Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image

2013 March

Too Close?

March 31, 2013 | By | No Comments


When you meet someone for the first time, you always keep those three feet or so of distance between you.  As long as you can reach to shake hands, then continue to converse with the room to gesticulate without any risk of karate chopping the other person while you do, then you have found the zone of comfort. You want to be able to be close enough to show a commitment to the interaction without feeling too intimate.

How do you know when it feels too close? You just do, don’t you? For most people it’s instinctive. While we’re talking we jostle into comfortable positions without knowing it because we are processing several different signals at once. The body language, facial expressions, tone of voice all let us know how comfortable the person is with our mutual chosen proximity.Have you ever had a conversation with someone inebriated? Once that, alcohol-induced loss of self-awareness arrives, then so leaves the ability to judge comfortable levels of nearness. The over familiar ‘arm around the shoulder’ favoured by many a drunken conversationalist (maybe for balance, maybe to hold the unwilling listener hostage) is rarely welcome but they just aren’t capable of sensing it.

We’re all individual and we all have our own personal space boundaries. Partners, close friends, family, depending on how much they actually like each other, would be quite relaxed being in much closer proximity than two relative (and sober) strangers.Some people have more awareness than others.

I noticed a woman on the train this week sitting by the window, alone on a triple seat, reading her book, occasionally looking out at the rolling hillsides. The train drew up at the next station and a man got on the train. In almost a blink of an eye, we sometimes get a sense about someone. Our brain has its army of ‘observational soldiers’ out, ready to submit an instant appraisal. My soldiers said ‘Slightly odd’ We all make judgements, rightly or wrongly, it’s part of our self-preservation. In the bank of six seats, one corner one was being occupied by the female passenger, the man chose to sit in the seat next to her. He seemed oblivious to her immediate discomfort, the way she recoiled as tightly into her own seat as possible. In fact, within sixty seconds, she drew her coat tightly around her, pulled herself out of the seat and left the carriage.


I don’t ever remember being taught not to sit next to someone on public transport if there are other free seats. It just seemed natural. However, during rush hour on the tube, let’s face it you could endure the indignity of your face in an unwashed armpit if you’re unlucky. But it’s all about choice. When there IS no choice, you just get on with it. If you chose to rest your head on a fellow travelers shoulder, I am sure there would be a strong objection.

As obvious as it sounds, when you watch people talking, the space between them, or lack of it, tells you a lot about how comfortable they are with each other.  Sometimes it’s when they stop talking that the space between them speaks the most loudly.

Different for all of us.

March 12, 2013 | By | No Comments

What is confidence? It’s different for all of us.

self_esteemSome people wear it like a coat, covering what they perceive to be their less confident but true self in something more robust and appealing.

Other people try to muster something up from within themselves like an energy force that will propel them into doing what they need to do despite any reservations.

However it works for you, I find the application of it a fascinating concept. I once worked with a man in his thirties who was due to give a speech to an audience of hundreds. We’d spoken on the phone and had had one Skype public speaking session. He was determined to let me know he had no confidence at all and wanted to warn me I would probably be his biggest challenge. ‘Don’t worry’ I told him ‘I like a challenge.’

Due to his time constraints, our first meeting was in a pub. We arranged to meet for half an hour, simply to talk over what we’d already been through on the phone and Skype. ‘I just want you to meet me’, he’d said ‘so you can see how nervous I really am and what type of person I am.’

This client of mine worked in the city and regularly held meetings in pubs, restaurants and other social venues. I knew on this particular day, he was meeting me after meeting a group of his work colleagues. ‘It’s not a formal meeting as such’, he told me ‘we’ll just be by the bar. As soon as you arrive I’ll say my goodbyes to them and we can move to a quieter part of the pub’ he told me.

I arrived at the pub ten minutes early. I scanned the bar, seeking out my client, looking for the desperately shy and nervous man. I spotted him almost immediately, surrounded by a semi-circle of other suited people. Clearly though, he’d sent his gregarious twin brother to take the meeting for him.

I sat and watched as this ‘painfully shy’ man, held court, telling a story about a disastrous job interview. Putting his pint on the bar top, he used his hands and arms to demonstrate and he’d experienced. His eyes were alive. His facial expressions were theatrical and reinforce. His audience were completely engaged. They laughed in unison, whooped together and shook their heads with the incredulity that regurgitated stories often inspire. He noticed me, nodded his polite acknowledgement and shook hands goodbye with his colleagues.

We moved around the corner to a quieter table. ‘Great to meet you’ he said ‘but let me tell you, you’ve got your work cut out with me. I am SO nervous about this. I can’t give a speech to save my life!’.

faq

I remember smiling. ‘Yes you can’, I said, ‘you just did!’ Sometimes you have a whole bank of skills under your belt. You just fail to recognise what’s there. Don’t underestimate what you can already do that might be transferable to something else. Long story short, the only thing my client needed was my help understanding how to transfer the skills he already had.

It might be all you need too.

What are you looking at?

March 7, 2013 | By | No Comments

lookingI’m often on the train. I actually enjoy train journeys simply because I get to indulge in one of my favourite past-times; people watching.

This week for example I have seen so many interesting interactions and exchanges taking place in train carriages and for the most part, I imagine those taking part, don’t even know how much of an audience they had.

Before I share some of my experiences with you, it’s wise to remember that next time you’re on the train, the innocuous looking woman in the corner seat, head buried studiously into a book, is NOT too engrossed in her novel to notice you. She is in fact, looking directly at you and soaking up every snippet of what you say and how you move!

Okay, somewhere near Birmingham I was in a seat with the back of another seat in front of me. Across on the diagonal was a table seat shared by a couple, sitting across from each other. I had my sunglasses on and rested my head against the window. I probably looked asleep; in fact, I might have nodded off if I hadn’t heard with woman hiss ‘I know you’re lying!’ I was drawn to the face of the man, who sat nicely in my eye line. ‘I’m not!’ he protested, panic etched on his forehead. He picked his mobile phone up with his right hand and passed it to his partner. ‘Check it, go on.’ He urged confidently.

looking2‘Well you weren’t with Pete!’ she asked, leaning forwards across the table. I assume she was scanning his face for clues. His eyebrows shot up and his forehead wrinkled. (This can be a sign of a liar caught in the act). He looked up to the right. ‘I was at work, I was going to meet Pete but I had to stay for a meeting, for God’s sake.’ Note this, right handed people usually look to the left to recall memories, and to the right when they are in the act of making something up.

I don’t believe you’, she spat, picked up her handbag and stormed through to another carriage. The man, looking, flustered and red faced, picked up his coat and followed her through seconds later. I want to shout after her ‘Trust your instincts, he IS lying!’ but of course I didn’t.

On another occasion travelling home I shared a carriage with two women, a blonde and a redhead and a lone male in a suit. They were probably all in their early twenties. I was sitting opposite the man, ostensibly gazing out of the window but I could see his face and more importantly I could see the reflection of the redhead in the train window. It was late.

The lone male glanced at the redhead and then the blonde, his eyes returned to the redhead and they stayed there almost as if his gaze would be invisible to them. I saw the redhead smile to the blonde and coyly look at the floor. The lone male averted his gaze, furrowed his brow in a slow, but apparently casual manner, appearing to look lost in intelligent, contemplative thought. He opened his legs wider and sat back in his seat and pushed his bottom forward, clearly attempting to accentuate his masculinity. The redhead crossed her legs and turned a little away from him while leaning back and keeping her arm from blocking her body. To be honest, she looked like she was trying to pose as a mermaid on a rock. No words were spoken in this exchange but without even thinking, these two were both communicating with each other without giving it a second’s conscious thought.

looking3Unfortunately, I reached my destination not long afterwards and I will never know if conservation was made, or numbers were swapped.

What I do know is, if you keep your eyes open you see much more going on around you than you realise.