“You are sitting at a very unusual position here. You’ve got your ankles crossed under the table, you have any back problem? I am trying to work out what exactly does this say, maybe you want to go to the ladies’ restroom or something!” says Allan Pease candidly when I ask him to interpret my posture during our interview. The bestselling author and internationally renowned guru of body language is right, I admit, laughing, but the awkward pose is also an attempt at staying out of the photographer’s frame, I clarify.
“So how would you normally sit?” He promptly asks. I reposition myself as Pease re-scans and reviews. “The way you are sitting now you’ve got your left over right leg; 70 per cent of women will sit with the left leg over the top. You are leaning forward, which is good. Leaning forward you retain more, you remember more and you are more interested in what you hear. We lean into things, people and events we enjoy and find interesting, and we lean out of people, stories and events we don’t.”
The human body articulates its feelings through a series of subtle gestures, movements and expressions. Learning to read this outward expression of emotional conditions is called decoding body language.
“The first thing to understand is that between 60 to 80 per cent of the impact of messages face to face is done with things that don’t involve words or sounds. The way you look and appear, clothing and jewellery that you might wear, all this sends signals about what your attitude might be”, Pease says. “I am teaching people how to sell themselves to someone else so that people would want to go on a date with them or say yes to what they are proposing or hire them for the job.”
Pease trains, teaches and coaches business and government leaders to achieve success by using powerful communication skills and positive body language.
Interpreting non-verbal body signals can also enable individuals to turn an unfavourable situation to their advantage. “What you do when you see someone in a negative position is say, ‘come lean forward and read this’ or ‘here’s a cup of tea or coffee,’ so they’ve got to actually change their position to do this. Remember closed body is closed mind, open body is open mind,” Pease says.
Popularly called Mr Body Language, Pease began unravelling the subtle nuances of non-verbal communication at an early age when accompanying his father, an insurance agent, on house-calls. “He would say ‘watch me when I say this, watch what happens. They’ll do this movement, they’ll do that’”. The timely training proved immensely beneficial. By the 1960s, the champion salesman began teaching the art of selling. “I would talk about how to recognise by someone’s behaviour whether they were with you or against you and that became part of the training course and in 1976, it became a book called Body Language,” Pease says.
Pease has written 15 Top Ten Best Sellers, including nine number ones, with his wife Barbara, on communication and sex differences in human behaviour. Their work has been translated into 51 languages and sold some 25 million copies. Pease admits women are far better at decoding body language then men. “Women are six times better at catching lies face to face than men. Most men know that lying to women on their face is generally a waste of time.”
But, he has the perfect solution for this.
“The strategy is, we tell men, don’t lie to women on their face, call them up; send them an sms.”
Shahana Raza is a UAE-based freelance writer