What is your body language saying – right now? We all know that others are constantly interpreting our signals. But did you know that our own bodies are also affecting what our brains are thinking? Yes, our brains listen to our own body language. In this episode, Dr. Andrea and executive coach Cynthia Barlow share their insights and expertise about how to communicate confidence and openness, what to do (and what not to do) with your hands, and even how robots are learning body language!
SHOWNOTES – BODY LANGUAGE
- 3 Key Learnings
- References & Links
- Andrea’s Commentary & Research
- Interview Transcript
3 Key Learnings
- We know a lot about body language – to the point that we are programming robots to leverage body language. Scientists focusing on HRI (Human Robot Interaction) are programming robots to both encode and decode body language.
- Generally speaking, “attractive” body language means two things:
- Be confident and expansive. Take up lots of space. Try the “power pose” (hands on your hips, push your chest out like Wonder Woman, take a deep breath). Sit or stand up straight and breathe deeply. Oxygenate your brain and your whole body. Take big steps. Raise your hand up high when asking a question.
- Be open. Be physically vulnerable. No crossing your arms. Show your hands. Keep your hands on the table, and no hands in your pockets.
- Focusing on body language requires effort, but it’s well worth it! Self-awareness is a fundamental pillar of emotional intelligence and effective communication. Other people are constantly interpreting our body language signals. Our body language also affects what our own brains are thinking. If you want to look and feel confident, then act confident.
References & Links
HRI – Human Robot Interaction
Professor Amy Cuddy on Body Language
Brene Brown on Vulnerability
Confidence & Openness
Dr. Andrea’s Commentary & Research
You’ve probably heard that body language accounts for a significant proportion – like 95% – of what we are saying. Body language is worth our attention. We can improv our communication if we understand and leverage our own body language.
TYPES OF VERBAL & NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION
- Verbal communication includes VOCAL ELEMENTS including Rate, Volume, Articulation, Pronunciation, Fluency & Pitch.
- Non-verbal communication, includes BODY LANGUAGE or KINESICS. Other types of non-verbal communication:
- HAPTICS (or touch – like when someone touches your arm. Or how firmly they shake your hand. That’s Haptics.)
- PROXEMICS (which are related to distance – as in “get outta my personal space”. That’s Proxemics.)
- OCULESICS (or communicating with our eyes. Oculesics considers things like eye contact and pupil dialation.)
- CHRONEMICS (or the use of TIME. So, for example punctuality—which, BTW, communicates respect for the other person, right? The next time someone apologizes to me for being late, I will say “No problem. I understand you are simply demonstrating your disrespect for me via chronemics.”….
HRI or “HUMAN-ROBOT INTERACTION”
- HRI relates to A.I. (artificial intelligence) and robotics, and other technology pursuits that are advancing so quickly. As humans are interacting with robotics, there is of course, the verbal communication. The voice commands. Think Siri, only more sophisticated with robots.
- In addition to verbal interaction, humans and robots can also communicate via body language! Scientists who are working on HRI, Human Robot Interaction, have to establish a clear, objective understanding of body language, so that robots can decode, or interpret, human behaviors. Communication is 2-way. So these scientists also program the robots to encode or communicate by displaying appropriate body language so that humans can also interpret robot behaviors.
- The point? Our command of body language goes well beyond the latent and anecdotal. Our understanding of body language has advanced to the point that scientists focusing on HRI can program robots to decode and encode body language.
- If youre interested in learning more about HRI, I have included a few links to various papers in the show notes for this episode at TalkAboutTalk.com.
FOCUSING ON BODY LANGUAGE REQUIRES EFFORT – BUT IT’S WORTH IT!
- Of course, we all know that other people are constantly interpreting the signals and the queues that we are communicating through our body language. In addition, there is research substantiating that our body language also affects what our own brains are thinking. Our body language is not just communicating to other people, but also to our own brain. Our brain is also listening to our body.
- Professor Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard, has studied this phenomenon in detail. One of the things she says is “Don’t fake it till you make it, fake it till you BECOME it.”
HOW CAN WE APPEAR MORE CONFIDENT?
- If we want to appear confident, then we should be demonstrating physical dominance. This doesn’t mean that we have to be bigger than other person, although, of course, that might help. And our physical dominance also cant be too overt, or it might backfire.
- Some queues that we should consider:
- Offer a firm handshake with direct eye contact and a smile. These are manifest queues that our parents taught us. But ….a little reminder cant hurt? (You’re welcome.)
- Be expansive. How much space are you taking up? Have you heard the saying: “You get the space you deserve”? Take a look at authoritative managers or politicians – you will probably notice that many of them take up a lot of space….
- If youre standing or walking, being expansive means standing up straight with your shoulders back. Being expansive also means taking big steps.
- If you are sitting, this means proper posture. It means raising your hand way up if you have a Q. Next time you’re seated around a table – be in in your dining room, or in a meeting room – take a look around at how much space people are taking up.
- Have you heard of the power pose? Stand up straight, put your hands on your hips, and pushing your chest out like Wonder Woman, take a deep breathe. Be big. The power pose should improve your mood, your energy, and maybe even your blood chemistry. Pretty cool, right? This power pose is very open.
- Research shows that if you want to appear attractive, confidence is important. But so is openness. How do we demonstrate openness?
- First, keep your body pose open. Don’t cross your arms or legs, which may indicate nervousness or disinterest. Allow yourself to be physically vulnerable.
- Second, show your hands. If you’re seated around a table, rest your hands, or your arms and your hands, ON the table. Don’t hide them under the table. Don’t fidget. If youre standing, keep your hands out of your pockets. Sure, this is all implicit, but we trust people who are open and whose hands we can see.
So you got it? Make eye contact.
Shake hands firmly. Smile. Sit or stand up straight.
Take up lots of space. And show your hands.?
Introducing our guest, Cynthia Barlow
- Perhaps not coincidentally, Cynthia has beautiful hands and she uses hand gestures a lot when she is speaking. If you listen carefully, you might even hear her use her hands to smack that table we are seated at for the interview!
- Cynthia Barlow is a facilitator, author, coach, and founder of C3 Conversations Inc, (http://c3conversations.com/) which focusses on leadership development through emotionally intelligent communication. Cynthia has conducted workshops, programs and retreats for companies such as Bank of America, TD Bank, Bell Canada, Amex Canada and various government ministries. She also works one-on-one coaching top executives from fortune 500 companies to mid-level managers and emerging leaders.
- Cynthia is also an author and a speaker, and I can tell you personally that from the first time I met Cynthia, I was drawn to her and I wanted to hear what she had to say.
Dr. Andrea Wojnicki: Welcome, Cynthia. And thank you so much for joining us.
Cynthia Barlow: Thank you for having me. It’s my pleasure.
AW: My first question for you, Cynthia, other than the words we say, what are some of the most important ways that we communicate?
CB: Andrea, we are basically communicating every second of the day, whether our mouth is associated with that or not in our body is screaming who we are. You declare yourself when you walk into the room. Your body doesn’t lie. So if in doubt, don’t believe the body – because the body will tell the truth.
Probably the single most important thing is eye contact. What I found is that most people don’t maintain it because they’re too busy thinking of their own rebuttal. Hello, as soon as that person stops talking, here’s what I’m going to say.
CB: And so eye contact follows the thought process and if I’m thinking about …Okay, I don’t know what the answer to that I’m now no longer even engaged with the person that I’m talking to. So that’s probably the single biggest thing that people are looking at when they first walk in. Eye contact. It’s how we judge sincerity.
AW: Non-consciously though, right?
CB: Oh, it’s completely unconscious. We have about a 5% consciousness. I don’t want to call it a ratio. But capacity out of 100%, 95% of it is operating under the radar screen. So I say it’s a little bit like using my Mac. I have no clue how it works. But I understand Word. I understand Excel. I understand some software packages. I have no clue how the darn computer works. Same thing with us. We are 95% EXE files, none of which do I understand, but I know if I mess with them. It could affect the way my software packages work, right? And so I’ve got glitches in my consciousness. So that’s it’s the same way with communication. We have 95% is being motivated. By stuff we aren’t even aware of. Right?
AW: Or communicated by things we aren’t even aware of. So 5% is literally the words that are written on the transcript. And the other 95% is things like eye contact. And what else?
CB: Oh, things like that. Mm hmm. So the nonverbal signals. We are watching the meta messages, meta messages being things that are not being said, but that are being communicated via the body, the tone of voice, right. And given that you’re in a relationship, you have children, you understand, it’s sometimes not what people say. But that old adage – “it’s the way you said it,” you know, and so we communicate its tone and pitch, and volume and when women in particular we can get into gender differences
AW: I’d love to.
CB: Oh, well, let’s take a little left hand turn right now. The way we are and … I’ll use the word “discriminated against” — in communication is an additional fence to have to jump. So, for example, I was coaching an EVP out of a big company in Paris.
CB: She was the only woman at the table executive committee only woman. This is a French culture, extremely private, very contained no displays of emotion. And for heaven sakes, don’t tell people what you really think it’s all very – polite. I like to call it pretend.
AW: Very rational, very objective.
CB: Yes. And so if you have a degree of emotion around a decision you’d like to see implemented, or recommendation that you’re making to the CEO and you are the only woman and you feel passionately about this and you’re being taken down by the other men, the other 11 men at the table. How do you get your point across without being accused of …”Settle down Missy, don’t get your knickers in a bunch.”
AW: It’s such a stereotype.
CB: It is. It is. And so in certain situations, it is the, it’s what tips the scale into …. Okay. She really believes we’re going to, we’re going to implement this.
AW: So there’s an interesting message there, right? So save it for when you need it. Yes. They hear it all the time.
CB: Exactly, especially when you’re in that place of emotion. And it doesn’t mean you ignore your emotions. It means you know how to leash them. And, and I say, it’s like walking your dog. There’s two ways to walk a dog, the dog walks you or you walk the dog.
AW: That’s a great metaphor.
CB: And thank you very much. I made that up. So you get to tell the dog when they can go when they can’t go. And the problem is that takes training up front, right? People don’t want to spend the time. Same with our emotions, they steer the ship. They are the 95% our limbic brain which procedure our neocortex through which we have rational thinking, from which we think we’re communicating. So cogently, right is being directed from behind the scenes like the little man and the Wizard of Oz going, you know, “don’t look over here – ignore that guy by the limbic brain,” which is where the mental is, which is where we perceived danger and threat. So all we need now and that’s instinctual. That’s evolutionary, we can’t outrun that nobody can . The best you can learn is to identify and then take that I say, “punch the pause button.: Take a deep breath. If you are in a chair, lean back. I mean, that’s one of the best tips I have for communicating more effectively – BREATHE, because when we’re not breathing, we’re not getting oxygen to our brain. And so now we’re like blaaaa.
AW: I feel like this deep breathing is coming out in so many contexts. It’s how do you reduce anxiety? How do you get to sleep at night?
CB: Yoga! Tai Chi!
AW: We have to breathe deeply. I guess it helps with communication as well.
CB: Absolutely because one of the first things to go is our brain. When we’re under stress, all of our blood vessels are being constricted. We don’t have any control over this. This is auto. This is part of that 95% that’s all handled for us. And so our blood flow is being redirected to our major muscle groups in order to run away or to turn and fight the perceived threat. And if the perceived threat is your N+2, your boss’s boss is coming down the hallway, and you see him, and you have 40 paces, and he’s coming right at you. And meanwhile, your head now is thinking, “What do I say? How do I say it? Where do I look”….And that’s the first sign you’re in stress. Nice DEEP BREATH. Walk by, nod your head, and say, “Morning.” Keep going. Breathe deeply.
AW: Okay, so I may have heard about breathing deeply in this context. I’ve definitely heard about the eye contact. And just for the record – for the listeners… I’m now really trying to engage Cynthia in active eye contact. I’m making sure that I’m not looking at my notes.
CB: So part of what that 95% below the those in the subconscious that’s handling all these things for us. First of all, it processes 40 million bits of information per second. I want you to think about that a second. 40 million bits of information. Your conscious mind and mine engaged in this conversation or processing 40 right? ….and so we’re picking up information like this (Yes, that noise is Cynthia SNAPPING HER FINGERS! Using her body language!) and synthesizing it into a whole, which is what the unconscious is so good at – disparate pieces of information and how they might link together. Whereas the conscious mind is very much more linear. It’s less abstract. Its abilities to gather disparate pieces of information that seem to contradict We will choose one or the other. The unconscious goes BOTH-AND, instead of EITHER-OR. And so, for example, in your business or mine, we might leave a room thinking we’ve given it our best shot. And we still come out with these doubts. And “… he never said anything. But I just have this feeling that I didn’t get the gig.” Whatever. You’re picking up on the unstated communications being processed but you’re not able to pinpoint the actual data because it’s just (SNAP) comes to like that.
AW: Did you say 40 million?
CB: Yes. 40 million. What I hopefully teach some people is: be aware of the assumptions, like one of the biggest mistakes that people make, that I see, is assuming that what they’re picking up on is about them because they’re in conversation, right?
AW: So it’s attribution theory, right?
CB: Yeah. Confirmation bias? Yeah, it’s all about….so for example, this is the one I use in my classes. My father was the disciplinarian and my mother never did any of that. But she had this look. She had a look where she would stand with her weight thrust onto her left hip, cross her arms and her right eyebrow would rise. Okay so it was this.
okay yeah and there that’s it! It’s a critical look – like “I see what you did bad child!” Okay, I’m of an age now … I can be sitting with a group of well-educated articulate people, who I know are not criticizing me and I will see somebody do that this is a real example happened many years ago, but I did see someone you know 25th row back for 4 in from the aisle and he did that thing. He crossed his arms and he tilted his head and his right eyebrow for a one up and I went – AHHHHH! What did I do to piss him off? So, I had learned enough by then to check out my assumptions. I went to him at the break. And I said, “I just want check. You know, when I was talking about x y z…”
AW: Well, good for you.
CB: I saw this. I’m just checking. Did I piss you off? Was I off-putting? “No, no, no, I just realized I had left something unplugged …” or whatever it was, he had left something undone in his home before he got there that morning. And he just remembered. That was the look of self-criticism. And I assumed it’s about me.
AW: So part of the message, I guess, is that when you are in a situation where you’re communicating, and you can check in with someone in a way that’s effective for everybody that’s around — you can or should. But if you can’t, don’t let it disarm you. Because chances are it’s not about you.
CB: And if you are a single, you know, presenter– like what you do– you’re going in and you’re making a presentation for your services. I feel very strongly about the fact that if your brain is involved in the conversation going “Uh-oh, what just happened? Something doesn’t feel right.” And you can’t really quite put it together because there’s nothing obvious. There’s no one-liner that you know, has shut the room down. There’s just this… like, there’s an unspoken agenda or something, I name it.
AW: You NAME it?
CB: Absolutely. I will stop in the middle of a class or a middle of our presentation. And if you need a chance to catch up …No one gets defensive here. They get curious. Why do you need time? So I do a timeout, and I say “timeout.” (Yes, she makes the “T” sign with her hands) And I’ll be with a group and I’ll say “I just want to check in on something. I feel….” whatever it is, I kind of feel like john, maybe you’ve checked out. Do you have something else you do? I’ve seen you look at your phone three times. I give the data. So in communication, what we generally do… We take in data from our five senses, we put it through this contextual filter, which is that 5% that contains all our natural biases – How we were raised, what we are preferences and is built on, or ultimately ends up forming — the belief structures…
AW: Right? So this is the 5% that can articulate to the room after the time out. Here’s what I’m observing. By the way, this takes a lot of confidence.
CB: And it takes a lot of practice so that you can say, John, I just saw you lift your right eyebrow, you wouldn’t know this. (That’s Cynthia using her body language again – smacking the table!) But my mom used to do that same thing when she was trying to tell me I’d been a bad girl so I’m just checking in…
AW: Have I been a bad girl?
CB: Yeah, and I will lighten the whole tone. Did you hear how my voice changed? So it’s not a big deal. Just checking in because, you know… and then they, because it’s not confrontive, it’s more curious.
AW: Well, you’re making yourself vulnerable, right? Which again, takes confidence….
CB: (Vulnerability is the) source of all power. I just watched another Brene Brown (https://brenebrown.com) two minute thing that came up on and someone had posted it. She is like so bang-on man. She is so bang on. And that’s all she’s been researching. If you’re not willing to be vulnerable, if you’re not willing to show people, hey, oh, I just screwed up. I had a human moment. Whatever. Then you’re going to have a really hard time getting people to follow you. And that’s the secret of effective leadership. Ok we jumped topics there…..
AW: No, but let’s, let’s go deeper on this because this is really interesting. Where does vulnerability and communication intersect?
CB: Great question. Let’s just pretend that you and I are having lunch and let’s pretend we’ve known each other 10 years.
CB: And let’s pretend that I sense that something’s not right and you’re just — you don’t feel right that’s you know, we we can’t really point to anything it’s just a feeling. And so most people, I think most people listening to this can relate — have had this happen — and you say to your friend or loved one, “is everything okay?” And they go “Yeah.” And the giveaway is the raised voice. And you go, Oh, okay. And most people say…
AW: Thank goodness because I didn’t want to talk about it anyway.
CB: Then they go on, but you don’t believe him, right? You don’t believe them? So if it were me, and it has happened to me, I lean even further into the table as a sign of bridging the distance and offering them you know, here come towards me, because I’m also not all worked up or passionate about an idea. I’m curious. And so I say, Really? Then tell me why all my bells and buzzers are going off, because you sure don’t feel okay to me. And with that change, usually it’ll be I-I didn’t want to talk. Okay, I just got a call from my ex-husband and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, … And now it’s out there.
AW: So your first question was a yes-no question. It’s easy to say “No, I’m fine.” But then your second question — the really?
CB: I’m listening to the way they answer it. “I’m fine. Why? Why do you ask? Do I not seem fine?” Oh, now I know you are fine. And maybe you’re just preoccupied with something but, but not upset about something. And certainly not at me, which is why I’m pressing because maybe I was, you know, maybe I didn’t call you back when I said I was going to call you back. And you’re a little PO’d, right? So that’s probably, you know…
AW: It could be all about you again.
CB: Yeah, it could be all about me! That’s right. So most people have not done enough personal development or self- reflection work. In our busy corporate lives right now, who has time for self-reflection you’ve got emails to get out, and people to see, and sales to make. And so we don’t take time and that’s why we need leadership coaches or EQ coaches for people in their… well it’s starting younger and younger now, in their 40s, who are facing midlife crises, because everything they’ve been doing and the way they’ve been communicating has been good enough to get them to where they are. Now because they cannot, or don’t seem to want to, learn additional skill sets, we’re talking 48 to 52 years old of age, basically, then the very same skill sets that brought them up that bell curve are going to take them down faster on the other side, because they become immutable. It’s my way or the highway. The difference is — and this is why most people don’t bother– it takes a lot of work to figure that out. And then the remarkable thing is, you communicate more clearly, you’re not afraid of hearing No’s. When we add to that the understanding that empathy is the bridge of connection, we can actually end up collaborating far more effectively with team members or people we live and work with, because we actually spend the time to try and connect to them — which can only happen back full circle now to vulnerability.
AW: Right. I was gonna say vulnerability and the other buzzword I just heard is empathy. I am hearing empathy over and over again. I heard recently that people who read more fiction are more likely to be more empathetic. And then I thought, wow. Right? Because you are putting yourself into someone else’s situation. And I assume most people are reading to learn on some level. Of course, some of its entertainment.
CB: There’s the whole chick lit thing, right? I’m not into that. I know you’re probably right. Yes, we do know that children who are read to as youngsters become more empathetic more quickly in school settings.
AW: I don’t think this fact was fiction versus nonfiction. I think it was fiction versus not reading. I had this conversation with someone who happens to read a lot of history, and he said, I think reading biographies and autobiographies would make you particularly empathetic and empathy is such a powerful thing.
CB: And it’s interesting because I do know some people that I just know well, and who are friends who are quite well-adjusted and pretty healthy and very successful. They all read biographies and autobiographies.
AW: I’d like to go back to kind of the basics of communication. And as you were talking, I was thinking about, I think it was Psych 201 class at the University of Calgary where we drew this diagram of the encoder and the decoder. Do you remember this? And there’s the message being transmitted and there is stimulus all around. And the decoder interprets the message. And I was thinking given that basic framework, and all of the noise that’s around …. what are some of the mistakes that people make when they’re trying to communicate something? You can choose whatever just off the top of your head? Or on the encoding side when you’re trying to understand. What are the misperceptions that people may commonly have when someone’s trying to communicate something to them ?
CB: Instead of mistakes let’s say misconceptions. So for example I was teaching a facilitation class and you’re learning all of what I’m telling you right now these subtleties what they do they’re unconscious behaviors. The CEO or the CFO we’re standing up pacing in front of the table when he’s got –you know– the team is assembled and he’s got both his hands in his pockets and he’s jingling change. Everybody in the room is thinking themselves “will you stop?” That’s distracting. You know he’s doesn’t even know he’s doing it. The better way is to really go inside reflection you know and go: “Okay. You know, I’m the kind of person really doesn’t like making presentations. I’m not very good at that.” And you OWN that at the beginning of every presentation. “If it looks like I’m nervous, if you hear anything knocking, those are only my knees don’t worry about it. I’m not really familiar with this, and I’m going to give it my best shot. Please bear with me.”
AW: Wow. So you’re advocating saying that?
CB: Here’s the thing, if you take away what the audience or the individual is thinking about, you take away the POWER. Okay, here’s a perfect example in case you’ve ever seen Eight Mile with Eminem. There was a scene at the end where he’s doing a rap contest. It’s a big tourney kind of thing. And here’s this white guy from the wrong side of the tracks and the guy who won it last year is there to defend his championship. It was a racially charged situation. And so the night before his friends, he says, “you know, I don’t know what to say. He’s gonna say I’m a white guy, I’m from the wrong side of the tracks etc etc.” “Then just YOU to that. You take it away.” He does. (SNAP) He raps this whole thing. He says, “I know what you’re going to say, you’re going to say, I’m this, I’m this, I’m this. He nails it. Drops the mic. Done. Wins, because the guy now had nothing to say.”
AW: I have a real visceral memory of being about 24 years old and giving a speech at a sales meeting in Banff. Originally, I was not on the agenda for this meeting. And then someone backed out. So my boss asked me at the last minute to do it. And I said, Okay, and I said, I’m comfortable presenting this product and whatever this plan and I got up there. And the first thing I said was –consistent with your advice – “I just want you to know that I was just given this. I fully believe in this program and let me tell you everything I know. If I can’t answer your questions, I’ll do so afterwards.“ And I gave the presentation and then I answered some questions. And I said, Thank you. And you know, the next day my boss said, “Never begin a presentation with an apology. You’re confident enough. Everybody may have just thought you stumbled on your words, that that was just your style.” And I thought, What?
CB: So I’m going to take a little risk here and say, I agree with your boss. In that situation, you didn’t name it to make the audience more comfortable. You named it to make yourself more comfortable. And that is a difference. So I for example, if you’ve been sitting here talking to me, we’ve known each other at least cursorally for a little bit of period of time, you know, and I’m doing it right now listener can see that I have a very expressive face and my body moves and my hands move…
AW: Yes. You speak with your hands. You have beautiful hands.
CB: Oh, thank you. And I somebody once said, if we cut off your arms, your mouth would stop working. So knowing that that is my innate style. It isn’t that I can’t modify it and I will do it right now. When I am delivering a program for the internal audit department of the Ministry of Transportation, I slow down my speech I modulate it and you’ll see my hands are crossed.
AW: She’s got her hands crossed.
CB: I am not moving at the table. Yes, it is extraordinarily painful and energy-draining for me to talk like this. But it is what my audience needs in order for me to win their trust. So that by the end of (the minimum three hours, preferably a day) of that time, I’m now talking like I am, (SNAP) they are not using up half their brain wondering if I am credible. And so if I don’t have that kind of time, I name it right up front.
AW: Let’s get into some nitty gritty. Sitting at the table with your hands crossed can communicate trustworthiness or engagement, I suppose.
CB: Calmness. This isn’t this is more about calmness. As opposed to the steepling of the hands, which is totally about authority. Intimidation. You want to talk about a 95%! Look at the number of times that Trump sits with his hands down and triangles — right in front of his genitalia. His legs are spread.
AW: Right. The “man spread.”
CB: This is how we’ve all seen it. He’s got his elbows on his thighs with his hands pressed together. Comme ça. In the steepled position. That’s all unconsciously … he is giving a contradictory meta message. One, this means authority. Priests do it their desks when they’re doing pre-marital … Yes and psychologists do it and doctors do it and lawyers do it …
AW: It seems very noble.
CB: right well it’s not noble. It’s “I know more than you, shut up and listen.” So people shut up. The meta message in the receiver is all “oh! Be quiet” So the decoder… so it’s more… What is the intention behind the encoder? Okay, who is giving? Who’s talking? That’s what they’re trying to communicate. On an unconscious level. They don’t even know it.
AW: There’s another specific posture that I’ve heard contradictory things about. And that is crossing your arms at your chest. I’ve heard both that it projects authority, but I’ve also heard that it makes people seem defensive.
CB: No, it’s absolutely defensiveness. There’s no reason to cross your arms in front of you. And people do it in the middle of a sentence. They don’t even know they’ve done it. And what I know is when I’m watching them, if they do that, they don’t agree with what they just said.
AW: Interesting. Okay, interesting. I’m going to be watching.
CB: Again, a meta message. This is happening in the 95% that’s processing like this, SNAP SNAP and then it bubbles up to our consciousness. We grasp a little bit of it we go…I don’t think I believe them.
AW: Have you heard that people who play with their hair in the in the company of people that they may be attracted to – that they’re more likely to play with their hair?
AW: Yeah, one of my kids told me they were at a camp and there were some female coaches. And when the boys came in the room, the female coaches started playing with their hair. I was like, wow, kids can even zone in on this stuff.
CB: So it’s also about when the crossed arms goes, and what accompanies it. For example, I could get up in the morning and I could say, “you know what?” Now, I’ve got my hands on my hips – power position. A lot of people have been told, a lot of women have been told, start a presentation with your hands on your hips. That declares that you’re the authority and you’re in control. , … I’m like, “What are you nuts? You’re trying to piss off every single person in the audience, right? You only do that because you don’t feel powerful, right? You’re the one up there talking.
AW: So that’s what I was wondering about Trump? is he holding his hands in those positions, so what we think is…
CB: For god sakes, the man is just mentally ill on the side. However, he is a scared little boy. He is a frightened child, caught in a corner and doesn’t even know where to turn. And we are seeing the effects of that. So unfortunately, he’s a con man…. He can’t help what he’s doing. But trust your instincts when you’re listening to him.
AW: Yeah, I do. I do. Certainly…
CB: Don’t believe what you hear and don’t believe what you read.
AW: Turn the sound off
CB: 1984. Here we are – George Orwell.
AW: But actually that’s another good analogy, right? So there’s the movie script and the transcript and there are the words that are there. Turn the volume off on the TV or whatever and just watch the actor. Watch the speaker, whoever.
CB: Well, we know communication is 90% visual. And that’s the strongest sense and we think in pictures. So that’s why I teach in so many metaphors. Because people can relate to huge concepts when we’re talking about, well, it’s like walking a dog with a leash. So that’s just a metaphor.
AW: Let’s end this with a question about specific advice. And what I’m looking for here is advice for people at work, who want to project themselves as professional, dependable and promotion-worthy. In terms of, back to the nonverbal communication, what should they be doing or avoiding?
CB: So it’s like learning a new skill. You become extremely conscious of what you’re trying to do. The first time you hit a golf club, you know, you’re thinking, Oh, back swing and my fingers and keep your eye on the ball and don’t turn … So it’s the same thing with language. After a while, they become the default settings on the way we communicate, and people just are more likely to want to engage with us, right? So I would recommend specifically whenever you feel emotionally charged, take a deep breath. There are lots of other things you know, they say with parents: count to 10. Well, I don’t know anybody makes it to 10. We all crap out at about three. You know, 1-2-3, you put that down. That’s right in the moment.
So I’m going to give you a couple of concepts and then actual specifics. Conceptually you want to think long term, not short term. And in the moment of an emotional charge, it is a natural human tendency to want to get even … the revenge thing, right? Revenge is being something big and no no no, it’s just a little thing, you know. Now we just verbal –
AW: Yeah you can say this. I can say that.
CB: Yeah. And watch my back as I turn it from you. You know, or ( the audience can’t see this). But I’m doing that dismissive thing with my hand which is dismissed. You know, if somebody does that around a table, I call it out. You’re not allowed to let your body speak like that without having your mouth back it up. Because if you don’t, that means you’re unaware that you just did it, which means that you are that lacking in self-awareness. Given that self-awareness is the first and most fundamental pillar of developing emotional intelligence, one cannot be self-regulated, (i.e. walk the dog on the leash), until one is aware that the dog is dragging you, and then the third is empathy. So until we have gone through those processes, we will stymie our ability to really connect with other people.
AW: Yeah, so I’m going to fire the five rapid fire questions that I ask every guest. First question is, what are your pet peeves?
CB: Anything? … Oh that’s easy. People who drive slow in the fast lane on highway 401 for heaven’s sakes…
AW: I love it. I love it.
CB: Do they not ever look in their rear-view mirror? Can they not tell it that are 20 cars and a Congo line all waiting for them to pull over? I don’t understand.
AW: Yeah, they either don’t know if they don’t care.
CB: Or they’re not other aware.
AW: Right. I agree. Also very similar to mine. Second, what type of learner are you – visual, auditory, maybe some other kind of learner?
CB: All of them. Everybody is all of them. And I know that I’m primarily a visual learner. So I read a lot of books. My space needs to be settled before I can really focus and concentrate. Some people can work in clutter.
AW: No, I need tidy. Cleanliness is not as important. Are you the same?
CB: Yeah, the same. Just make it look right. It doesn’t have to be shiny, right?
AW: I’m the same. Exactly. Okay. Third question is introvert or extrovert?
CB: I’m much more balanced. Used to be very much an extrovert. I have come alive in this conversation after that horrible drive here. I’m very much looking forward to getting back to my apartment tonight after a dinner because I will need my time.
AW: Okay. Fourth question is communication preference for personal conversation? Do you prefer phone? email, text? social media? What’s your go-to?
CB: That’s an interesting question. Because I’m not a big fan of social media in terms of interacting with it. Although what with the whole situation south of the border, I’ve become a rabid Twitter aficionado in terms of learned people, lawyers and the like, who really know their stuff. And I and I read that way. I would say probably text. My first choice is always phone. I like listening to people. And I do most of my coaching by phone.
AW: Oh, do you? Okay. So last question. Is there a podcast or a blog or an email newsletter that you recommend the most?
CB: Oh, well, email newsletter, Seth Godin.
AW: So that’s it for my prepared questions. Is there anything else you want to add?
CB: I think one of the things that’s most important to keep uppermost in the mind when in conversation with anyone is to get your ego out of the equation. And the ego is noticeable because it’s talking to you. It’s been my experience that when I am really listening to someone and look at them in the eyes… We call that “being here in the now, being fully present.” That’s kind of jargon for just shut up and listen. Wait for them to explain their full thought before you jump in and try to help them or shorten it (smacking the table) because you’re running behind. And now you’ve just chopped him off at the knees. Yeah, you don’t have to prove how smart you are all the time. Just listen to people.
AW: How can people who are listening connect with you if they want to ask you a question?
CB: Reach out through the website. I’m available at https://C3conversations.com
AW: Thank you so much Cynthia. I had a great time.
CB: I did too. And thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about a subject that I really think is incredibly important.
Three main points we should all think about:
First, focus on your HANDS
- Are you jingling your keys? You’re probably annoying people. Are you hiding your hands in your pockets? You’re probably implicitly telling people that you have something to hide. Sitting at the table with your hands visible can communicate trustworthiness or engagement.
- We also heard this from Bradley Christensen, the opera singer. Breathing matters! (https://talkabouttalk.com/2-using-your-voice-with-baritone-opera-singer-bradley-christensen/)
- Sit or stand up straight and breathe deeply. Oxygenate your brain and your whole body. Reduce your stress. Whenever you feel emotionally charged, take a deep breath.
Last, improving our body language takes a lot of focus and attention, but it is worth it.
- Cynthia said that self-awareness is the first and most fundamental pillar of developing emotional intelligence. Self-regulation and self-awareness are critical for effective communication, and that includes body language. As Cynthia said: Are you walking the dog or is the dog walking you?
- Remember what I shared at the beginning of this episode about HRI (Human Robot Interaction)? If robots can do it, we can do it too!
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