“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
HOW TO AVOID MISREADING BODY SIGNALS
People who don’t tell the truth have increasing hand to face contact, especially hand to nose, as soft tissue in the nose swells as a result of increase in blood pressure that leads to a slight tingling feeling around the nose when someone is lying.
However Pease informs that the interpretation could prove incorrect as the person may just be suffering from sinus. The rule is to always look for a ‘cluster’ (at least three gestures) within the context and given circumstances when making a decision. “If I say I always read your paper and I touch my nose, I hear you speak about your paper and start tagging at my ear and then say I have certainly enjoyed the interview and close my eyes and start shaking my head. That’s at least three signals within the circumstances, so you’ll think ‘this guy, I don’t trust him, I don’t believe him’. But if the first time I touched my nose, I might have been lying or I might have had an itchy nose or sinus trouble.”
MAKING A FAVOURABLE IMPRESSION DURING AN INTERVIEW
Workplace dynamics have changed over the years. According to Pease, today recruiters worldwide prefer to employ candidates with effective people skills rather than qualification and work experience. “HR in most countries across the world hired on education and experience 30 years ago. Now they don’t. The number one thing they are looking for is personal appearance. Do you look like the sort of person that can fit in, that I can give to my clients, my customers, to work with my staff? The other thing they are looking for is, do I personally like you? Do you have people’s skills and connect with me. Education and experience come further down the track.”
He advises prospective job seekers to keep the following points in mind to attain success at an interview.
1. Dress for the interview as though you already have the job.
2. Understand that you are on stage from the time you arrive in the car park.
3. Choose to stand in the reception area — it keeps your clothes in good condition.
4. Practise carrying papers in your left hand. Most people shake hands, open doors and hold cold drinks in the right hand, switching papers from one hand to the other at a critical time can make an interviewee appear clumsy.
5. When you shake hands, keep the palm straight and give the same pressure as you receive.
BODY LANGUAGE DURING INTERVIEWS
Avoid crossing arms and legs, and lacing fingers together, Pease advises. “If your mother or father held your hand when you were little and under stress, as an adult when you feel the same — and in a job interview you will feel stress — you are likely to hold hands with yourself as it’s comforting. But someone who is looking at you will think you are not confident. Instead practise “steepling” – bring the tips of your fingers together.
BESTSELLERS by ALLAN AND BARBARA PEASE
• Definitive Book of Body Language
• Why Men Don’t Listen & Women Can’t Read Maps
• Why Men Don’t Have a Clue & Women Always Need More Shoes
• Questions Are The Answers
• Easy Peasey - People Skills For Life