[nagdu] the body language workshop

Julie J julielj at neb.rr.com
Sat Apr 9 20:00:09 UTC 2011

Heya all!

I just got back from that body language workshop I talked about a few weeks ago.  I did learn some new things, but mostly it was common sense things...eye contact is good, staring is considered intimidating and lack of eye contact is interpreted as hiding something.  There was lots more stuff like that.  She did a pretty good job of addressing physical issues that could contribute to a difference in body language, a deaf/hard of hearing person not responding to a question or a visually impaired person not responding to a waved greeting.  Although it was extremely annoying that she used the term "hard of seeing".

She talked a lot about open and closed postures.  They are pretty much exactly what you'd think.  closed is head down, eyes averted, arms and/or legs crossed, hands in pockets and the body turned away.  All of these indicate a closed affect.  She never really did get clear about what exactly this means.  To the best of my understanding it can be different depending on the person and the situation.  Closed body language can indicate nervousness, lack of repor, lack of interest,being uncomfortable or generally not wanting to participate in the conversation.

Open body language is just the opposite.  Generally you would face your belly button toward the other person with it not covered by crossed arms.  Looking toward the person, palms open held out such as in a high five, wave or handshake, leaning forward and head held up  are all open body language.  Generally these all indicate a willingness to communicate or interest in the other person.

To gain repor with another person she suggested mimicking their body language.  they have their hands in pockets, you put your hands in pockets.  They rest their chin on their hand you do the same.  This is supposed to give people a feeling of sameness and familiarity.  Once this repor is established you can do something using your body language and the other person will mimic your action.  In this way you can steer a person toward feeling more comfortable with you.

All that said, I want to relate what happened when I first entered the classroom.  I didn't tell them in advance that I'm blind, have a guide dog and I didn't request any accommodations.  I wasn't taking this workshop for any particular reason other than personal interest.  and part of me wanted to find out just exactly how an instructor teaching body language would handle a blind person in their class.  So as I'm walking by trying to navigate the maze of tables to find a seat, the instructor flies out of her chair and moves toward Monty and me fast enough that Monty felt it important to move me out of her way.  While she's moving toward me she's rattling off question after question without even a breath in between, "What's his name?Can I pet him? and then she reaches for Monty.  You guys have heard enough of my stories by now to know that Monty is not fond of weirdoes touching him.  Come to think of it, I'm not either, so I can totally understand where he's coming from.  Monty backs away from her hand as I'm telling her that he's not into strangers touching him.  Fortunately she had sense enough to back off and sit back down.

For the next three hours I was thinking about this interaction and  what I could have done to prevent it in the context of body language.  I didn't make eye contact with her.  I didn't even know she was there until she started spouting all her questions.  I wasn't facing her.  I had intentionally turned away from her and put myself in between her and Monty.  I didn't smile, nod or make any other gestures that were mentioned in the workshop that could have been interpreted as an invitation to come accost my dog.

So what I am left with is that people are nutters and no amount of amazing body language skills are going to keep them at bay.   Or maybe because of my body language she got the hint and sat back down quickly.  Perhaps body language can't prevent encounters, but it can end them more quickly.  I don't know.


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