Saturday, February 26, 2011

Leadership Secret # 23: Steepling and Over-Steepling

Juan Manuel Santos, Columbia's President is shown here speaking during a recent press conference.  His hands are in a "Steepled" position.  With the exception of news reporters, who are misguidedly told to use this constantly, steepling is usually a sign of high confidence and power - and is almost never seen in non-alphas.  The higher the steeple, the more strongly these emotions are being felt. Leaders and speakers be warned though - most who use this gesture end up over-using it, and in such cases it often backfires, and projects arrogance.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 95:
Disparity and Body Language Signals of
Muammar al-Gadhafi

Muammar al-Gadhafi, the current leader of Libya - at least for the next few hours, can be seen here giving the "Thumbs up" emblem - which in the majority of countries and regions of the World is a clear and unequivocal  indication of positive emotions. But this does not tell the whole story. Like most leaders (or those in leadership positions), Muammar is fairly skilled at disguising his true feelings; but what is covered up in one area will leak out in another.  Gadhafi's face displays mild-to-moderate levels of Contempt. The left side of his mouth is elevated and his lip is curled.  The "mustache" area is also tightened and his left nostril is also dilated. These are all clear  indications of Contempt. Whenever a positive gesture (here thumbs up) is displayed along with a negative expression (contempt), it is the negative one which indicates the true emotional state.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 97: The False Tie Adjust

Here Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi is shown "adjusting" the knot in his tie - however this is a False Tie Adjust.  It is performed at times of considerable anxiety, concern, emotional discomfort, fear, worry or vulnerability. Fondling a necklace in this same area is a common female equivalent, although women in an similar emotional state will often touch this portion of their neck (known as the supra-sternal notch) even if there is no clothing covering it, nor any necklace present (Navarro). Such self-touching is an example of a Manipulator/Adaptor/Pacifier (MAPs). It is highly recommended that leaders avoid this gesture and other MAPs in public. 

Note Mr. Berlusconi has a fairly sincere smile. When a signal of comfort (here, a sincere smile) coexists with a signal of anxiety (false tie adjust) - it is the anxiety which is truly being experienced emotionally. Silvio is a professional and is skilled at smiling on demand - but professionals are human too - and thus while one sign can be "masked" - they all cannot...and behold, the truth slips out!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 83: Protruding Thumbs

French writer Maylis de Kerangal is seen her after receiving the Medicis Book Award for her novel Naissance d'un Pont.  When thumbs are protruding with the fingers hidden, as Ms. de Kerangal displays, this is a sign of high confidence and dominance (Navarro).  She feels superior in the context of winning such a prestigious  award - as most anyone would.  While more commonly displayed in men, it is increasingly prevent with women, and regardless of gender - it is a sure sign of an "alpha" personality. If a mid-level manager uses this "thumbs out" display at work - and then her boss walks in - you'll see an immediate disengagement from this posture - lest she becomes an unemployment statistic. 


Friday, February 11, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 82:
A Signal of Physical or Emotional Pain

Although we don't know the complete context of this photograph, it was taken during the last several days in Egypt during what has been a largely nonviolent revolution. As we watch and hold our collective breaths, as it is certainly a complex and ongoing process, I want to take this opportunity to evaluate a very particular facial expression. Let me call your attention to the woman in the red sweater.

The woman we're examining displays a classic (although not fully pronounced) sign of pain - which very intriguingly  is common to both emotional pain and physical pain. Her central forehead shows partial contraction while her peripheral (outer) forehead is relaxed. This is somewhat difficult to see. If it were more pronounced, we would see a classic upside-down horseshoe-shaped pattern of furrows in her central forehead with the outer forehead still being relaxed (unfurrowed).

Her central eyebrows are also elevated, which also coexists with the above mentioned forehead pattern. This is also classic for both physical and emotional pain. Her eyebrows are also pulled together - which is often coexistent with vertical furrows between the eyebrows. Another feature of sadness we see here - is her drooping upper lids and down-gazing eyes.

Moving further down her face, we see that her mouth is opened. Additionally, while the corners of her lips are pulled down her cheeks are being simultaneously raised. There is a tension between this downward pull of the mouth's corners with the upward pull of the cheek muscles - as demonstrated by a deepening and downward extension of the nasal-labial furrow. Additionally, parallel facial furrows, although often not as pronounced become visible in the lower, peripheral face. Chin dimpling is also common.

As in most body language photographs I discuss, this display of emotion is a more extreme example - thus these serve as great teaching tools. However, compared with what we see on most days in our everyday lives - it is much common to see mild emotional examples - and it's these displays that are nearly always missed. It is imperative that you see these subtle emotions when they surface - and certainly never misinterpret them.  This is what most people do far too often. Don't be most people.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 72 & 73: Disgust & Incredulity

This is a photo of Christine Lagarde, France's Finance Minister, at a News Conference in November of 2010 in Lyon. There is the classic display of moderate disgust exemplified by a great display of Nostril Flaring with accompanying mid-face tightening.  When it comes to disgust (or contempt) what is rarely discussed in body language texts - Ms. Lagarde illustrates rather nicely.  She is leaning dramatically away from the object of disgust.   We lean, and/or turn away from those we dislike, disrespect or distrust - often suddenly - and all three of these feelings can overlap with disgust.  It's amazing how often this tell is glossed over.

Interestingly, Ms. Lagarde was not angry at the moment of this photo. Another emotion we often see with disgust is beautifully illustrated by her elevated medial (inner) eyebrows along with her entire forehead.  In this context, these changes illustrate disbelief and they may only be there for a brief flash (as little as 0.04 of a second!). She is disgusted, and her emotional brain can't quite believe what she is seeing and/or hearing.  

If you see this expression directed at you - and you know you're telling the truth - you must stop the conversation and address the specifics behind the other's disbelief.  You'll have some explaining to do - but you cannot pass up this golden moment to correct a misplaced incredulity - lest it gets a chance to set in and becomes more of a permanent belief.  Certainly be tactful and ask open-ended questions - use the Socratic Method (don't ever say "I can read your body language and I know you're don't believe me").  Always remember the potency of your ability to change another's mind drops off dramatically as time passes. Therein lies one of the great values of leaning, practicing and using body language.