Tag Archive for Negative Feelings

Nose Language


When people are stressed, blood flushes into the skin.  Our hands are then drawn to the areas most affected due to increased sensitivity and heat so we tend to point out our stress.  Enlarged capillaries in the nose can induce our hands in it’s direction to sooth it.  As blood flows to the nose, it enlarges, giving credence to the ‘Pinocchio effect.’

Nose touching might also stem from lying. It can happen as a quick but purposeful touch, the finger might graze the side of the nose, or it can be a persistent rubbing. Sometimes the touch is quick and dirty in an up and down motion, other times it is a brief almost unnoticeable touch to the base of the nose or its side. Face touching can come in two forms, one that serves a real function to alleviate an itch, and one that is the result of negative feelings such as being uncomfortable and stressed. Face touching that is due to an emotion is meant as a fix behind the sensation, the emotion, and not due to any physical need.

In order to appear more honest in front of others, either reduce or eliminate all face touching, make them appear more natural, or make them consistent in affect across all situations. Itching is usually a repetitive isolated gesture, which happens regardless of what is said, and happens at times when it would be impossible to assume a connection to what is being said. For example, saying something of questionable truthfulness, then brushing the side of the nose with an index finger is likely to raise suspicion, whereas bumping the nose when not speaking or when describing insignificant details would go unnoticed. Always try to make gestures appear natural and functional instead and also be particularly conscious of nose and face touching when you think someone is trying to peg you a liar. Over time it is your baseline that will give you away, so if you remain consistent across all situations, you’re less likely to give up tells. Most will find that their minds are more active and busy during lying, so it’s easier to avoid gestures altogether instead of adding honest gestures. This makes eliminating face touching one of the easiest ways to appear honest with minimal effort.

Office Artifacts – The Other Nonverbal Messages

We often take for granted our office layout which is understandable, but another nonverbal channel also exists, and that is the artifacts it contains. While we might not personally pay particular attention to these objects, visitors will use the information to make decisions about your personality and traits. Diplomas, certificates and awards on walls all provide clues to the office owner. Excessive accolades spells out to others an outward looking individual seeking to dominant and dazzle others by their achievements (usually attributed to them by the opinions of others). Pay particular attention to awards that might be less than prestigious as this might mean they are poorly accomplished, but trying to play it up. Usually someone that is more subtle will only hold their highest award rather than all awards leading up to it. For example, I know of one particular aesthetician who has ten neatly framed awards on her salon walls for miniscule achievements during her one year study. In this sense, small accolades detract from a persons perceived status and shows insecurity instead.

Tidiness is another factor. A cluttered office shows busyness and importance, but only up to a certain limit. When hygiene becomes a factor, it’s time to clean up! An overly tidy office can show obsessive tendencies negating any positive feelings. Thus, a mixture of clutter and tidiness is likely best as it conveys busyness and importance but avoids the negative feelings of an overly sanitized office. Also consider richness of furnishings such as desks and chairs, the view (or having windows at all), the size and location, the type and level of lighting, degree of privacy, having plants and so forth. What research that does exist on lighting shows that brightness has a more positive affect on friendliness than does more subdued lighting. Also consider the ability or lack of ability to personalize a particular space. Lower ranking workers are often not permitted this luxury.

Personal items, like family or pet photographs shows a strong family orientation whereas artwork can provide clues to interests. For example, fishing or nature photographs for people interested in the outdoors and adventure, city backdrops to someone with a metropolitan interest, or beaches for those interested in leisure. Paying particular attention to these variations can provide clues to someone’s interests, and when building rapport quickly is required, it can spell the difference between success and failure.

Who Is In Charge Of Mirroring?

An employee enters his boss’s office as he has called a meeting to discuss the possibility of a pay raise. The employee sits down and raises his case. He has been there for several years and feels that he is due for some form of compensation for his loyalty. As he states his case, the subordinate employee appropriately mirrors his boss’s subtle nuances, he touches his face when he does and fixes his hair, and leans forward when he does. As the employee hits on a particularly sensitive issue, his overtime commitment, which the boss has been firm about being nearly mandatory for the position, the boss quickly moves back into a full body steeple by leaning back with his hands locked behind his head and crosses his legs in a figure four. What should the employee do? The answer is simple, he should concede this stance to his boss as its obvious through his body language that he’s not willing to let this issue slide. When it comes to mirroring, it is always best to use it for rapport building, and not to induce hostility. The boss wins when it comes to dominance and should the employee mirror his steeple, would suffer, perhaps not immediately but at a subconscious level this body language will grind on his boss. Eventually, and if repeated with consistency, the boss would sense something wasn’t right which might lead to even worse hours or job details. The boss would only perceive his negative feelings about his employee as “dislike” or that “something isn’t quite right.” If the goal was to usurp his position and take his job, the employee might consider mirroring his stance to set an air of equality or superiority. Similarly, two high ranking individuals should mirror each other to signal that they hold similar power and won’t be easily pushed over.

A dominant person always has more choice when it comes to mirroring than less dominant people. A boss that wants to build rapport with his employee can acceptably let his guard down and mirror his actions. This can be particularly handy when the goal is to welcome a new worker whom is particularly tense or nervous. The boss should still refrain from picking up nervous cues, but he should feel welcome to mirror any other gesture. Therefore, when considering the use of mirroring, it is important to note the relative status in the hierarchy. The rule of thumb is that the most dominant individual calls the shots in mirroring, and so long as gestures aren’t dominant displays, others should feel free to follow to successfully build rapport.

What To Mirror To Gain Favours

When people's bodies are out of sink, the differences of opinion are amplified.

When people’s bodies are out of sink, the differences of opinion are amplified.

Proper mirroring is far from the game we play as children. The goal of kid’s is to irritate their opponent with exact copying of gestures even expressions and word, whereas the goal of adults is to formulate agreement and rapport. In adults, necessarily, more subtle mirroring must follow. In the experiments listed above, the researchers set to mirror only those actions which occur subconsciously, those that happen out of normal awareness. Movements such as foot shaking, body scratching, face or hair touching or changes in posture are good ways to start the mirroring process. Your goal should always be to avoid getting caught consciously mirroring someone else since being detected will create negative feelings more so than if no mirroring was done at all. Motions such as leaning in, crossing legs and folding arms can also be used, but must be done with caution since these are much larger motions and can be more easily detected.

Echoing which is like mirroring where similar body postures are replicated, but of which happen sometime later, is a technique that makes the rapport building process more subtle. In echoing, postures and gestures are not concurrent with what is going on with others, but instead happen after some time has elapsed. To be effective, echoing happens within thirty seconds to a minute of separation, but can even happen with several minutes of separation, where only subtle rapport is felt.

Where body positions are fluent, yet echoed, and bodies seem to jive as if in an elaborate dance and where conversation flows smoothly we find “total synchrony.” We say that these people are on the same “wavelength.”

Some ways we mirror with our bodies:

[A] Shifting weight from one foot to the other foot or keeping the weight on the same foot.
[B] Leaning on a bar top or up against a wall or other structure.
[C] Crossing the legs in the same direction or opposite direction when facing each other.
[D] Keeping the legs uncrossed.
[E] Gesturing with the hands similarly.
[F] Drinking in unison or holding drinks with the same hand.
[G] Placing both hands, or just one hand, on the hips.
[H] Leaning in, or leaning out.

Summary – Chapter 10

In this chapter we looked at attentive and evaluative body language. Here we defined attentive in terms of active participation in a conversation or presentation and evaluative in terms of thought or processing of information to reach a decision. We saw that undivided attention is obvious when a rate of eighty percent eye contact, or nearly so, is achieved while being listened to, and whilst speaking occurs at a rate of sixty percent with any significant deviation representing a loss of attention. We saw that fidgeting or repetitive behaviours such as tapping the toes, swinging the feet or drumming the fingers can signal boredom. We covered other boredom indicators like the body sagging or slouching in a seat, leaning against the wall or dropping the head.

We then moved onto agreement indicators and found that slow nodding shows general agreement, but that quick nodding can show impatience or a desire to interject and also that the brain is hardwired to think positively either when nodding or viewing nodding by others. Next we learned that when the hand holds the chin it shows varying levels of negative thoughts by how much weight it supports. The more the weight held by the hand, we saw, the more boredom present.

We then looked at other evaluative body language such as chin stroking, signifying that the decision making process had begun but that a conclusion had not yet been reached, what glasses mean, peering over the glasses means judgment, hand steepling which shows confidence and hidden superiority, and neck rubbing, which is a restraint posture indicating negative feelings. Lastly, we covered additional evaluative body language such as stroking the side of the nose, flared nostrils, pinching the bridge of the nose, looking upwards, or looking around the room, but cautioned that some of these same gestures can be indicators of other thoughts. For example, we learned that looking up might also mean that someone is in disbelief and is ‘sending a prayer to God.’ We found that flared nostrils can also mean an internal judgment is forming, agitated or even aggression. We concluded that when we witness evaluative gestures we should prepare to mount a better case, or prepare for a possible negative outcome.

Neck Rubbing

He's holding himself back by the scruff of the neck.

He’s holding himself back by the scruff of the neck.

The neck hold, scratch or rub is a response to negative feelings. It is a restraint posture as in “holding one’s self back” as one might do to a wily cat or dog by grabbing them by the scruff of the neck. In this case, though, we are doing it to ourselves. While not a full blown emotional displacement posture it does serve to alleviate the negative sensation we have. Like taking medicine fixes illnesses, and an itch fixes a scratch a gesture treats and underlying emotion. Not until we allow ourselves the opportunity to do the gesture can we treat our underlying emotion. This is what makes gestures and postures in body language so predictive of emotional roots. They are connected.

Touching the back of the neck is not the same as touching any other part of the neck such as the side, which can be used as a filler gesture to pause for thought, or the front which can be used to show sexual interest in a dating context. Scratching the back of the neck, rather, is a primitive gesture, that is a response to arrector pili muscles in the scruff that our body uses to make our hair stand on end. The arrector pili are a microscopic band of muscle tissue that connects hair follicles to the skin. When stimulated, the muscles contract and cause the hair to turn upward and perpendicular to the skin surface, or stand on end. While the purpose of the muscles in humans is vestigial, meaning they are an evolutionary throwaway, they were once used to trap air next to the skin to help keep the body warm. Other uses are for display and competition to make the body appear larger and more threatening. You have probably seen a domestic cat put its hair up when challenged by another cat. In porcupines, the muscles contract to bring the quills up as a defense. As a defense, and for heat retention for people, the purpose of the arrector pili is laughable at best, but our bodies still react to cold and fear, even aggression by stimulating the muscles. A cold chill down the spin and “goose bumps” or “goose pimps” is a reference to the same thing. When we reach for our scruff, we are showing an evolutionary throwaway to a time when our hair would have stood on end!

Neck touching can be a positive signal when it's done in the right context - here neck exposure shows comfort and attraction.

Neck touching can be a positive signal when it’s done in the right context – here neck exposure shows comfort and attraction.

Neck touches are therefore, connected with negative thinkers and restraint. To discover the true meaning of the gesture, we need to look at this cue in context accompanied whatever other cues are present. For example, let’s imagine two men in a bar, one of which is yelling and swearing promising to send him to the next county, while the other, much larger and more muscular wearing an official MMA (mixed martial arts) attire, keeps his distance holding his arm to his neck. What is the MMA fighter doing here, is he thinking negative thoughts, or holding himself back from using his fighting skills to defend himself. I think the answer is obvious. The context tells us exactly what is happening. The neck hold, versus a scratch can be in response to making a mistake and trying to take it back as in “Whoops, sorry, that was stupid of me and I won’t do it again.” The neck rub or hold can be seen when being verbally assaulted by a boss, here what is said is “He’s a real pain in the neck.” Even my nine-month-old son thinks I’m a pain in the neck when I won’t let him do something dangerous! Since he’s just little he can’t reach all the way back, so his arm comes up and back at about ear level when I tell him he can’t do something. If he just laughs, I know he hasn’t really taken me seriously. When that happens I re-iterate my instruction making sure he gives me some sort of retrained gesture or given me eye contact.

Invasion Of Space

A violation of personal space is indicated by her withdrawal.

A violation of personal space is indicated by her withdrawal.

Most hostile interactions in our lifetime will fall short of physical conflict but that doesn’t mean aggression was never present. We hold a buffer around our bodies at a premium and yet others still fail to acknowledge this, and choose to move closer then we wish. Disrespecting someone’s personal space is a form of aggression and dominant individuals routinely ignore personal space buffers, in fact, it’s one of the ways they maintain their dominance! Invasion of personal space can even come from brief touching or pats on the back, but also from more inappropriate touching such as jabs to the ribs with fingers, pens, or worse yet, slaps to the buttocks! Sometimes space invades will gain unwanted closeness by using friendly conversation, that we naturally read correctly as feigned.

Overstepping territorial boundaries is obvious to almost everyone because most have at least a rudimentary ability to read body language. We can test proximity comfort levels by stepping only so close as that which causes the next party to step or lean back. Leaning back carries the same weight, as a message, as a full or partial step back, it is just more polite. We can use the step back technique to send this message to space invaders, but it is often ineffective, as their intentions are usually intended to yield such results. Stepping back, and then quickly placing an open palm on their wrist or arm, or hovering a hand palm-vertical near the midline between you and them will serve to anchor them, preventing further advances. Often, the only solution is to be outright with the invasion and call them out. In this case, we should expect it to cause openly negative feelings which could strain a relationship, so should be carefully considered.

Perpetuating The Smile: On Mirroring And Smiling

Smiling is contagious and often just by holding a smile others feel compelled to smile as well. Try an experiment for yourself and see just how hard it is to frown when viewing smiles or smile when viewing frowning. You will see that mirroring is a much more natural response whereas holding opposite expressions requires conscious thought. Flashing a smile at random strangers can flood their bodies with positive hormones and brighten their day. Even just holding a smile despite feeling down can help elevate your mood and make you feel better.

We see this exact same contagion with attitudes of those surrounding us. A famous skit on Saturday Night Live involves a character called “Debbie Downer.” The scene is set in a social gathering where the character, at each opportunity, offers a contrarian’s view to what is an otherwise a positive or neutral statement. The effect it has is potent and brings those around her down, hence her name. Persistent negative attitudes in others around us tend to drag down our moods, while optimistic attitudes tend to make us feel better. Although overly optimistic attitudes, just like overly pessimistic attitudes can lead to negative feelings about others as well.

Research has shown that our facial muscles tend to mirror what we see in others and that this reaction is subconscious. While it is possible to control our facial muscles by consciously over-ridding this tendency, most others will simply, by nature, imitate what they see in us. This is why it is so important to, both imitate smiles when seen, and to also avoid holding sour faces especially on initial meetings.

Let’s take the stereotypical example of a married couple; a wife and husband. After a long days work taking care of the children, the husband comes home from his long day with a scowl on his face and plops himself on the couch. He’s had a bad day, and so too has she. Their expressions feed of one another and their attitudes remains negative. What if the husband came home with good news and a big smile? Naturally, his wife would follow and they’d share a nice welcome, both parties willing. If one or the other fails to follow the lead, the entire mood would be soured by the frowning party. Both parties are therefore responsible for deciding the mood.

We often get caught up in daily rituals, especially at home, that we forget to put on a fake smile which is otherwise required at work. We know that we can’t get away with such crass behaviour while away from home and around strangers, so we put on a fake smile despite our mood, but once home we give our faces a break. We know instinctively that we can’t get away with a sour face in public because others will think poorly of us and won’t want to be around us. The freedom to express moods naturally in our own homes can be a blessing, but can also be a drag. Sometimes taking the extra effort can be rewarded so it’s worth a try, especially if the mood has been sour perpetually. So the advice follows that when people around you are in a bad mood, even at home, initiate the smile, hold it persistently and see what happens!

Eye Contact During A Job Interview

Eye contact during an interview has been repeatedly found to have a powerful influence on the interviewer. Interviewees who hold good eye contact tend to receive more favourable hiring decisions, to be rated more positively and to be rated more suitable for jobs requiring self confidence.

The most appropriate types of eye contact in an interview have been shown through research to be about two to three second bursts of eye contact followed by looking away. Looking down continuously or avoiding eye contact altogether, or conversely, holding extended eye contact can all result in poor judgment. Continuous shifting of the eyes around the room can come off as dishonest and can make people think that you are expecting to be bust at anytime. For what, the interviewee doesn’t know, but he will remain suspicious nonetheless. Looking toward the door or appearing distracted by what is going on outside a window will only serve to demonstrate your lack of interest in the job position and negative feelings will be attached to you personally. Poor eye contact might also be taken by the interviewer personally and he may become offended. As interviewees, we must pay particular attention to good eye contact while listening and while speaking. Most of us are good at one, but not both, but being aware of our shortcomings is at least a good first step. So don’t dismiss good eye language in an interview and follow the patterns described above: two to three second bursts of eye contact followed by looking away.

People As Objects

This body doesn't want to be noticed or disturbed, it has mentally checked out.

This body doesn’t want to be noticed or disturbed, it has mentally checked out.

This is a comfortable body ready for action.

This is a comfortable body ready for action.

When invasion of personal space is unavoidable such as crowded elevators, buses, trains, or amusement parks people tread invaders as inanimate objects in effort to tolerate them.

This is why city streets are flooded with strangers behaving like zombies with expressionless faces as they hurry about. City folk seem inhuman and unemotional, detached, despondent and more than anything else, from an outsider’s perspective, they appear unhappy. Contrast this with a small city where eye contact is met with smiles, nods or waves and where doors are held open for others with words such as “thank you” provided in exchange.

So why do busily moving city slickers seem as though they are moving about a forest of trees, instead of a sea of actual living human beings with emotions and feelings? Why do city slickers dehumanize themselves? The answer lies in phenomenon termed “masking.” Masking is a coping strategy used to detach ourselves from our bodies so as to avoid negative feelings as we intrude on the personal space of others and as our personal space is intruded upon. Sometimes we even mask with outwardly aggressive emotions typified by New York streets. Cussing, yelling and other carrying on is a way to mask sensitivity and to hide caring. This is not to say that one becomes less human in New York, it just means that you can’t appear to be a wimp.

Masking helps people protect themselves from their emotions and is so potent that it is difficult sometimes to snap people from this hypnosis. Sometimes even making eye contact with others can be seen as offensive and returned only with an expressionless face, a glare, or even a snarl as if implying that the issue is that of another and not theirs.

Just like country folk expect and appreciate amicable greetings, smiles, waves and nods, city slickers expect and appreciate emotionless faces, few or no greetings and for people to mind their own business. Don’t confuse either situation for anything other than a coping mechanism. Taken in similar context, you might just see how similar each breed of people really is.

Here is a breakdown of ways we act in crowded places like subways and elevators:
[A] We stand or sit still, unmoving. The more crowded the area, the more frozen we remain.
[B] The face becomes blank and expressionless, but it is not due to negative thoughts but rather as a coping mechanism.
[C] Eye contact is avoided by looking at the floor or ceiling.
[D] Books, newspapers and other devices appear particularly interesting and immersive, serving to detach the self emotionally from the situation.
[E] Under extremely crowded conditions where touching is unavoidable, bodies appear to jostle to make space and if possible only allow shoulders and elbows to touch.