tradecraft…non-verbals (part II)

when you’re doing this kind of work…herding cats…a good question to ask yourself is…what message am i sending?

i remember one day in class…when i was angry with a couple of students…they asked me, are you alright? 

i said, i’m fine…as “i sorted some papers” on my desk…by “sorted some papers”, i mean… furiously rustled and stacked three separate piles of handouts (for about 15 seconds), with jaw clenched and vein bulged–the one that runs across my right temple…

the next day, a student called me out on it…saying, hey, mr. d., you were kind of upset with us yesterday, weren’t you?  the student who was asking the question had a slight smile on his face and the climate in the classroom was “lighter”…

so, i asked him, what do you mean?

he replied, well, when we asked you “how you were?”…you said, “fine”…but then stacked your papers…”real angry-like”…

a couple of other students giggled at that…and after a short pause, i laughed myself…it was all i could do…because i knew they “had me”, i knew they were right…my actions, my gestures…my non-verbals had betrayed my words…my non-verbals had told the truth…

like me, you may have some “signs” that show your true feelings…physical gestures that are quite powerful…

sometimes they are things you can laugh about, like in the above example…other times, they can work against you…especially, if you’re not paying attention to your body language…sometimes they can ‘escalate’ a situation when combined with an aggressive/aggravated voice…

we see this happen in the following situations (and more) all the time…

  • getting too close to someone (proximity) who is agitated (when you’re agitated) may trigger their defensive/anger/fight or flight responses;
  • crossing your arms over your chest may send a defensive, defiant, or uncooperative signal;
  • clenching your fists when you are interacting someone may show them how angry you are;
  • pointing fingers and hands at someone’s face (proximity) may set them off (verbally or physically);
  • facing someone down (as opposed to talking to them ‘at their side’) may be perceived as a threat;
  • rolling your eyes at someone may be taken as disrespect

in our high-speed, high-stress society we can all go from zero to “big green monster” in a snap…but, as my friend craig says, even in a seemingly instant/knee-jerk moment…there is a chance, a window of opportunity…to pause, to breathe

to stop ourselves before “the other guy shows up” and we hulk-smash the world around us…

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