What Volleyball Huddles Can Teach Us About The Dynamics of “Personal Distance” Reply

By Chris Simmons

Most of us don’t realize that the distance we place between us and others greatly affects our communication and relationships. To illustrate my point, let’s look at a real life situation that clearly demonstrated the dynamics of closeness.

I was thoroughly enjoying the volleyball tournament my talented daughter was competing in when a team huddle caught my attention. “That’s not the way they huddled last week,” I thought. Just seven days earlier, the girls were 6-1 going into the championship round. Their teamwork and technical skills had been nearly flawless and it showed in every time-out prompted huddle. The girls stood in a tight circle – many hugging their teammates on both sides.

But today – several things were different. They were off their game and they knew it. They were winning, but the game was closer than it should have been. The other team wasn’t scoring points as much as much as my daughter’s team was giving away points with sloppy play. When the coach called a time-out, the girls huddled but with 12-18 inches between every player. Shoulders sagged. No one touched, laughed, or even smiled. They were frustrated and disappointed in themselves.

As the tourney continued, three of the girls hit a slump and their opponents used the opportunity to take a small lead. At the very next huddle, not only was there now one to two feet of daylight between most of the players, but the three slumping girls stood loosely together five feet outside the circle.  No one had said anything to them – the three had excluded themselves. Later that afternoon, they settled down – regained their focus – and played the best game I’d seen in years. Their re-found camaraderie and joy again showed in their huddles. Everyone was hugging and smiling.

The girls had played together for months at this point. They were all good friends – some had been best friends for years. Even so, the ebb and flow of emotion visibly displayed the expansion and contraction of  their individual and collective personal space needs. The “intimate zone” bonding of a seasoned team gave way to physical distancing among players as a result of their stress.

Known as “proxemics,” this occurrence refers to the distance between interacting people. Personal distance is a key element for judging and then displaying how a person aids our self-interest. It’s a subconscious survival instinct derived from gathering visual clues and deciding to move towards someone, let them come to you, or move away. The fluid dynamic of this physical space reveals a great deal of information, as the four “proxemic” zones (listed below) are circular areas in which others enter or stay based on the relationship we have with them at that exact moment.

   The Four “Proxemic” Zones
Intimate Space: Within 18 inches.
Personal Space: 18 inches – 4 feet.
Social Space: 4 – 12 feet.
Public Space: 12 – 25 feet.

The Confession – The “Textbook” Interrogation of Col. Russell Williams Reply

David Russell Williams (born March 7, 1963) is a convicted murderer, rapist, and former Colonel in the Canadian Forces. From July 2009 to his arrest in February 2010, he commanded CFB Trenton, a hub for air transport operations in Canada and abroad and the country’s largest and busiest military airbase. Williams was also a decorated military pilot who had flown Canadian Forces VIP aircraft for dignitaries such as Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, and the Governor General and Prime Minister of Canada.

On February 8, 2010, he was relieved as the base commander at CFB Trenton due to criminal charges. He was formally charged by the Ontario Provincial Police, pursuant to the Criminal Code of Canada, with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of forcible confinement, two counts of breaking and entering, and sexual assault; another 82 charges relating to breaking and entering were later added. On October 21, 2010, Williams was sentenced to two life sentences for first-degree murder, two 10-year sentences for other sexual assaults, two 10-year sentences for forcible confinement, and 82 one-year sentences for breaking and entering, all to be served concurrently. The life sentences mean Williams will serve a minimum of 25 years before parole eligibility. Since he has been convicted of multiple murders, Williams is not eligible for early parole under the so-called “faint hope clause” of the Canadian Criminal Code.

On October 22, 2010, Williams was stripped of his commission, ranks, and awards by the Governor General of Canada on the recommendation of the Chief of the Defence Staff. His severance pay was terminated and the salary he received following his arrest was seized, although he is still entitled to a pension. Subsequent to his conviction, his uniform was burned, his medals were destroyed and his vehicle crushed and scrapped. He is currently serving his sentence at Kingston Penitentiary, in the prison’s segregation unit.



Pamela Meyer: How to Spot a Liar Reply

On any given day we’re lied to from 10 to 200 times, and the clues to detect those lie can be subtle and counter-intuitive. Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, shows the manners and “hotspots” used by those trained to recognize deception — and she argues honesty is a value worth preserving.

Editor’s Note:  A clear, concise and most importantly, accurate video by author Pamela Meyer.

Mirror Imaging: The Most Powerful Technique to Quickly Build Rapport 1

By Chris Simmons

Mirroring a person’s body language – also known as physical mirroring – is one of the simplest, effective, and universal tools to make someone feel comfortable and “at ease.” It conveys the impression you are understood, share similar attitudes, and are emotionally in synch. In doing so, not only do you see yourself in the other person, you subconsciously link them to the positive feelings they’ve created. This quickly leads to rapport and as a result – influence. Interestingly, it is for these reasons we do not mirror people we dislike or strangers.

Despite our predisposition to routinely mirror image, most people are woefully unaware of its importance in establishing and sustaining emotional connections, as well as the many forms in which it occurs. Consciously or unconsciously, we’ve all mirror-imaged someone else from time to time. Perhaps while interacting with a friend, flirting with an interesting person, or playing with an infant. Chances are, in your last face-to-face meeting with a close friend, you mimicked certain things they did. In most situations, these actions are involuntary and sincere.

The most common body language mirrored includes stance, body angle, gestures, posture, and seating position. Additionally, voice inflection, speaking speed, accents, speech patterns and even breathing can become synchronized in highly connected individuals. During mirroring, there is always a leader and a follower(s), although the roles easily ebb and flow. The leader can consciously test the success of his/her mirroring by introducing gestures the follower hasn’t used and noting how quickly the action is mimicked. Functionally, the leader holds more influence at any given moment while the follower is cultivating a deeper level of rapport.

Additionally, research proves in extreme situations, mirroring can extend to synchronized blinking, raising of the eyebrows, pupil dilation and flaring of the nostrils. Known as micro-gestures, most of these actions cannot be consciously imitated.

Bear in mind, however, that men and women mirror differently. A woman, for example, is four times more likely to mirror another woman than a man would mirror another man. Furthermore, a woman will freely mimic a man, whereas a man generally only mirrors a woman when flirting. Women are also twice as likely to express emotions through facial expressions and body language. For example, it would not be uncommon for a woman to display six facial gestures during a 10 second conversation (half the expressions reflecting comprehension and the other half mirroring). Significantly, women capture meaning through voice tone and use body language to factor in the speaker’s emotional condition. Finally, as a group, women are generally more attentive to mirroring details and in detecting discrepancies.

A few words of caution for conscious mirroring:  never echo someone’s negative signals, do not be obvious, and because of the general public’s growing awareness of this phenomenon – do not be overly hasty in mirroring someone you’ve just met.

Interestingly, mirroring protocols vary depending on whether an individual is one-on-one, in a group social setting, or in the workplace; more on the latter two scenarios soon.


Precise Statement Deconstruction of Alleged Murderer Elisa Baker Reply

Body Language Expert Blanca Cobb Analyzes Elisa Baker

The step-mother who confessed to killing and dismembering Zahra Baker now says she didn’t do it. We had body language expert Blanca Cobb examine Elisa Baker’s recent prison interview.

Editor’s Note:  While Blanca Cobb’s assessment is accurate, she uses statement deconstruction — not body language — to reach her conclusions.

How And Why Story-Telling is Used to Increase Influence 1

Why You Must Tell Stories, Not Dump Information, In Your Presentations

Nick Morgan, Forbes.com contributor

People often ask me about storytelling in speeches – why should they go to the trouble to come up with good stories, what does it mean to tell a story, and how do you do it.

They’re all good questions.  Let me take them in turn.

Why go to the trouble?  Because if you take the other road – informing the audience of something – no matter how interesting the information, you’ll run up against the limitation of the brain and quickly overtax your audience. We can only remember, they say, 7 plus or minus 2 things.  Most of the time, I think you only get to tell an audience 4 or 5 because they’ve already got 2 or 3 things rattling around in their brains before you start talking.

What happens is that audiences attempt to store your information in their frontal lobes as a list, and within about 30 seconds, their mental hoppers are full. If instead you tell your audience a story, you get to jump right into the deeper parts of their brain, where emotion and memory work together, the hippocampus and amygdala.  They hear your words differently, because they compare them with stories they’ve heard before and log them in along with The Lord of the Rings, Iron Man 3, and Bambi.

So tell stories, because you greatly increase the likelihood that they’ll remember what you say.  If you do it well – by telling a great story.  As I’ve blogged before, there are 5 great stories – the Quest, Stranger in a Strange Land, Revenge, Rags to Riches and Love Story.  You want to tell one of those.  Well.

What does it mean to tell a story?  Telling a story means first of all making your audience the hero.  Then, taking your audience on a journey – one of those 5 great journeys I mentioned above, a journey with complications, danger, struggle, and above all decisions.  In other words, a story arc.  Because it’s a speech and the audience is the hero, you want to arrive at a happy ending – that’s the end of the arc.  You and your audience make the right decision, and the division is saved, the product is launched, or the prize is won. But first you and your audience have to get through the struggle, the peril, and the agonies of a great tale.  Think about The Lord of the Rings or Iron Man 3 or Bambi – how much peril each of those stories puts its heroes in.  That’s what it means to tell a story.

How do you do it? If you’re talking about a product, don’t list features.  That’s not a story.  Instead, find an unusual customer usage case and talk about that.  How did the product change that customer’s life for the better?  Or talk about the personas of customers that might buy the product and how they might use it.  Or put the product at the climax of the story arc – like those old Mr. Clean TV ads where the product saves the day by cleaning up the spill.  Or talk about how the product will change the audience’s life.  Find the story arc, the tension and release, the problem and solution.  That’s how you do it.

Telling stories makes the difference between boring, forgettable speeches, and speeches that people remember.  Do the hard work.  Find the story.  Tell it like only you know how.

What Teachers Know About Body Language That CEOs Should Learn Reply

Carol Kinsey Goman, Contributor – Forbes.com

May 7 is National Teacher Appreciation Day, and the best educators could teach business leaders a thing or two about body language.

Pygmalion in the Classroom, one of the most controversial publications in the history of educational research, showed how a teacher’s expectations can motivate student achievement. This classic study gave prospective teachers a list of students who had been identified as “high achievers.” The teachers were told to expect remarkable results from these students, and at the end of the year, the students did indeed make sharp increases on their test scores. In reality, these children were not high achievers, but had been chosen at random from the entire pool of pupils. It was the teachers’ belief in their potential that was responsible for their exceptional results; a belief that was communicated not directly (the students were never told they were special), but subliminally through nonverbal cues.

In much the same way, a leader’s expectations of employees’ potential (as expressed by that leader’s nonverbal behavior) can also play a key role in determining how well people perform at work. This effect was described in a Psychology Today article, “Pygmalion Leadership: The Power of Positive Expectations.

Body language is the management of time, space, appearance, posture, gesture, touch, expression, eye contact, and vocal prosody — how you say what you say. From a body language perspective, teachers (and business leaders) send two sets of signals. One set of signals conveys status, power, and confidence. You send these signals by standing tall, using steepling or palms-down hand gestures, keeping your head straight, minimizing facial expressions, gesturing between your waist and shoulders, and speaking in a deep and forceful tone of voice. There are many occasions where educators and leaders would want to emphasize their competence and authority. But when trying to engage and motivate students or staff, these signals usually send the wrong message.

The second set of nonverbal signals conveys empathy, likeability, friendliness, and inclusiveness. These body language cues include a relaxed posture, smiles, open palm gestures, forward leans, vocal variety — and the eye contact, head nods and head tilts that nonverbally show approval and encourage others to keep speaking. Teachers who thought they had the high-achieving pupils used more of these warmth signals, and in doing so encouraged the exceptional performance they secretly expected. It’s something that more business leaders should try!

Editor’s Note: I (and other experts) disagree with Ms. Goman’s inclusion of vocal prosody as a component of body language. Webster’s dictionary, for example, defines body language as “the gestures, movements, and mannerisms by which a person or animal communicates with others.” The study and interpretation of written or spoken words and utterances is a separate and distinct field of study, often called statement/discourse analysis or discourse deconstruction.

How do Childhood Experiences Affect How we Interpret Facial Expressions? Reply

Valentina Park, Psychology in Action, May 2, 2013

Much of our daily, personal interactions are based on how we interpret the facial expressions of people we meet. On a basic level, when a person smiles we know we made them happy and when they look angry we may have offended them. This type of facial discrimination has become so second nature that we may forget this skill once had to be learned, developed, and practiced. Our personal experiences as children play an important role in shaping the way we read and interpret faces later in life (Fox, Levitt, & Nelson, 2010).

To examine this idea, studies have been done to analyze the differences in facial recognition between children being reared in typical families and children being reared in orphanages. A child raised in an orphanage experiences chronic stress, receives minimal emotional attention, and does not have the opportunity to form secure attachments with people (Parker & Nelson, 2005). These atypical social interactions are theorized to cause deficits in the ability to understand the meaning of facial expressions later in life (Parker & Nelson, 2005). Consequently, orphanage-reared children may behave abnormally in social situations because they have difficulty interpreting characteristic cues and faces (Parker & Nelson, 2005).

Children adopted from orphanages still experience traumatic early life stress and consequently have similar difficulties interpreting emotional expressions. This is because the social bonds formed during infancy continue to shape emotional functions throughout adulthood (Fries, Ziegler, Kurian, Jacoris, & Pollak, 2005). Specifically, brain systems responsible for regulating basic social behavior are directly influenced by early life stress. This suggests that early childhood is a highly critical period for developing facial discrimination techniques and shaping human interactions in the future. (Fries, Ziegler, Kurian, Jacoris, & Pollak, 2005).

Studies also suggest a relationship between past experience with abuse and increased attention to angry faces. Children raised in abusive homes are more likely to focus their attention on an angry face and have difficulty disengaging from these faces (Pollak & Tolley-Schell, 2003). Moreover, they are more like to match any emotional situation to pictures of angry faces in experimental tasks (Pollak, Cicchetti, Homung, & Reed, 2000). Once again, this research suggests that our experiences as children shape the way we process faces later in life and thus influence how we understand social interactions and choose to behave.

Interpreting facial expressions of other people is how we are able to understand and interact with society (Fries & Pollak, 2006). It should not be underestimated how important this skill is in influencing and shaping our daily social behavior (Cicchetti, Ackerman, & Izard, 2009). Early life stress and adversity can affect the development of this skill and lead to atypical interpretations of facial expressions later in life.