Thursday, August 29, 2013

Body language

I saw an article last week in The Wall Street Journal on body language. The piece suggested that those who want to get ahead in this man’s world might want to practice “powering posing” for a few minutes every day.

Striking a powerful, expansive pose actually changes a person's hormones and behavior, just as if he or she had real power. The Great John L(Source: WSJ.)

Don’t know about you, but here’s what I’m picturing. (I shook the hand that shook the hand that shook the hand of the Great John L)

Guess those bad boys were on to something.


Merely practicing a "power pose" for a few minutes in private—such as standing tall and leaning slightly forward with hands at one's side, or leaning forward over a desk with hands planted firmly on its surface—led to higher levels of testosterone [which tends to boost confidence and aggressive behavior] and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in study participants. These physiological changes are linked to better performance

“Power posing” is applicable beyond the office. For one thing, it might help you get in the door it you pose it up before a job interview. And get you into the college or B-school of your dreams: posers who posed before college entrance exams raised their score levels.

Perhaps the one tiny thing missing in my otherwise illustrious and all together excellent career was the small amount of energy I put into power posing and raising my testosterone level.

Anyway, the article got me thinking about body language-related incidents in my past.

Early on in my career, I took a presentation skills class in which they video taped us all giving a brief talk.

Me being me, I volunteered to go first, foregoing the opportunity to learn by observing the mistakes my colleagues were making and avoiding them.

Anyway, I was pretty shocked to see the video, in which I was leaning back at an almost impossible angle, with my hands clasped in front of me in what I later learned was called the Fig Leaf pose.

Fortunately, I was an eager learner, and on the final exam my body language was superb. (Sheryl Sandberg was on to something when she titled her book Lean In.)

Fast forward a few years, and my friend Cathy and I decided that we had better things to do than sit through yet another interminable rah-rah meeting during which some Wang exec tried to convince us that Wang had a rosy future.

On our way out, we ran into another Wang exec who was on his way in to wave a few more pom-poms.

We spoke with him for a few seconds – I can’t recall what he asked us – but we learned later that, when he got up to give his Buckle Down, Winsocki oration, he referred to us as “a couple of slump-shouldered women” that he’d run into making an early exit. Clearly our posture had given us away as the type of dud employees who were not going to help lead Wang out of the abyss and into its glorious future.  Bad Wangers!

In truth, it was amazing that, by that point, there were any Wang employees capable of walking upright. After all we’d been through, you’d think that all of us would have been stretched out in the corridors, sucking our thumbs and staring off into space. Now that would have been the body language more appropriate to the situation.

Oh, I have a few more body language stories in my corpus o’ business tales, but my favorite is one that I know second hand only.

At Genuity, I was friendly with a fellow who, for a few months, reported to this extremely strange and paranoid individual who, even by the all-politics, all-the-time standards of the company, was always on the political alert. (That she was spectacularly inept at playing politics was beside the point; she was always trying to get in the game.)

Anyway, I ran into my colleague and he told me that he had just had quite an encounter with his boss, who had dressed him down for the behavior he’d shown in a meeting.

“I can’t believe the signals you were giving off when X was talking. They were entirely inappropriate,” she told him.

My friend played the meeting back through his mind, and couldn’t come up with anything that could be construed as inappropriate.

“I don’t understand,” he told her. “When X was presenting, I leaned forward, listened attentively, and asked good questions. At least I thought I did…”

What my friend hadn’t taken into consideration was that X was The Enemy of the Day.

“Exactly,” crazy manager hissed, “That’s precisely what you were doing. You acted as if you were interested. You encouraged him. You made him look good. You were totally off base.”

So beware of your body language! It can get your going or coming.

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