The Body Language Code
In the previous segment, we were able to talk and delve into your influential intentions both here in the studio and online. And you have your marks in mind, you might have one, two, let's say, three, is probably a good amount for these three days, if you have more than one. And so, right now we're going to delve into what to look for in your influential mark, how to broaden your awareness and observational skills about the mark and what you can decode about them, as well as how your own body language plays in your influence. So, the first thing to point out is the observational mind versus the distracted mind. Did you know that you are emanating different brain waves when you are distracted in a conversation versus when you are centered, focused, on the other person? And so, if your own electrochemistry up here is different, imagine how much different it is when you are, through your communication, with that person. So, not only does switching into the observational mind actually help...
you in communications, what I personally have found to be so astounding, is that it's almost meditative and it makes conversations easier because I'm not so concerned about all of these other things, all of this buzzing that keeps happening, I get to be present and in the moment, and connect with somebody. So, having these focus points in the conversation of what to look for and what to listen for, actually changes your entire presence. And I think that that's a beautiful, wonderful thing. The first thing that I want to point out is you have to choose to observe. So one thing that happened yesterday, as I was getting ready for CreativeLive and doing the run-through with the production team and everything, I met somebody who was an instructor of a previous course and he asks the typical questions, so what is your course about? What do you do? And I told him, I speak on influential leadership. And he goes, oh, tell me more about that. And I told him the whole CIA, con artist, blah-blah-blah, all that stuff. And he goes, that's so cool, do you do profiling? I said, yeah, I do the profiling. And he goes, well, profile me, influence me. (audience laughing) And I told him that, first of all, you have to have an intention, as we talked about in the previous segment. And second of all, I always view it as there's a mechanism that I turn on and off. And I don't know if you've ever seen the movie For Love of the Game with Kevin Costner, it's one of his many baseball movies. And in it, he's a pitcher. And when he's up on the mound, there's all of this buzzing and noise and craziness from the audience, from the spectators watching the game. And he says to himself, in a voiceover that says, "Mechanism off." And it's like he shuts out everything and all the audience members become blurred, and it's just him and the batter. So for me, I view it as, I actually turn the mechanism on to be observant and focused with the person. And then, in normal conversations, that mechanism is off. I also often get the comment of, man, it must be difficult to date you, Shari. (laughing) Those poor guys! With all these things that you know on influential intentions. And again it's, you can turn that on or off. And typically in dating scenarios, I think you want to get to know the real person rather than trying to hijinx them into some sort of relationship. So, you have to choose to observe which means that you kind of have to suspend a lot of your own preconceived notions and judgments. And nothing highlighted this better for me than a moment that happened at an airport. So, I was in LAX and it was just one of those days where traffic was awful and I'm stressed out, and I didn't feel prepared for the presentation that I had for the client, cause there was all these changes that were happening. And I'm just, I'm full, like stressed out, and I'm Italian so everybody can tell I'm stressed out. And then finally, I get to my gate and I get a moment. And I found like the furthest, darkest corner in the waiting terminal and I just sit there, and I'm like, okay. I'm trying to center myself, trying to get prepared, trying to feel my confidence again. And then, a woman next to me, probably about 10 years younger than me, she was in her early 20s, sat next to me. And I didn't engage, I try to be that good person that talks with people cause I'm trying to live my message, but I was not gonna live my message that day. I was just too, in my own head. She sat next to me and then, she started shaking her legs in the seat. You know, those leg shakers? (audience laughing) And I wanted to kill her! Cause my seat is connected to hers and she's shaking and shaking. And I'm just like, alright, just breathe, just breathe, it's fine, Shari. And I'm looking for other places to go but it was a packed airport. And I'm like, fine. And then for whatever reason, I told myself, observe her. Because again, I find observation to be kind of meditative because it takes the focus off of me and I get to pay attention to my surroundings. So, in that moment I chose to observe and what I found was shocking. And it brought out so much empathy within me, and I actually started to feel bad. So, she's shaking the chair and her hands are on the chair, holding her phone. And it wasn't a normal, fidgety shake. She was shaking so much that her phone was shaking with it. She couldn't read the phone, something was going on. And after I looked at the whole situation, I realized she's in pain. Something is happening, there's anxiety, there's nervousness, there's frustration, there's something. And so then, I made the decision to connect with her. I just simply asked, so where you headed? And she said, Vegas. And I said, oh, you're gonna go have some fun in Vegas? And she just took a deep breath and she said, no, my sister just got assaulted on the street and she's in the hospital in critical condition, and I'm trying to get there. So there was this moment, with all of my judgements, where I was annoyed with this person for causing agitation within me, but because I chose to observe, I saw the full picture and it presented an opportunity that I otherwise would have missed. And from that, we actually had a very nice conversation. She actually smiled and laughed a bit and she thanked me afterwards, said, thank you so much, this was just really nice, I gotta go catch my flight. So choosing to observe and rather than looking at one little piece of something that might rub you the wrong way because that reminds you of what your sister used to do, or your boyfriend used to do, or whatever it is. You can broaden the scope and see the whole human being, and that's what I love about body language. So, your beginning observations, so, obviously begin with body language. So we're going to talk about the full scope of body language, this is a crash course, this is by no means the most intensive body language workshop. This is going to be one segment because, again, this is one part that you need to be on the look out for when it comes to influential communications. So, body language the way I look at it is a language. It begins with a word. So, if I say the word red. Doesn't really do much for you, does it? It's just one word out in thin air, it doesn't mean anything. Does it mean the color? Does it mean that I read a book recently? There's no impact behind the word. The word has some definition and it has some connotation with it, but I don't know how I'm supposed to read that word because it's all by itself. But if attach the word with multiple words then I get a sentence, I'm like, I read a great book yesterday. Okay, now I know what we're talking about. But that doesn't completely fill the picture in either. If I add it into a paragraph or a story, I say, I read a great book last night and it changed my life because I learned X, Y, and Z, and now I get to implement. And now I see the full dynamic, the full story, of this one word. This is how we need to approach body language. Oftentimes, I will get asked questions like, is it good if I stand like this? Is it bad if I stand like that? Are they lying if they touch their nose? What does this mean? What does that mean? To which I always respond with my most consistent and sometimes annoying response of, it depends. It depends on the situation, it depends on the dynamics, and it depends on the entire picture. One word out of thin air, one gesture out of thin air, can't tell me much. But seeing the whole picture does. For example, there was a woman that introduced me before a speech that I delivered and it was on body language, and so I'm paying attention to her body language. And it was a perfect example of exactly what I'm talking about. When she came up and spoke, she did something that is very typically a nervous gesture when people get up and speak, is women in particular will cross their feet like this and she leaned on the podium. So this is kind of a support thing that's happening. She's off balance here because she's nervous and she didn't have much of a flea mentality, or story behind her feet. But this is kind of the beginnings of nervousness. But then, when I look at the whole picture, she had a full voice, she was breathing very well, she didn't have much tension, she engaged with the audience, she was smiling, she was holding a piece of paper and it was steady, and it wasn't doing the shaking thing. There were all of these other signs that said to me, oh, she's actually quite comfortable up there. This isn't nervousness, this is comfort. So, we will look at clusters and we'll talk about that a little bit later on. Yes, so that's a body language word that you can feel free to write that one down, as clusters. It's not just about gestures, it's about clusters, seeing how they all intertwine together. The most honest part of the body is your feet. Can you tell me why?
They're your support, oh, I love that phrase. They're your support system. Okay, how exactly do you mean?
Well, I always go back to, everyone should buy good shoes. Because if you can't stand comfortably, your body is totally out of wack and how can you be confident or how can you present yourself well, if you are not stable in your feet? If your feet aren't stable on the ground. If your grounding cords aren't grounded to the earth.
Right. I love that philosophy. I will explain, actually why the feet are the most honest part. But I love how you tie in the feet to the entire whole mechanism of the body. So, that's great. Do you know?
Yes, I know. Feet show the intention of a person. We subconsciously direct our feet either to a person we are interested in, to the exit if we're interested in ending the encounter.
This is true. And we'll talk about that. So the feet are the most honest part of the body for a number of reasons. First of all, let's talk about what most people consider to be their focal point of body language and they start with the face. We learn to lie with this at a very early age. Does anybody have kids in here? Okay, great. How young would you say that your son or daughter started lying?
Well, it's a whole philosophical question about lying itself, because sometimes my son says things which are not true, not because he wants to lie, but because he doesn't want to upset me. Which is not really exactly--
How young is he?
Like, he is going to be eight in a couple of weeks.
Look at that, he's already faced with these moral dilemmas at eight years old--
Well, he loves me. I'm his momma. (Shari laughing) He knows that something happened and he knows that I will be upset, but he doesn't want me to be upset so he tries his way, go around it, so not to upset me.
But it started, I don't know, probably... The first cues I found, like about five probably.
Okay, great. We actually start lying earlier, closer to two and three. And we lie with a straight face definitely by five. And not only that, there are, I'm sure all the parents out in cyberspace know this as well, that we lie even earlier than that because have you ever heard of the fake cry?
Yeah. So we learn that if we do something and get a response, then we will continue to do that thing even though what prompted that thing in the first place isn't even existing. Like, no I don't need to be changed, no, I don't need a drink, I just want you here so I'm gonna make you think that I need to be changed and all of that. So, the fake cry begins very early. So, we become masters of lying through our face very, very early on which makes it practically the most deceptive part of the body. It is one of the most expressive and it is one of the most deceptive. The second most expressive part of our body is our hands. There are so many gestures, so many ways to express ourselves which is why your hands and gestures can show lying or truth in different ways. We're not going to delve too deep into deception cause that's not the focus of this workshop. Let's go all the way down to the feet. So, people who are not skilled in the area of body language tend to scan a person from the head down. People who are trained in body language will scan from the feet up. Reason being, your feet are highly connected to the limbic system, this is the most primal part of your brain. This is the rat brain as some people call it, or lizard brain. This is the function, it's in the core of your brain right near the spine. This is what makes sure that you eat, this is what makes sure that you stay warm and not too cold, this is the part that just makes sure that you keep on living. An important part of living is surviving. So, let's pretend that we are way back in the day out in the Serengeti and we are, what, like antelope? Antelope are in the Serengeti, right? Let's pretend, alright, sure, some antelope. I like to say antelope so we're going with it. And so, we are a prey animal, like we don't have big teeth and claws. Animals chase us. And we want to go get a drink of water at the stream because luckily there's water in the Serengeti today. And while we're grabbing some water, we notice, in the corner of our eye, a lion. What is the first thing that we do?
We freeze. We stop, we become very still, we hope that we blend in our surroundings because we know that, if they see us, predators generally, and we are predators, human beings are predators, their eyes are drawn towards movement. So if there's movement, then we will see us, so we freeze. Let's say that doesn't work and the lion starts to approach us, what do we do?
We run, we flee. So we start running, and then if the lion catches up to us, what do we do? We die. (audience laughing) Ultimately, yes. But what do we try to do before death?
We fight. So our feet are key to our survival. It helps us know when to be still, it helps us know when we need to run, and it helps us to know when we need to fight our way out of something. It is connected to the limbic system, therefore it is the most subconscious part of our body language. We consciously control all of this and we forget about those guys. So, that's why the feet are the most honest. And some of the things that we can learn from the feet in situations, is as Irina said, that our feet will point in the direction in which we want to be. So, if we are in rapport with somebody, our feet point towards that person. If we are out of rapport with somebody, our feet point away from that person and perhaps towards somebody else. If we want to leave, then the feet point towards the exit. These are all signs that the feet can tell us. Also, typically from a speaking standpoint is, this is a high anxiety place for a lot of people to be up on stage and to be speaking in front of people. That is why you will typically see two things out of anxiety with people's feet. The first one is the, (audience laughing) and they don't move, and they read their cards, and they just hold on for dear life. (audience laughing) So, all of this tension is the freeze mechanism that's kicking in, that says you are scared, this is what we do when we are scared. So, that's what happens with a lot of people on stage or in front of cameras. Well, you see a lot of people just (makes sucking noise) when they see the red light on the camera, they just stop. The other thing that you'll see is the people who will talk and they just meander on, and this is what I call the happy feet. And you'll sometimes see the tappers, and then you'll see the rockers, and you'll see the pacers. This is the flea mechanism freaking out! Because subconsciously the feet feel in danger but consciously we know, we have to give this presentation because this is what's gonna help me get my promotion or help me build my business or whatever it is. So these are the reactions of the feet. Typically, so, sometimes a game that I play in the bars with friends. If it's really boring and nothing else is going on, my friends will say, so what's going on over at that table? What's going over at that table? Like is this a first date? Is this a third date? Does that guy like that girl? All of that stuff. And the first thing I look for is the feet. Whose feet are pointing where? If his feet are pointing towards her, he's interested. If her feet are pointing away, she is not, and visa versa. You'll see some women who lean in towards the guy and the guy is basically angled entirely different but giving the polite, you know, face forward. So, these are signs that you can see through body language. For networking events specifically, I wanted to touch on that because I think that that's a great topic for the CreativeLive audience. When you are networking and how the feet play a role is people will stand in a circle, like if there are four people standing around chatting. And if all the feet are pointed towards the center of the circle, this is not a group that you want to approach. They are in high rapport with one another, they are deep in conversation, and if you try to break into that circle, you get that weird like, you're holding your drink and then you try to stand politely for awhile, but they are not acknowledging you cause they love what's happening here. You are not welcome here at this moment. However, sometimes people will stand in a group and everybody's feet will be in the center except for one person. But one person may be catty-cornered out slightly or have their toe pointed away, this is a group that you can approach. This is your opening, this is the foot has opened the door for you to enter in this group. So, this is one simple and easy way for you to avoid those awkward moments in networking situations. And I have been to events where, some of my idols are there, like Tim Ferriss who I know has spoken here and Ramit Sethi and all those guys, and these are big dogs in my world. And I always would, of course I feel the nervousness to approach these guys when I first met them. And that's how I knew when my in existed, was I looked at the feet. Is there an opening? Is there not? Another phenomenal way how you can translate the action of the feet in a networking situation, is who is the most important person in the group? I was at an event, I know a lot of my stories start off that way, but this is my life. I was at an event and there were a group of people standing around, again, I was just kind of bored so I turned on the mechanism. And I started observing people. And this was an event with investment bankers, big dogs, lots of money, a real swanky affair. And there was one, kind of, older guy who was in a circle of all these older guys, it was all men, and everybody was in nice suits looking sharp, you know? Alpha doggin' it up. (audience laughing) And this one older guy looked like he just got back from vacation from Hawaii or something, the jeans had a little bit of a hole in it, had like a Hawaiian shirt, shoes were like beat up tennis shoes. Didn't look special at all, looked like he didn't belong. Everybody's feet were pointed towards him. If I wanted to be influential with an influencer, that's the person I would have approached. And then afterwards to double check my theory, I went around and said, who's so and so? And they go, oh, well we didn't think he was gonna come, but he's done, and then I get the full bio. So I got confirmation that the body language trick absolutely worked. Questions this far about that?
What about like, I know, it's not so common anymore but, I know coming up, I was taught that ladies stand a certain way and ladies sit a certain way. Do you think that that holds true in today's world?
Absolutely, a lot of things affect body language, culture, societal gender roles, and also, clothing. So, how I sit in this chair today in this skirt is gonna be completely different than how I would sit if I were wearing slacks. So yes, there are differences. Men also, in America, will sit a certain way, cross their legs in more of a triangle shape, versus men in like European cultures and Eastern European cultures will cross their legs closer together, more in what, we as Americans would consider, to be a female type of sitting position. So there are those influences. For today's purposes, I usually talk more about Americanesque body language, but there are so many universal signals. And of course, there are also body language rules like when you meet somebody in Japan and how you present your card in Japan, there are rules to that. We in America just don't have that same kind of societal structure to those types of interactions. So, those things do play a role but I like to focus on what is more universal about body language, because there are certain things that, no matter who you are or where you come from, this is what's going to exemplify assuming you're not a sociopath. (laughing) Other questions?
So, now that we have this awareness, what can we do, so if I'm at a networking event, I can be aware of my feet, and if I'm talking to four different people, and I notice that my feet are, you know, I've observed that my own feet are pointing towards the door, can I just check in with that? And then make an assessment that if I do wanna stay in, I sort of can move my feet in?
So, I love that you use the term, check in, cause that's really what it's about when it comes to your own body language, is just checking in about, what am I showing? What am I expressing right now? Because body language is so subconscious, it's handled by our subconscious mind, so we do need to consciously check in regularly to make sure. So, for example, and I love that this ties into effective versus ineffective, I take on, generally speaking, especially on stage, but generally speaking, I take on fairly dominant, masculinesque postures. I like the term dominant better or territorial because what that means is I consciously will take up space more often when I'm talking in business situations and with men because men are generally bigger than me. I'm five foot even, so I'm a little something. And that's why I go with the bigger hair just to add size. So, I know that I need to take up more space in order to, kind of, subconsciously send a signal, I'm still on the same playing field as you. However, for bigger guys, I deal with a lot of Texas businessmen and you know? There are these big, burly guys. I will tell them the opposite, is you might need to take up less space if you're speaking with somebody of lesser size than you because you may be too intimidating and not realize that that's what you're sending across. So, paying attention to their body language and then what we'll talk about in just a little bit, is the mirroring of that to make sure you're on the same wavelength.