you might be thinking that it could take ten years or more before this all starts to look natural . Two vital tips here:

Body lAnguAge Rules Rule 5: don'T PAniC!

Body lAnguAge Rules Rule 6: keeP PRACTiCing!

It's normal to look stiff at this stage of the exercise . If you look relaxed I'd suspect you're not trying as hard as you could . Remember you're changing something you've been doing nearly all your life . Keep going, though, and the work will be worth it, I promise . Your body will suddenly A B e gI n n e R ' S g U I D e T O P OS T U Re 71

get it and the walk will look great . It won't take ten years, more like ten minutes or maybe a few sessions lasting ten minutes each . Oh, by the way, relax those fingers; they look too rigid!

Learning your Power Pose and your pole positions has been an easy way to create a sound base for all the rest of your body language work . Whatever else you learn as you read this book you should never suffer from neural pruning (dropping something you've learned to make room when you learn something new) when it comes to these two basic ways of holding yourself . Getting these right is like putting the best gasoline in your car or the right food-fuel in your body . Take a few seconds each morning to look in the mirror to get your Power Pose right, then reboot at work when you feel yourself drooping .

key PoinTs:

� Power Pose--get your alignment right.

� Pole Position--perfect your basic first-step pose for sitting and

standing .

� Power Walk--get that Power Pose on the move by perfecting your

basic walking techniques .

chAPTeR FIVe

ges TuRes

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his chapter will move you from postural awareness

and excellence to thinking about all your gestures . Self-analysis can be tough, as self-awareness does tend to lead to awkwardness at first . But controlling your body gestures is as vital a competency as being able to control the words that come out of your mouth .

This isn't paint-by-numbers . I'm going to tell you what your nonverbal communications signal to other people, but you shouldn't go running off with the idea that you can compile some sort of Photoshop bodytalk image of yourself that will be universally loved, admired, and respected .

PlAying By The Rules There are very few rules when it comes to good and bad body language . Although I'm sure there would be something very comforting in creating a special section 74 T he B O Dy LA ng U A ge R U Le S

of body language dos and don'ts, I'm not going to . If I did you'd very quickly start to think I was being unfair . You'd start looking at other speakers and you'd spot at least a few very good orators who used the gestures I'd banned you from using . In fact, most of the great speakers I've seen appear to break every "rule" in the body language book .

Let's have a look at some high-profile names and their effect and image balancing acts .

PRInce chARLeS We've all read he has a butler put his toothpaste on his toothbrush for him . This could render him about as popular with the proletarians as Marie Antoinette . However, his public persona is distinctly lacking in signs of status or even wealth . His clothes look unfashionable and sometimes even well worn and his nervous self-touch rituals and furrowed brow signal anxiety and a touch of subservience .

PRInceSS DIAnA Being a designer clotheshorse and a princess could have made Diana appear haughty and remote . However, she consistently delivered a body language masterclass . She was a consummate mirrorer, flexing her own body language style to fit whomever she was with, effectively lowering her own status and heightening theirs accord- ingly . She was also brilliant at producing self-effacing g e S T U Re S 75

gestures at exactly the right time . On one occasion she appeared at a glittering state banquet looking perhaps her most elegant, with her hair pinned up and a tiara on her head . As she walked away from the cameras she turned quickly and pulled a little face, patting the back of her hair . She was skilled at making her audiences feel as though she was their best friend .

mARILyn mOnROe Possibly the best image balancer ever, Marilyn Monroe managed to portray overt sexuality and an almost childlike innocence and vulnerability in equal measures . She did this by alternating swiftly from one to another with each appearing and disappearing at exactly the right speed . One minute she was doe-eyed, with a shy-looking dropped chin . Next minute that chin would be thrown back and her eyes half closed to simulate the state of orgasm . This ability to blend two extremes made her unique . The modern unacceptability of blending these extremes has ensured we won't see her kind again, at least not as a popular and universally loved character .

show, don'T Tell This is an enduring learning point from this book, so much so that it deserves the rulebook treatment, so: 76 T he B O Dy LA ng U A ge R U Le S

Body lAnguAge Rules Rule 7: show, don'T Tell!

This is a golden rule for all your body language performances .

Words are about telling but your body language is all about showing . It's a bit like sex . Anybody who tells you they are a good lover isn't . How do I know? Because they felt the need to tell you . Someone really hot in bed would just let their technique do the talking . When they tell you, they're projecting what they want you to tell them .

It's the same thing with businesses: "We're customer- focused," "We always exceed expectations," "I'm a people person"; or housemates on Big Brother: "I'm really funny," "I'm always entertaining," "I'm a really nice person ." This is all tell, tell, tell . And when they're given the chance to prove their statement? Guess what, they're rubbish .

By showing, you offer proof . You can't tell people you're friendly and warm if your body language is saying "I'm a sociopath ." However, you could just keep quiet, smile in a friendly way, and use open gestures, and they'll soon be telling you what a nice, decent sort of person you are and how much they want to be your friend .

Showing is a body language thing, then . Your overall signals will take care of the showing . Your hand gestures and eye contact will act as endorsements to your message . g e S T U Re S 77

Now: a guide to body language excellence . It's basic but it's easy to do . Any time used will be time invested but I don't expect it to break into your day too much .

A guide To youR oveRAll Body lAnguAge signAling Let's take a general look at your body language signals and divide them into useful and nonuseful "types ." This is to help you identify different sets of gestures and under- stand when you're using positive or negative nonverbal communications . Remember, the worst thing is to allow your signals to run along unchallenged .

PhySIOLOgIcAL SIgnALS These are all those body signals that you're almost powerless to control, like blushing, blotchy nerve rashes, sweating, and shaking or trembling . Although these symptoms have a certain amount of comic value, they're no laughing matter when you're suffering from them .

They are all caused by the power of your mind controlling your body . Although they're all quite natural, they're only supposed to occur in the face of physical danger . They're caused by adrenalin and that rush of energy you get as an animal when you're threatened by a bigger animal . It's your fight-or-flight mechanism kicking in, but it's your fight-or-flight response being rather overzealous, 78 T he B O Dy LA ng U A ge R U Le S

especially if it's triggered by a first date or a meeting with the boss .

Excessive sweating has caused problems for a lot of politicians and TV celebrities . Former Prime Minister Tony Blair had a famous case of patches on the shirt during a keynote speech a few years ago, and several acres of rainforest went under the axe as newspapers discussed the whys of the PM getting so damp . Was it stress? Was it nerves? Perhaps it was nothing more than very hot lights or a warm room .

I've seen hundreds of businesswomen break out in neck blotches when put under pressure . Do businessmen suffer the same problem? Who knows, they're muffled to the beard line with collars and ties . Perhaps they're gleaming crimson underneath, but the point is you'd never know, and that's a key tip for women to remember: if you know you get blotchy on a regular basis, then try wearing higher necklines .

helPful TiPs The best way to deal with anxiety symptoms like these is to go to the source of the problem . Stress management techniques will help, but the optimum cure is to work on your inner confidence and your perceptions of external stimuli . Very few scenarios that produce sweating or shaking are life-threatening, they just feel as if they are . g e S T U Re S 79

Remember that your body is only trying to be helpful; it's the messages from your brain to your body that are causing the problem . I like to call this my "inner diva," a classic case of the drama queen who overreacts to any situation in a bid to get maximum attention .

The problem with your inner diva is that once she's kicked off she's self-perpetuating . She starts all the sweating, trembling, and blotchiness in motion and then goes off on an even bigger hissy fit about the chaos she's caused to your body . After a few minutes you're sweating about the sweating!

Here are some excellent techniques to shut the diva down .

I Use mental affirmations . One that I teach in stress

courses is: "It's not a lion ." It links to the thought

that although your situation might be important,

it's not a matter of life and death; you're not being

pursued by a man-eating lion . Make up your own

affirmation and repeat it in your head as a mantra

to create calm .

I Breathing exercises will help . Breathe in through your

nose until your lungs are at full capacity, then

breathe out slowly via your mouth, allowing your

body to empty and relax as you do so .

I If your hands get sweaty, carry some freshen-up wipes to cool

them before you go into a meeting . 80 T he B O Dy LA ng U A ge R U Le S

I never douse your hands or face with cold water in a bid to

cool down . The effects will only be transitory as your

body will overheat as a result in a bid to balance the

sudden temperature change .

I Try cosmetics for blushing or a nervous rash . The ones

most commonly available are either a green-tinted

moisturizer (both men and women can use this) or

a green-tinted foundation or face powder . (Guys

might decide to skip these two options .) They

don't show as green on the skin, as the green tone

just negates the redness of the face or neck .

I There are also several products available to remove sweat

sheen from the face . They're also sited on the cosmetic

counters but are unisex . They're either fluids or

lotions that create a matte finish to the skin .

I hopefully I don't need to advise the use of antiperspirant

deodorants, but just in case there's someone who has slipped

through the net... they will help prevent the curse of the sweat

rings under the armpits .

PeRFORmeD SIgnALS These will be the signals that your body produces to get what you feel are your best results from any transaction . Unlike your physiological signals, they will be conscious or at least semiconscious and help define what you feel to be your "ideal" image state . g e S T U Re S 81

LeAkAge SIgnALS These are all those fiddles, twiddles, twitches, rituals, and other unbidden signals that appear to be your body's way of letting your true feelings be known without your permission . They are the honest brokers of the body language world but they are also a total pain, as they are usually responsible for letting truths you'd rather keep suppressed out for all to see .

mIcRO-geSTUReS These are the subtlest of all body language signals and will almost without exception be part of your body language leakage . The good news is that they are so tiny and fleeting that they are often invisible to the naked eye . The bad news is that they can work as subliminal communicators, meaning your audience might not know you did it but they got the message nevertheless .

cOmPLIAnT SIgnALS Society depends on compliance . If nobody backed down we'd be extinct within months . Our network of complex dominance and compliance signals is in use on a virtually permanent basis, as each transaction we do relies on a harmonious balancing act for it to be successful .

When the balancing act tips, even slightly, our response is far bigger than the event itself . 82 T he B O Dy LA ng U A ge R U Le S

When you go into a shop to buy goods, you expect to be dominant in that transaction . As the customer you will have the expectation of a degree of compliance from the person who serves you . In fact the word "serve" gives a huge clue to the nature of the power balance in this situation .

Most shop workers are trained to be compliant, some more than others . Some shops have what they call a "can- do" culture, training their staff to bend over backward for the customer . Others are less submissive but the balance is always pretty much in favor of the customer .

To signal this compliance the "server" is expected to smile more as they offer help . But this isn't always the case . Some shop staff excel at raising their own status via body language or behavior techniques, some of which are so subtle the customer has no idea how they happened or what they did, only that they felt insulted and crushed by what's often called "attitude ."

In a social group scenario, compliance will be vital for group polarization . All social groups consist of dominant and compliant roles that can be fixed or transitory . We're all affected by what's called the normative influence--that is, a desire to be liked and accepted . The easiest way to be liked is to be submissive and compliant . Often mistakenly we feel that doing what other people want will make them like us . Sometimes we discover too late that they have no respect for us . g e S T U Re S 83

STATUS AnD POWeR SIgnALS We all like to flex our power muscles now and again, some of us more than others . Celebrities are possibly the worst Power Posturers in the world, probably because their power depends on a very defined pecking order that is constantly on the move . Power signals aren't all bad then, but it's important you get the balance right .

Imagine going into work each day and having to form a line in order of importance . This is what happens to actors every time they make a movie or TV show . Up there for all the world to see is the cast list in order of status . Not only is the order of names important, but so is the size of the typeface used and how long the name is left on screen . This is why we get to see odd-looking billing categories like "Also Starring" and "Special Guest Star ." What this usually means is that there's been the mother of all fights between the agent and the production company to hike a star up the pecking order .

In business there are job titles, but these have become obscure enough to be virtually meaningless . Hierarchical terms like "the boss" and "support staff" are practically extinct .

Money is the biggest pecking order in most companies, which is why earnings are kept strictly under wraps . I once worked with a company where a disgruntled HR manager had "accidentally" posted a list of everyone's wages to 84 T he B O Dy LA ng U A ge R U Le S

every computer in the firm . The tidal wave of discontent and resentment caused by this has lasted for years and still exists to this day .

Status displays and Power Posturing displays are rife in modern life, possibly because of this need to show who's "the boss ." As I've stated, the dominance-versus- compliance power balance is relentless in our daily lives . As you pick your way through each transaction, you show a welter of dominance or compliance signals that you might not even be aware of . Here are some of the categories .

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