Eight Tricks For Reading Body Language

Body language provides an amazing amount of information on what other people are thinking if you know what to look for. And who hasn’t wanted to read people’s minds at some point? You already pick up on more body language cues than you’re consciously aware of. UCLA research has shown that only 7% of communication is based on the actual words we say. As for the rest, 38% comes from tone of voice and the remaining 55% comes from body language. Learning how to become aware of and to interpret that 55% can give you a leg up with other people. Here are 8 cues to look for...

  1. Crossed arms and legs signal resistance to your ideas. Crossed arms and legs are physical barriers that suggest the other person is not open to what you’re saying. Even if they’re smiling and engaged in a pleasant conversation, their body language tells the story. Gerard I. Nierenberg and Henry H. Calero videotaped more than 2,000 negotiations for a book they wrote on reading body language, and not a single one ended in an agreement when one of the parties had their legs crossed while negotiating. Psychologically, crossed legs or arms signal that a person is mentally, emotionally, and physically blocked off from what’s in front of them. It’s not intentional, which is why it’s so revealing.
  2. Real smiles crinkle the eyes. When it comes to smiling, the mouth can lie but the eyes can’t. Genuine smiles reach the eyes, crinkling the skin to create crow’s feet around them. People often smile to hide what they’re really thinking and feeling, so the next time you want to know if someone’s smile is genuine, look for crinkles at the corners of their eyes. If they aren’t there, that smile is hiding something.
  3. Copying your body language is a good thing. Have you ever been in a meeting with someone and noticed that every time you cross or uncross your legs, they do the same? Or perhaps they lean their head the same way as yours when you’re talking? That’s actually a good sign. Mirroring body language is something we do unconsciously when we feel a bond with the other person. It’s a sign that the conversation is going well and that the other party is receptive to your message. This knowledge can be especially useful when you’re negotiating because it shows you what the other person is really thinking about the deal.
  4. Posture tells the story. Have you ever seen a person walk into a room, and immediately, you just know that they were the person in charge? That effect is largely about body language, and often includes an erect posture, gestures made with the palms facing down, and open and expansive gestures in general. The brain is hardwired to equate power with the amount of space people take up. Standing up straight with your shoulders back is a power position; it appears to maximize the amount of space you fill. Slouching, on the other hand, is the result of collapsing your form; it appears to take up less space and projects less power. Maintaining good posture commands respect and promotes engagement, whether you’re a leader or not.
  5. Eyes that lie. Most of us probably grew up hearing, “Look me in the eye when you talk to me!” Our parents were operating under the assumption that it’s tough to hold someone’s gaze when you’re lying to them, and they were right to an extent. But that’s such common knowledge that people will often deliberately hold eye contact in an attempt to cover up the fact that they’re lying. The problem is that most of them overcompensate and hold eye contact to the point that it feels uncomfortable. On average, Americans hold eye contact for seven to ten seconds, longer when we’re listening than when we’re talking. If you’re talking with someone whose stare is making you squirm—especially if they’re very still and unblinking—something is up and they might be lying you.
  6. Raised eyebrows signal discomfort. There are three main emotions that make your eyebrows go up: surprise, worry, and fear. Try raising your eyebrows when you’re having a relaxed casual conversation with a friend. It’s hard to do, isn’t it? If somebody who is talking to you raises their eyebrows and the topic isn’t one that would logically cause surprise, worry, or fear, there is something else going on.
  7. Exaggerated nodding signals anxiety about approval. When you’re telling someone something and they nod excessively, this means that they are worried about what you think of them or that you doubt their ability to follow your instructions.
  8. A clenched jaw signals stress. A clenched jaw, a tightened neck, or a furrowed brow are all signs of stress. Regardless of what the person is saying, these are signs of considerable discomfort. The conversation might be delving into something they’re anxious about, or their mind might be elsewhere and they’re focusing on the thing that’s stressing them out. The key is to watch for that mismatch between what the person says and what their tense body language is telling you.

The bottom line is that even if you can’t read a person’s exact thoughts, you can learn a lot from their body language, and that’s especially true when words and body language don’t match.

--Adapted from weforum.org


7 Principles to Lead With Imagination

Imagination is about seeing what others don’t see. In a disruptive world, we need leaders with more imagination. We all have the capacity for imagination and applied it has the power to unlock or fullest potential.

Brian Paradis was the Chief Financial Officer for Florida Hospital when he was tasked with leading the troubled organization in 2006. Plagued with doubt and inexperience, he records his journey in Lead with Imagination, to turn the enterprise around.

Lead with Imagination he writes is about “how to lead and how to do it with imagination. It is first about how to be, about character, before checklists and a list of to-dos.” It’s about “how to release yourself and those you lead from the constraints of the mind’s own making and those of our organizations.”

This is a powerful book. Honest, straightforward, and insightful. The lessons Paradis has learned on his journey, we can learn along with him. He cites a passage from General Gordon Sullivan’s book, Hope Is Not a Method, that is particularly instructive. Sullivan was a primary inheritor of a U.S. Army in shambles after Vietnam.

Below, is a summary of each of Paradis’ seven principles.
  1. Love in All Interactions Love is the foundation, the soil, and the fuel for imagination. Love is both power and powerful. An act, service, or business endeavor done in love universally turns out better. However, love is hard. It is much easier to give in to fear, cynicism, and self-interest than to lead, live, and serve with love. Paradis says love should be our brand, first inside our organizations so that it can radiate outside our organizations to whomever we serve.
  2.  Out of the Comfort Zone: Leaning into Authenticity and Humility. Once you commit to the principle of love, a high hurdle presents itself when leaning into authenticity in your leadership. At the same time, you must become self-aware about the influence your ego casts. Your ego must be managed. There is not a simple formula for this work. The struggle is the heart of this part of the journey to lead with imagination. It is difficult, if not impossible, to move forward effectively without consistency and balance to your words matching your actions. Authenticity and humility build trust.
  3. Chaos, Calm, and A Canvas: Creating the Environment That Matters. A leader’s primary job is to set the stage, not perform on it. If you want to lead with imagination, you must unleash the power, capacity, and energy of the many and release the stranglehold of the few—even if the few includes you. This is creative work. We often use the language of ‘creating culture’; however, we don’t think enough about what those words mean. This is work that involves careful thought and consideration of every decision we make as another brushstroke applies the paint, either moving us toward a performance masterpiece of moving us away from it.
  4. The Act of Fearlessness: Practicing Vulnerability and Right Risk-Taking. Vulnerability is about putting yourself in harm’s potential way, or ‘out there,’ in order to accomplish something. It requires clear and creative action. It exposes you. In that place of exposure, we move from preparing to lead to leading with imagination. First, we take risks personally, then we can begin taking the right risks organizationally. This is where the trifecta of imagination, creativity, and innovation get their solid foothold in what might be described as virtuous momentum.
  5. Tolerating Curiosity. Curiosity starts with questions. Both quality and quantity matter. Asking them is less than half the process. Holding the answer open, suspending judgment, questioning: do we even have the right answer yet? That is the larger half. That is the art. Curiosity is next about pursuing this process within the team, designing the space both physically and psychologically that is safe and collaborative, and tolerating the possible inefficiency of a ‘best idea wins’ mind-set. Far too many times, we stop asking and listening, believing we know the answers and leaving the most important insights undiscovered. Finally, curiosity is about being relentless and disciplined about the process.
  6. The Misunderstanding About Humor. Laughter creates a runway for love to land on, and then take off again. Life is serious, to be sure. Organizations are serious, too, but they are made up of humans. And because of that, humor contributes an essential living element to culture. Humor makes us human. It connects us. It gives us the energy and capacity to handle stress and challenge. It lifts us. If we believe people are our greatest organizational capacity, then infusing humor into an enterprise is a high return on investment and undervalued as a creative and cultural force. Humor opens a pathway to breakthroughs and new insights. It becomes a competitive advantage.
  7. Connecting the Dots: Doing Whatever It Takes. Leadership is hard work. Leading with imagination and leading for results require skill and competence, constant self-evaluation, a servant’s heart, and a relentlessness to get it ‘mostly’ right. It is about asking the important and difficult questions of yourself and of the organization and waiting for the answers. It is about engaging and encouraging what is working and owning and dealing with what is not. It is about finding the way and doing whatever job needs to be done to support the team. It is about continuously and consistently imagining the vision, communicating it, and taking daily action toward it. Benjamin Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, has described the ‘long line’ or vision of a musical piece. He explains how the ‘line’ is easily lost with too much attention to single notes or short passages. As leaders, it is our constant job to keep bringing our organizations and enterprises back to the long line of the music and connecting the dots back to the big why.

--Adapted from Leadershipdigital.com


A Baker's Dozen Quotes From Spirit Means Business

Spirit Means Business: The Way to Prosper Wildly without Selling Your Soul is a terrific book by Alan Cohen. Cohen is the author of 27 popular inspirational books, which this one is one of my favorites. Here are 13 quotes from the book.
  1. You cannot cling to the old and embrace the new.
  2. When your motivation and intention are strong, you do what you need to do because no other option is acceptable.
  3. Everything you do represents your choice
  4. A labor of love is no labor at all.
  5. Thinking out of the box is the first step for getting out of the box. 
  6. If it’s not fun, hire it done.
  7. There are people who would love to do what you hate to do. Let them do what they do best so you can free yourself up to do what you do best.
  8. You can always change your mind. An attitudinal upgrade fulfills you in ways that exterior changes cannot.
  9. There is not always a direct correspondence between the method by which you serve and the channel through which your compensation comes. Live in the grander picture and all of your needs will be taken care of by a hand larger than your own.
  10. You can be taken care of through an infinite number of ways. Providence knows how to find you.
  11. Intention mobilizes life force and ability.
  12. There is no limit to the energy you find when you stay on track with the things you want to do. If you have lots of things you want to do, you will find lots of energy to do them. This is why some people are very productively busy. Other people are very busy but they are exhausted because they are doing things they don’t want to do. Your energy does not depend on how many things you are doing. It depends on how much you value the things you are doing.
  13. Choose activities in which you breathe rather than suffocate. 


A Dozen Takeaways From Think, Learn, Succeed

Think, Learn, Succeed: Understanding and Using Your Mind to Thrive at School, the Workplace, and Life is a book written by Dr. Caroline Leaf. Backed by up-to-date scientific research and practical insight, Dr. Leaf empowers you to take control of your thoughts in order to take control of your life. Dr. Leaf shows you how to combine three powerful tools in order to improve your memory, learning, cognitive and intellectual performance, work performance, physical performance, relationships, and emotional health. Here are ten takeaways from reading the book...
  1. Epigenetics shows that externally driven changes, such as how we think and react to events of life, will influence the behavior of your genes. We are not merely our genes or our biology.
  2. You are the one who has control over your thinking, you wield the power through the way you think, feel, and choose.
  3. We cannot use the same measures that we use to measure the physical world to measure the nonphysical world. 
  4. No two people have the same thoughts about the same event or thing. Everyone’s perceptions differ, each person has the power to create his or her own reality. 
  5. We need to understand who we are because we need to be ourselves, not someone else, to succeed in life. You will make a great you but a lousy someone else. 
  6. Even though we are each wired differently, we are all wired for success.  
  7. Talent is not fixed; it grows and develops with us as we use it.  
  8. Each of us has a true self and each of us also has an adapted self that has been influenced by our environment and circumstances. 
  9. Society as a whole can only progress if we understand that we don’t all have to fit in one particular mold. 
  10. A lot of people are labeled and put in a box when there wasn’t even a box to begin with. 
  11. We need to learn to savor the pleasure of now and not just marinate in the misery of the past or imagine that the grass will be greener in the future.
  12. The words you speak are electromagnetic and quantum life forces come from thoughts inside your brain, which you build into your mind by thinking, feeling, and choosing over time.