19 January 2007

Let Me Hear Your Body Talk

At some point during a meeting, I like to sit back and watch the action. I pretend I'm a fly on the wall...not part of nor directly involved with what's happening...and just people watch for a few minutes. This is sometimes more difficult to do if I'm leading a meeting as it requires more intuitive and ongoing assessment of things; but as a participant, it's a good mental activity. My goal is really to become more self aware. What are unspoken messages I might be sending through my posture or where I focus my eyes?

I sometimes share my observations with people after the meeting. Not that long ago, I noticed that two of my colleagues (who happened to be sitting side by side) would sit back and cross their arms over their chests each time a particular group member spoke up. Did that person catch on, too---was she conscious of what the unconscious signals were saying to her? I told my two colleagues because I knew that they would laugh at themselves and wouldn't be offended...and also because I know that they don't mean to be ugly, even if they are frustrated with another team member.

Boss Lady 2.0 has a body language all her own, but I am constantly surprised that one of the specialists in our midst is so clueless about picking up on it. Each time this specialist speaks, Boss Lady checks her cell phone, rifles through papers, or gets up. It is very clear to me (and others) that Boss Lady doesn't particularly like or respect this person---but there is no one in the office who sings higher praises of the Boss Lady than this specialist. It is likely a kindness that she is so oblivious. The eye rolls, the shifting in the seat, the side conversations, and other signals Boss Lady 2.0 sends out to us tell such a story. It is part of what is so hard about working for her, but also explains why she so readily throws us under the bus if it will help her look good. She has made up her mind about things and is just waiting around for others to catch on...and heaven help you should you not agree/like the track she's on.

Body language isn't something that anyone can be cognizant of all of the time. I know that there are things I communicate without wanting to, but I am working on being more self-aware. These exercises at meetings help me reflect on my own posture, gestures, and connection with people. I want what I say to be congruent with the unspoken messages of my body talk.

No comments: