Today at 7:45 we did a segment on body language with former FBI agent specializing in non-verbal behavior Joe Navarro. He and Matt outlined a few different scenarios in life where body language comes into play and gave tips on how people can recognize certain behaviors based on the non-verbal clues people give.
I found this segment fascinating so I met up with Joe after the segment in the greenroom to ask a few follow-up questions. Joe has been studying body language since the 1970's and when I described body language as nuances he chuckled and said there is nothing subtle about it to him. He pointed out to me that all of our body language is motivated in the brain, and every movement we make is something our brain is telling us to do. One example not mentioned in the segment is that he said that mothers will often tilt their heads to the right when holding their babies, but this is a behavior that abusive mothers will usually not do. The part of the brain that stimulates this movement is part of the brain that establishes the value of the baby to the mother, which is a value an abusive mother does not have. Check out some more details from his studies that Joe gave me as we talked this morning.
Are you able to turn off your perceptions of others or are you constantly assessing body language?
I can't turn it off. Right now, the guest over there (gestures behind me) is tapping her foot - she wants to move things along. The assistant at the computer is very interested in what she's saying - that's why she's leaning forward. This guest over here (glances over his right shoulder) is stoic - she's busy on her laptop. But she did just read something she didn't like - that's why she pursed her lips.
You spoke a lot about corporate situations, and how people can present themselves in meetings and office situations. Anything you want to elaborate on?
One thing we didn't have time for in the segment was a behavior many people have when they enter a meeting situation. The person with high status is usually seated at the end of a table or room, and when someone enters the new person will often adjust his jacket, touch his hair or make another adjustment to how he looks. Birds do this all the time - it's called preening. It lets the person in power know subconsciously that the person entering cares about how they present themselves for him or her.
As a woman in the corporate world - what are some of the pitfalls you see from women?
Women in meetings usually cup their hands on the table or on their laps under the table. Instead of cupping their hands together, they should arch their fingers in a more powerful gesture, as most men will do. Women also don't typically claim their territory when they enter a meeting. They'll keep all of their materials in one neat pile, whereas men will usually spread out their papers and claim their turf.
At the end of the segment you summed things up by telling people to be aware of how they present themselves and what signals they give off.
Yes, we are all billboards. In America we have a lot more variation in our billboards than overseas in Europe - in Europe people are more consistent with their behavior and also how they dress, but here we see a lot of variation. Everyone can improve his or her observation skills and learn to see more signals.
Have you caught yourself in any behaviors that you've since tried to change?
Yes, I used to lick my lips when I was stressed, and I've tried to cut back on that. I also used to wring my hands when I was nervous, which is another behavior I've tried to snuff.
What have you noticed about me as we've been talking? You can be brutal...
Nothing extreme - but you are a little reserved and self-contained with your right foot in front in the lead position, but pointing back towards yourself. If you knew me for a little longer, your foot would shift to point towards me.