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Non-verbal Influence

Non-verbal Influence
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I’m sure a lot of you have the intuition that our nonverbals, our body poses, our gestures can make us more or less influential. Many of you may remember the old research on the closed versus open body poses. So closed body pose is crossed arms, crossed legs, those body poses impede the delivery of our message. Open body poses, open arms, facilitate the delivery of the message. Building on this work Dana Carney, Amy Cuddy, and their colleagues differentiated between low power and high power body poses. As you can see from these images, a low power body pose is very much a closed body pose, crossed arms, crossed legs. A high power body pose is an open pose. People seem more relaxed.
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They take up more space. Their chest is open. The most intriguing finding from this research is that they were able to show that holding these body poses for just a few short minutes leads to noticeable physiological changes in our bodies. What they specifically found is that holding a high-power pose for just two minutes goes to 20% increase in testosterone, which is a hormone that is responsible, among other things, for high levels of energy. Women have it too, just in smaller quantities, and they are very sensitive to even the smallest variations in the levels of testosterone. Holding a high power body pose also causes a 25% drop in cortisol.
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Which is a hormone that correlates with high levels of stress and anxiety. So holding a high-power body pose for just a short period of time can helps us attain high levels of energy, and help us control levels of stress and anxiety. You can see that in contrast, holding a low-power body pose, which to exact opposite effects. Our levels of testosterone dropped and levels of cortisol increased. What this research also documents is that the effect of body poses are quite lasting. Interviewees who prepared with a high-power pose for a job interview and emphasizing here prepared, not interviewed necessarily. They were rated significantly higher on job interview performance than those who prepared with a lower power pose.
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High-power posers were also significantly more likely to be hired than those who prepared with a lower power pose. In addition to our body poses, there are other forms of non-verbal influence, that can make you more effective. Eye-contact increases your likeability and credibility. There’s research showing that mirroring behaviors leads you to be perceived more confident and more persuasive, more likeable too. Mirroring behaviors is when I mimic your behaviors, so you leaning forward, I’m leaning forward as well, you’re nodding, I’m nodding as well. Studies show that if you have a relaxed facial expression, audience is more likely to rate you high on informal power, compared to if you have a more nervous facial expression.
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If a speaker uses hand gestures, they help not just the comprehension by the audience, but also helps improve the quality and fluidity of speech. And as a result, the speaker’s where actively using hand gestures is perceived as more competent, more effective, and persuasive. Especially helpful are illustrational hand gestures, those that help you convey or [INAUDIBLE] the message. So for example I can use my hand gestures to show a high and low threshold. Would it tell you that someone was zigzagging in their run,or to point to a person or an object during my presentation. Positive hand gestures are also very helpful. Now, positive hand gestures are when your palms are up or perpendicular to the ground.
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Avoid defensive hand gestures, such as hands in your pockets or hands clasped behind your back. Studies show that if you use positive hand gestures, audience is more likely to feel much closer to you, compared to if you use defensive hand gestures. Firm handshake increases your odds of being hired following job interview, especially if you couple that handshake with the eye contact. Speaking of handshakes, take a look at this video.
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When we use body poses and hand gestures as forms of influence, we have to be exceptionally culturally aware. Certain hand gestures that are completely acceptable in the Western world, such as an okay symbol or fingers crossed, thumbs up. These gestures are unacceptable and borderline insulting in certain countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Same applies to some of the body poses that I’ve shown you. So for example, throwing your feet on the table and flashing the soles of your shoes in someone’s face is considered an insult in the Middle East. Now with respect to body poses, keep in mind that the effects of these body pulses are quite lasting.
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So think of using them as you prepare for the presentation in the privacy of your office as well, and finally if you’re trying to influence someone don’t do what I’m doing now, don’t be sitting down. Stand up, move around, use the space, get close to the person you’re trying to influence. How close do you think you should get to the person you’re trying to influence?
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Studies by Ralph [INAUDIBLE] out of Caltech show us that on average people get very uncomfortable If you get closer to them than 64 centimeters or about 2 feet. That’s when we have a very strong negative emotional response because you violate our personal space. Now of course, 64 centimeters is an average, there are variations, there are cultural variations. So for example, if you come from a more collectivistic society, such as China, Russia, Poland or India, You might accept less personal space. If in contrast you come from a more individualistic society, such as the United States, Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand, you might require more personal space. There are also variations depending on where you grew up.
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If you grew up in a more densely populated metropolitan area, such as New York, Moscow, London, and Singapore. You’ve been socialized to accept less personal space. If you grew up in a more rural area you might require a bit more personal space, but at the same time. We also have evidence that the moment you get more than three feet away, about 90 centimeters from the person you’re trying to influence your ability to influence them drops precipitously. And it drops even further if you get further away than five feet, or about one and one-half meters. So that’s your sweet spot of influence, about two to three feet, max five feet.
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And we’re beginning to understand now, why influencing people in close physical proximity matters. I’m much more likely to like you if I interact with you in close physical space, it develops feelings of attachment and intimacy. I’m much more likely to remember our interactions if they happen to be in close physical proximity. We also tend to assign a longer time horizon for the interactions that happen in close physical space. We think that these relationships will last longer.
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So next time you’re thinking of influencing someone, you’re preparing for that presentation, take a mental audit of your body pose, your hand gestures and use space proactively.
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