Being Alone Together Reply

ElevatorWhy are humans so reluctant to communicate in public with strangers?

Published on August 4, 2014 by Romeo Vitelli, Ph.D. in Media Spotlight

Why are humans so reluctant to communicate in public?

Yes, we’re all social creatures with friends and family that we interact with on a daily basis, but what happens when you’re surrounded by strangers? Every day, we find ourselves in public settings with countless people around us.  Whether it’s shopping in a mall, being on a crowded subway, walking down a busy street, or even in an elevator fillled with people. How social are we then?

Once in a long while, we may strike up a conversation with someone while waiting to board a plane or in a doctor’s office, though this tends to be rare. More often than not, we consider any attempt to talk to a stranger as being awkward, and even unwelcome depending on how uncomfortable this makes us feel (especially if you’re a woman being approached by a strange man). For the most part, the strangers around us go on being strangers.

At least in terms of face-to-face interaction. Communicating with strangers online is a critical part of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Casual conversations that might seem unthinkable in a crowded room seem much easier when there is no physical contact involved. I have numerous Facebook and Twitter acquaintances that I interact with on a regular basis that I’ve never met in person and I am hardly unique.

But why are ordinarily social humans so unsocial in situations involving face-to-face interaction? Do we prefer being isolated when physically surrounded by strangers? Or do we feel that the consequences of connecting with people we don’t know are too risky to want to take a chance? Research studies looking at how we are affected by social interactions typically find that connecting with people who are close to us (friends and family) are more important than how often we interact with strangers. Since we tend not to regard strangers, or even distant acquaintances, as being a good source of social support (except in extraordinary circumstances), we’re less likely to try interacting with them.

Or is it simply the physical location that makes a difference? A survey of 203 participants using Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk marketplace were asked about the likelihood that they would talk to a friend or a stranger in a waiting room, a train, an airplane, or a cab. Virtually all the participants agreed that they would talk to a friend in any one of those settings. For strangers however, the numbers were very different. Ranging from 93 percent saying they would avoid talking in a waiting room to 51 percent saying they would avoid talking in a cab, most people apparently prefer to sit in silence rather than chatting with a stranger.

A new research study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General presents the results of nine field and laboratory experiments exploring why people apparently prefer to remain isolated among strangers. Conducted by Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder of the University of Chicago, the experiments explored some of the underlying beliefs that might explain this strange need for solitude in public places.

Feature continues here:   Being Alone Together

 

Unintended Consequences: How Communications Technology is Killing Our Children’s Future Reply

Young adultsBy Chris Simmons

Digital natives, the term used for Millennials and the follow-on generations, are at grave risk from the very technology they’ve so thoroughly embraced.

New research finds that this reliance on emails, texts, and similar impersonal tools has removed the non-verbal component  from how these generations communicate. However, as readers of this blog are aware, however, the bulk of every single human interaction is nonverbal.

Devoid of all the subtle nuances  that comprise effective communications, digital natives are left with nothing but emotionless words. Given decades of research demonstrating that at least 60% of every message is nonverbal, digital natives are at risk to experiencing lives of institutionalized miscommunication.

This news alone is startling, but more devastating is the second key finding of this latest study. Absent the emotional (i.e., nonverbal) component of their cyber interactions, the digitals‘ brains are being rewired to process communications in a reason-based fashion. Thus, communication is reduced to mathematical equations wherein “word+word+word=irrefutable fact.”

Sadly, the rest of the world does not think and act based exclusively on logic and reason. Emotion is, and always will be, at the heart of every decision made by non-digital natives. This puts natives in a significant disadvantage whenever they interact face-to-face. Inexperienced at reading body language and the other theatrics of language, their failure rate in analyzing and interpreting others’ actions or negotiating favorable outcomes is stunning.

Predictably, this discomfort and unfamiliarity with F2F communications leads some digitals to retreat back into their comfort zone of technology-based tools. This response, however, can send the digital into a communications death spiral and increasingly deep personal and professional isolation.

Fortunately, the digitals can be saved, but only if older generations intervene. Non-digital natives need to teach the younger generations about nonverbal communication, the emotional roots of being human, behavioral cues, statement analysis, and so forth. Its not to late to save them – but their personal and professional futures require our immediate assistance.

Human Faces Can Express at Least 21 Distinct Emotions 1

Happily surprised (Image courtesy of The Ohio State University).

Happily surprised
(Image courtesy of The Ohio State University).

By Alice Park, Time

Distinct facial muscles were used to express compound emotions

Leading scientific thinkers of their time, such as Aristotle, Rene Descartes, Guillaume Duchenne, and Charles Darwin, have long promoted the idea that there are a handful of basic emotions that people express. In recent decades, that group has crystalized into six core emotions: happiness, surprise, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust.

But there are clearly many shades of gray between those emotions. For example, there’s the happy-because-I’m-eating-ice cream and the happy-because-I-just-learned-I-got-a-surprise-marriage-proposal looks, each of which is slightly different.

That’s what intrigued Aleix Martinez, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Ohio State University. “Six seemed a small number given the rainbow of possibilities of feeling and expressing emotions,” he says.

MORE: Emotions May Not Be So Universal After All

Martinez wanted to know whether compound emotions, such as happy surprise, were expressed using the same muscle movements of both happiness and surprise, or whether the expression involved a unique set of muscles that represented some amalgam of the two.

What he and his colleagues found was that the human face makes 21 different emotional expressions – and each is different from the other. While some represented combinations of emotions, each differed in terms of which muscles were involved.

And surprisingly, these facial expression patterns were remarkably consistent across all 230 volunteers. For example, each showed happy surprise in the same way that was distinct from both happiness and from surprise, and different still from angry surprise.

MORE: To Really Read Emotions, Look at Body Language, Not Facial Expressions

Martinez broke down the facial expressions of 230 volunteers by applying his engineering strategies. He and his colleagues gave each of the students, staff, or faculty members who enrolled in the study different scenarios and asked them to show how they would react in each one. They were told, for example, that they had just learned they had been accepted to a graduate program, that someone had told them a disgusting, but still funny joke, or that they had just smelled something bad. The volunteers were allowed to practice their facial expressions in front of a mirror before Martinez took pictures of their reactions.

He then computer-analyzed each of the 5,000 images, breaking them down by which facial muscles the participants used. These were first defined in 1978 by psychologist Paul Ekman, who codified facial expressions in the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) by action units, or muscles or groups of muscles that went into making facial expressions – such as lip parts (for showing disgust), showing teeth (for expressing happiness), mouth stretch (for fear), or eyelid tightening (for anger).

Feature continues here: Human Faces

 

 

Interpreting the Different Messages of “Barrier” Positions Reply

Boss using his desk as a barrier as he addresses a subordinate standing in the submissive, fig-leaf pose.

Boss using his desk as a barrier as he addresses a subordinate standing in the submissive, fig-leaf pose.

By Chris Simmons

“Barrier” positions are displays of emotional distancing. Some are planned, overt signs of power intended to reinforce the stiffness of the boss-subordinate relationship. Meeting with your boss while she remains seated behind her executive desk would be such an example. [Note: This contrasts with a more visually-open boss who sits in a chair adjacent to her desk so she is kitty-corner and barrier free].

To display power and emotional distancing while seated, Americans – especially men, will sit in the “Figure-Four” pose.

President John F. Kennedy sitting in a “figure-four” stance; generally viewed as a distancing or “barrier” position.

President John F. Kennedy sitting in a “figure-four” stance; generally viewed as a distancing or “barrier” position.

Very different barrier positions are seen in reactive body gestures that demonstrate either a lack of power, disengagement from the speaker, or increased tension/hostility.

Known as the fig-leaf, the disempowerment pose occurs when an individual covers their groin with their clasped hands. Understandably, it is a major display of submission. Interestingly, you will also see this stance at funerals and memorial services. In this context, it displays emotional loss and a subconscious demonstration of man’s subjection to death. Note: you will also often see this stance in staged photos wherein the subject(s) didn’t know where to put their hands. 

The most commonly seen and misunderstood barrier position is crossed arms. It can indicate the person is cold, disengaging from the ongoing discussion, or becoming antagonized. To distinguish between the latter two stances, look for signs of tension. A puffed up chest, tense arms, or fingers clenched into fists or around the arms reveal anger. In contrast, a person who is simply disengaging will be relaxed, as they will likely be disinterested, skeptical, or otherwise uncaring regarding this particular issue/person.

Similarly, an agitated person who is seated may wrap his/her ankles around the legs of a chair, “locking” or anchoring themselves down. The use of this barrier signals physical restraint, as the individual is taking measures to keep from springing out of their seat.

 

 

“Angel Faced Killer” or Innocent Bystander? Analysis of Amanda Knox’s Interview With Diane Sawyer 1

Case Summary

Amanda Knox is the American woman tried for the murder of Meredith Kercher in Italy, along with co-defendants Raffaele Sollecito and Rudy Guede. The latter was convicted of the sexual assault and the murder in a separate trial. Knox and her boyfriend (Sollecito) were tried together, found guilty, and spent almost four years in prison before being acquitted at a second trial in October 2011.

She returned to the US while prosecutors appealed their case to the Italian Supreme Court. A third trial was ordered. Knox remained in the United States during these proceedings, which began in September 2013 and concluded in late January 2014. Authorities again found her guilty and sentenced Knox to 28 years in prison.

Analysis

The key requirement for accurately interpreting the words and gestures of others is a baseline. All verbal and nonverbal messages do not necessarily mean the same thing. To be accurate, one must observe the other party long enough to create the “baseline” of their normal mannerisms. Any subsequent anomaly displayed would then warrant attention.

That said, certain gestures and speech patterns can be seen as “Red Flags” and categorized as consistent with truthful behavior or consistent with deceptive behavior. (Note: It would also be safe to use the phrases indicative of or suggestive of).

In this video, Knox displays a wide range of emotions and behaviors. She provides many answers and emotions consistent with a truthful person. Her eyes maintain a slow blink rate throughout the interview, generally indicative of truthful behavior. Additionally, her posture and arm/hand gestures often appear relaxed, indicating a lack of stress – suggestive of truthfulness. In several instances, she seems genuinely outraged.

However, there are also 11 “Red Flags” indicating possible deception. This timeline shows the precise locations of these anomalies and explains their possible relevance.

00:13 – Asymmetric smirk in response to Sawyer’s first question. See 13 Ways a Liar Can Say “No,” But Mean “Yes”

00:16 — “No” with smirk. See 13 Ways a Liar Can Say “No,” But Mean “Yes”

00:18-00:20 — Answers “No” but nods yes.

00:24 – Swallows before answering a threatening question. See When to Watch the Throat For Signs of Deception

00:27-00:33 – Multiple denials to a single question. See 13 Ways a Liar Can Say “No,” But Mean “Yes”

00:53-00:58 – Displays misdirected anger at the police for doing their job. “They knew what they were doing and that’s unforgiveable to me” (paraphrased).

01:05-01:20 – Provides a weak denial regarding her confession, led by the word “Well,…” In this context, “well” is considered an Explainer, that is, an expression providing a reason or justification for an action, thought, or attitude. Explainers reveal a causal state in the mind of the speaker. Other Explainers include because, since, as, in order to, therefore, etc. The key take-away for Explainers is that they are frequently used as rationalization cues.

Note also she claimed the police “acted like my answers were wrong” and told Knox she “had to remember correctly.” Curiously, she displayed very little outrage against the police for these alleged acts although she appeared genuinely angry just moments earlier.

03:17-03:37 – “I wasn’t providing a lot of the detail…” In this context, the phrase “a lot” is known as a Qualifier or Hedge. This is a word or phrase that reduces the force of an assertion by allowing for exceptions or avoiding commitments. Note the continued lack of outrage against the police, whom she just claimed provided the bulk of her statement.

Also curious is her lack of eye contact. Her eyes are focused downward. Another possible indicator of deception is the ambiguity of her closing phrase — “It was all like that.”

03:37-03:42 – “And I signed it (confession)” with downward eyes. She continued to avoid  eye contact until she asserted “…because I was incredibly vulnerable at that time.” Note the use of because as an Explainer.

4:39-4:42 – Opens with “I can try to explain..” and ends with “That’s all I can do.’” The word “can” indicates the speaker (Knox) knew she had a choice (i.e., she can explain or she can choose not to). In contrast, a statement such as “I will” would have indicated both commitment and action.

4:43-4:58 – Knox expressed sorrow for falsely accusing Patrick and then rationalized it with “…BUT (pause), I was demolished…” The word “but” is known as a Retractor. This is a word that partially or totally negates the immediately preceding statement. Other Retractors include however, although, yet, & nevertheless.

Also note the imbalance of emphasis within her statement. Knox devoted just five seconds to her falsely accused colleague and then took ten seconds justifying why she accused him.

7 Sneaky Influence Tactics You Never Saw Coming 1

How people disguise their efforts to flatter and ingratiate

By Dr. Adam Grant in Psychology Today

Early in life, when people wanted to influence us, they got away with flattery and conformity. By complimenting us and agreeing with our opinions, they buttered us up and got what they wanted. As we gain experience with coworkers and bosses, advertisers and marketers, and friends and family members, we become wiser. We recognize these thinly veiled ingratiation attempts, and they fall flat.

Like a virus that mutates after being neutralized by medicine, many people have responded by developing more sophisticated weapons of influence. These stealth strategies are harder to spot, and if we’re not aware of them, we fall for them.

To learn about these tactics, strategy researchers Ithai Stern and James Westphal surveyed and interviewed thousands of members of the corporate elite. They asked CEOs, top executives, and board members at some of the world’s largest companies how they got away with ingratiating without making others suspicious of their motives. Seven consistent strategies showed up:

1. Framing flattery as likely to make us uncomfortable

Many executives admitted to prefacing compliments with disclaimers:

  • “I don’t want to embarrass you, but…”
  • “I know you won’t want me to say this, but…”
  • “You’re going to hate me for saying this, but…”

People get away with this sneaky tactic for two reasons. First, it disguises the goal: if the aim was to ingratiate, we expect people to focus on making us feel good, not bad. Second, it portrays us in a positive light: We think we’re viewed as modest.

2. Framing flattery as advice-seeking

Executives reported couching compliments in advice requests. Rather than saying “I really admire your success,” one executive asked an influential colleague, “How were you able to pull off that strategy so successfully?”

This makes it seem as if others are trying to learn from us, not ingratiate. As Jack Herbert put it, “We all admire the wisdom of people who come to us for advice.” Let’s face it: They have really good taste.

3. Complimenting us to our friends

When people compliment us directly, one manager noted, it’s “kind of obvious brown-nosing.” Instead, if they say nice things about us to our friends, “we will almost always find out about it eventually, and it will mean a lot more.”

When people speak glowingly about us behind our backs, we’re often pleasantly surprised that they were talking about us, let alone praising us. It also appears more genuine, because they’re putting their reputations on the line by telling others that they think highly of us.

Article continues here:  Sneaky Tactics

Six Simple Steps to De-Escalate a Tense Situation Reply

President John F. Kennedy sitting in a “figure-four” stance; generally viewed as a distancing or “barrier” position.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Chris Simmons

Previous posts have addressed the principle that emotions – not logic – are the core drivers in any decision. As such, when engaged in a discussion wherein tensions are rising, you can quickly lower stress levels by using these simple forms of nonverbal communication:

(not in priority order)

  • Change the angle of your body vis-à-vis your counterpart.
    • Shift your stance so your torso is not parallel to his/her upper body (i.e., you’re not “squared off” as in boxing).
    • If standing, cross your legs.
    • Tilt your head during the discussion.
  • Concede space, by either stepping back or leaning back.
  • Lessen the frequency and length of eye contact.
  • Avoid “barrier” behavior, such as crossed arms or a figure-four sitting position.
  • Take a deep breathe and audibly exhale. This gesture gently expresses your frustration while concurrently calming you and those around you.
  •  Enjoy a “change of scenery” together. Take a short walk or go get something to eat or drink.

In every human interaction, the majority of one’s message is conveyed nonverbally. Thus, rather than telling someone you want to defuse a tense situation, show them. Given our reliance on visual cues, “show, don’t tell” always achieves faster and more effective results.

David McClelland’s Theory on Motivation 1

By Chris Simmons

David C. McClelland and his Harvard associates theorized that human motivation is dominated by three distinct needs: Power (i.e., control, influence, authority); Affiliation (i.e., belonging or relationships); and Achievement (i.e., task accomplishment). Like any other human need, the balance between the three motivational drivers varies by individual. That said, a person’s inspiration and effectiveness is maximized by providing him/her with opportunities that provide the perfect blend of their needs.

For example, an individual motivated by affiliation does NOT want to stand out from the group. As such, to be singled out for public praise runs counter to their primary motivator. Such praise would not be well received and could, in fact, be embarrassing or uncomfortable. Instead, to thank him/her in private is far more effective and appreciated.

Characteristics or Indicators

Power
• Seeks leadership positions.
• Tends to collect status/prestige items.
• Often forceful, outspoken, and demanding
• Generally wins arguments.
• Displays a strong need to influence, teach or manage others.

Affiliation
• Enjoys collaboration and group work.
• Avoids conflict; trends towards “peace-keeper” roles.
• Tends to join organizations.
• Seeks and sustains friendships.
• Does well as a mediator or in jobs devoted to serving others.
• Prefers social or attitudinal feedback.
• Seeks acceptance.

Achievement
• Takes personal responsibility.
• Values feedback, especially when timely and qualitative.
• Calculating risk-taker.
• Sets high self-standards.
• Prefers solitary/individual work.
• Focused on better performance.
• Seeks challenging opportunities.

Note: McClelland’s Human Motivation Theory is also known as Three Needs Theory, Acquired Needs Theory, Motivational Needs Theory, and the Learned Needs Theory.

Jaw Shifting 1

Jaw shifting—the subtle stress reliever

By Joe Navarro, Psychology Today

I am often asked what it means when someone shifts their jaw to the side. I first observed this behavior in 1975, while working as a police officer. While interviewing an individual accused of shoplifting I noticed he shifted his jaw to the side when I asked the question, “Have you been arrested previously for shoplifting?” After some consideration he answered, “No.” Something struck me about that jaw behavior that prompted me to ask a follow-up question, “That’s not accurate is it?” The man did the behavior again, shifting his jaw to the side, but this time he smiled. And with that, he said, “Yes, I have been arrested before.” Something about that jaw shift caused me to question his answer.

So was that jaw shift an indicator of deception on his part? NO. What was it then and what is its significance? Over time what I found and repeatedly observed is that many individuals shift their jaw to the side when stressed. I have seen it when they have difficulty with a question, when they lack confidence or have doubts, when they have been caught doing something wrong, or when they are anxious as well as when someone is lying. Jaw shifting is not, per se, indicative of deception; there is no single clue of that, but it is a good indicator that someone is struggling with something, has issues, or may be concerned.

Why do we do this peculiar behavior? I think in part it helps to relieve stress. I know that when I do it the nerves in my jaw are stimulated (you can try this and see how it feels). When we stimulate nerves, (what I call pacifying behaviors and others call adaptive behaviors) even artificially, this helps to calm and soothe us. This is why we wring our hands and stroke our hair or massage our necks and temples when we are stressed. These external stimuli help us to calm ourselves. Which also explains why people under stress often increase their gum chewing.

As I have written here and in my books (What Every Body is Saying; Louder Than Words; and Clues to Deceit) repetitive behaviors (stroking, massaging, strumming, bouncing) are soothing behaviors that help us to deal with mild to high stress or with boredom (this is why I bounce my leg at the movies while the advertising is taking place). Having said that, jaw shifting is not a repetitive behavior. There are some people who do shift their jaw back and forth left and right to relieve stress. I suspect this is why some people grind their teeth at night; the brain has found an easy and familiar way for the jaw to relieve stress even while we sleep. This repetitive shifting of the jaw is quite noticeable and as a teacher I often see this on test day when a student is not prepared. But when individuals do it just to one side of the face and they hold it there that is not a repetitive behavior but may fulfill the same role because of how well it stimulates the nerves of the jaw.

So next time you see this behavior ask yourself why is this person doing this behavior and is it possible that they are under some kind of stress or difficulty? You may just surprise even them, just as I was many years ago—the body truly reveals what the mind conceals.