Our brains are hardwired to look for body language – non-verbal clues – even though we may not even consciously be aware of what is triggering us. Then, other times we make conscious choices to believe something without truly checking if it’s true for ourselves. I chose to believe, for a while, that crossed arms or crossed legs mean that the person is closed. Closed to us, closed to the topic, closed emotionally – I now don’t believe this is true. Often crossing our arms is just a comfortable place to put them! Crossing our legs is a habit – not an indicator of receptivity. I can remember many times when I would look in the audience and my heart would drop – crossed legs and arms = they hate me! Just as often these would be the same people who gave me a great evaluation or came up and spoke to me about how they agreed with, or were touched by what I said.
We, people in general, are meaning making machines. We love to interpret, may have superstitions, see importance in coincidences – this is exactly what our minds are good at. Our minds should really be used as a tool; like a calculator – every match it makes does not have meaning beyond the moment. We do want to notice what the mind comes up with. The mind’s matching ability produces amazing quick responses that are often correct. The answer comes from somewhere – it seems like magic.
I’ve heard that in seven seconds – or even less – people will have judged whether you are likeable or unlikable, powerful or submissive, trustworthy or devious. There are several types of intuition that wouldn’t be possible without this natural human ability. Watch out though – these intuitions may also be coming from a more primal, fearful place, not in reality to the present. Use all the tools in your toolkit, however, make your decisions using all your capacities.
As your mind becomes more clear you will discover that you are often susceptible to certain people. Find out why. These are exactly the times to ensure you are using all your faculties to interpret what’s important to you. We can easily be manipulated. People choose to like or dislike someone mostly based on their facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. Research has said that 93% of this choice is not based at all on what is being offered – instead is based on what it looks and feels like instead.
I worked with a client who complained that his resting face was perceived by others as looking annoyed – these people were judging him. He felt he had no control over that – it’s just how I look, he would say – I was born this way! After working with me for a time he discovered that he had decided – when very young – to show his family the discontent he felt with this expression. This decision moved into his subconscious and it became habitual. He also often felt discontented for no apparent reason. Once he discovered that it had been his choice – not genetic or a birth defect, he could choose differently. With persistence and support from allies at work and at home – he now has an expression with more congruence, more reality to what is actually happening in his life, and he is feeling more content as well. Our expressions don’t only affect others!
Here are five things to check about yourself that may be sending an old message, one not in reality – or congruent with who you are today:
Notice if you have an attitude – a theme you go around in. These are often archetypal. For example: annoyed, martyr, long-suffering, organized, helpful, judgmental, defensive, boss, victim, 3rd wheel, motherly. What are you known for? Ask people in your life if you can’t identify it for yourself. Not everyone has a dramatic one – sometimes people can’t identify it at all until it’s gone. These are not really you – they are a communication you subconsciously decided it was best to get across for your sense of safety or success, probably many years ago. Choose a new one! One that that really reflects how you feel, how you want to be perceived. Nothing dramatic or manipulative – consider being you! Maybe you’re happy, friendly, open, curious, accepting, welcoming, empowered, and mostly You!
Notice your connection. Use their name, give a real, full, firm handshake – not limp, fingertip only, or overpowering. Respect their space by following their cues – often that handshake distance is about where people like to be. A straight arm handshake is an indicator of a need for more space. A brief touch on the arm can be impactful, if respectful.
Notice your posture – without it feeling awkward pull your head onto your neck – ears over shoulders, your shoulders over hips, hips over unlocked knees, knees over ankles. Get used to it – it’s best for your presence as well as your physical and emotional health.
Notice your facial expression – does it match your attitude and the communication you currently want to get across? Feel happy, friendly, open, curious, accepting, welcoming, empowered, and let that show on your face. Constant, maniacal smiling isn’t what we’re going for either. 😀😀😀😀😀
Notice your eye contact – be respectful, not confrontational. Use your eye’s expressiveness to connect and build affinity – again, in a respectful way.
As you move towards being a more relationship-based leader you will use verbal and non-verbal communication more consciously each day. Remember C.A.R. – Communication, Affinity, and Reality are your vehicle to better relationships. Communicate with affinity and reality, and you will truly be connecting!