58: Can Changing Your Body Language Take You From Good to Great?

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Our guest this week is Mark Bowden who is an expert in non-verbal communication. Mark gives his perspectives on how the role of HR has evolved. He offers HR leaders insights to techniques for using body language to purposefully stand out, win trust and gain credibility. He explains how the primitive brain interprets body language and what movements and gestures will positively frame your message. Learn about the SCAN technique for suspending judgments you make about others and understand the difference between symmetrical and asymmetrical movements and how they impact your message. 
Mark Bowden has been voted the #1 body language professional in the world for two years running. He is the founder of the communication company, TRUTHPLANE®. His clients include professionals, politicians, presidents of Fortune 500 companies, and even some Prime Ministers of G7 nations. Mark is one of the world’s foremost authorities on non-verbal communication. He has a highly acclaimed TEDx talk that has reached millions and has written a number of books on body language and human behavior. His most recent book is called Truth & Lies: What People are Really Thinking. 
Listen (above) or watch the video (below) to catch Fred's interview with Mark.

Key Learnings From This Episode

  • The Evolution of HR. Given Mark’s proximity to the HR world and HR leaders, he shares his perceptions, drawing the distinction between the old and new worlds of HR. The function has evolved from being viewed as a barrier to what leaders wanted to do, to an order taker. Leaders know what they want and believe HR is well trained to ‘serve’ and take orders. This is great for leaders – HR is organized and evolved into a courteous ‘servant’. Many HR leaders have evolved further into what they should be - top table trusted advisors and top-level thinkers. They help leaders ‘think’ better about how HR can support the business and in the current digital environment, how HR can help the transformation into a digital business while dealing with a high level of ambiguity. 
  • What is TRUTHPLANE®? TRUTHPLANE® is the name of Mark’s communication training company, as well as an important technique his company trains people in – how to use body language to purposefully stand out, win trust, and gain credibility. For HR professionals who need to deliver new ideas to successfully influence and persuade senior leaders, the business message needs to be clear, as well as the delivery - a calm, assertive, confident leader delivering an idea of change. 

    TRUTHPLANE® explores the specific body language leaders can use to win trust and gain credibility even before they open their mouths. TRUTHPLANE® trains in specific techniques such as where you have your hands to win trust and gain credibility. Unless your message is framed with the right behavior, the audience is going to create a message that fits that behavior anyway. Do you want your audience to be biased towards the positive or the negative around your message? 

    Mark Bowden quote on HR Studio PodcastYour audience creates a bias around your non-verbal keys and clues. If you choose your behavior just as accurately as you choose your words to influence and persuade, you can achieve the results you want more economically. 

    The alternative is to fall back on your patterns of behavior which may have gotten you where you are today. At some point on the leadership ladder, however, you may hit a barrier and realize that what you are doing is not attracting attention anymore. At that point, you need to think about whether there is something else you should be doing to get the results you want.

  • Your words versus your body language. The primitive brain interprets body language and when there is insufficient data or information, it defaults to the negative. If someone is leaning their head on their hands or partially covering their mouth, it appears they are hiding something and the brain defaults to a negative interpretation because insufficient information is being delivered. The message is perceived more positively when you gesture with open hands/palms from waste/naval height. You also want to present yourself in your cultural or group norms. 
  • What other body language projects confidence? Keep hand movements and gestures symmetrical – at one horizontal height. Asymmetrical movements can cause people to become confused and agitated (too much neural load to decode). Our bias when it comes to confidence about someone skews towards symmetry and away from asymmetry. At times, asymmetry can be intriguing but only if you hold asymmetry for a short time. If you continue gesturing for too long in an asymmetrical manner, the mind will check out. Go for more symmetrical gestures in important meetings in addition to open palm gestures at navel height. Palms up indicates you are offering up ideas while palms down indicates you are suppressing ideas.
  • The SCAN Technique. (Insights from the book Truth & Lies.) While the book is about reading body language, it’s really a book about critical thinking disguised as a book about body language. How do you think better about reading body language and understanding other people? To that end, TRUTHPLANE® developed the SCAN technique:
    • S – Suspend your judgment so you can do better thinking
    • C – Look at the context. All body language is contextual – change the context and the signal may be very different 
    • A – Ask more questions, ask ‘what else’, get more data 
    • N – Make a new judgment, which can be the old, original judgment
  • What trigger can help someone SCAN before making a quick judgment? The trigger needs to be the self-knowledge of saying, ‘I judge people based on their behavior and body language’.  Everyone makes these judgments. You might be right, you might be wrong, or somewhere in between, but your initial judgments feel accurate. You want to move from being ‘accurate enough’ to being accurate more often. The way to do that is to:
    • Admit you are going to judge people instantly 
    • Make it a goal to suspend judgment. A technique here is to think about how you behave and your posture when you suspend judgment. This is purposeful
    • Use the SCAN technique to gather more data.

Recommended Reading and References From this Episode

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Mark Bowden HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Mark Bowden HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Tuesday, July 17, 2018 - 8:00am
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Fred Bunsa
Mark Bowden
HR Studio Podcast