In our last few blog posts we’ve been looking at body language and how it is a vital part of communication with others. Here are some more tips and hints.
Status in the office
Consider the use of certain objects strategically placed around your office. They can be subtly used non-verbally to increase your status and power. Body language guru Allan Pease says we should give a little thought to the nonverbal gymnastics of our offices by, for example:
- Installing low sofas for visitors to sit on
- Locating a pen container from overseas on your desk
- Leave some red folders on the desk marked ‘Strictly Confidential’
- Cover a wall with photos, awards or qualifications that you have received
- Have a slim briefcase (Large, bulky brief cases, he says, are carried by those who do all the work.)
- Make sure the height of the back of your chair is higher than that of your visitor’s chair
- Adjust your chair so that it is higher off the floor than your visitor’s.
Entering the room
According to Lynne Henderson, Principal of CEO International Inc, your most powerful initial entrance strategy should embrace four essential areas: posture, the effective use of personal space, eye contact, and the smile.
‘There should be good use of your personal bubble, meaning the space you claim around you. Good posture allows you to naturally claim your space. The ribs should be pulled up, the knees should be straight but not locked. The way in which the hand extends away from the body can show confidence or hesitancy. Establishing eye contact immediately and smiling authentically gives others the sense that you are genuinely interested in them and the relationship will follow.’
According to Gary Smalley, there are some key differences between men and women which, if understood, can lead to better outcomes in many conflict situations. Smalley’s ‘five favourites’ include:
- Men love to share facts. Women love to share feelings.
- Men tend to be independent. Women tend to be interdependent.
- Men connect by doing things. Women connect by talking.
- Men tend to compete. Women tend to cooperate.
- Men tend to be controlling. Women tend to remain agreeable.
Strange Symbolic Gestures
- In parts of southern India, here is a gesture of respect that we might resent (thumb to nose and fingers wave).
- Thumb and first finger forming a circle means “OK” in the United States but is obscene south of the border, means worthless” in Southern France, and means “money” in Japan.
- Winston Churchill’s famous V-for-Victory sign is closely akin to the insulting gesture in many cultures that means “You have horns; your wife is cuckolding you.”
- The English hiss actors to show extreme disapproval. In Japan, hissing expresses social deference.
- There are many ways to indicate “yes” or “no.” Our up-and-down or side-to-side nods of the head mean the opposite in parts of Greece, Turkey, and India. In Sicily you tilt your head back slightly and thrust out your chin for “no.” An Abyssinian tilts her head back and raises her eyebrows for “yes.” She jerks her head toward her right shoulder to show disapproval.
- In many places, spitting is a gross sign of contempt, inviting violence. But if a Masai warrior spits in your presence, you needn’t run; he’s trying to show friendship and respect.
- In our culture, we stand up (or used to) to show respect for women and elders. Fiji Islanders sit down before a superior. This is akin to the ancient oriental tradition of groveling before a ruler, since anyone who dared raise his head higher than the King’s risked losing it.
- One of the most interesting signs of respect is found in the Friendly Islands, aptly named. There the natives take their clothes off to show esteem for others.
- Conversing with your hands in your pockets is impolite in France, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, and Indonesia. In Fiji it’s bad manners to raise your arms, but crossing them over your chest is very good.
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