Sunday, August 12, 2012

45. Speaking with Your Every Move (I)


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I had promised some more about what in fact represented a whole school of thought – you might notice I used the Simple Past tense, represented, for two reasons: (i) because Behaviourism has somehow lost currency in a world tending to homogeneity. But this is not to say that it stopped being influential; and (ii) it just made room for other, more powerful trends.

Yet some aspects are so deep-rooted in people’s minds that it is difficult – in fact, I would say it would be a pity – to discard. Take the Cheshire Cat Smile – again, misnamed for grin and you will readily understand that it opened up a whole culture of attitudinal assessments:

“Well! I’ve often seen 
a cat without a grin,”
thought Alice; 
“but a grin without a cat!
It’s the most curious thing 
I ever saw in my life!”

– Lewis Carroll, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”

Both drawings are Lewis Carroll's own, and you can see them in the original book. 

Now, Lewis Carroll – by his real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson /ˈtʃɑrlz ˈlʌtwɪdʒ ˈdɒdʒsən/ or CHARLZ LUDT-wij DOJ-s*n (please try to pronounce it as ‘English-like’ as possible, taking the asterisk as the place for articulating the schwa) lived in the nineteenth century (1832-1898), in Daresbury – surprise! – Cheshire, England. No wonder he found it as a wonderful source of inspiration (good for us, twenty-first century receivers of culture!) for the Cheshire Cat, Alice’s subtle conscience. 

It’s just that, if you read Alice in Wonderland – you should have! – you will agree with me that the Cheshire Cat is far from giving advice, in the sense someone would expect to read about in a ‘children’s story’. That’s the point: Alice in Wonderland is not just any story, for it’s the product of the mind of a mathematician, cleric, artist and photographer, all in one: Lewis Carroll. 

Stamp: Great Britain cca 1991
(Wikipedia)
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I couldn’t write enough in a post like this to emphasise how important the Cheshire Cat is for the UK: somewhere around 1991 a stamp was printed with the famous smile that has for so long been reproduced, altered, printed, cartoonifiedintertextualized. What I can write about has to do with the meaning of this particular ‘smile’, called in fact grin in English: a mixture of social convention, slightly menacing anticipation of a possible aggression, which might easily be traced through ethology (do you remember? – the previous three posts speak about it) as belonging to animals.

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Well, the rest is just a search for measure. Read the article below and answer the questions. That’s how you will prepare for the second part of this entry, which will be uploaded soon.   
 
Speaking with every move of your body
 
[Adapted from Reading the Signals, an article in The Cambridge CAE Course, by Mary Spratt and Linda B. Taylor]

1.           A pleasant smile is a strong indication of a friendly and open attitude and a willingness to communicate. It is a positive, nonverbal signal sent with the hope that the other person will smile back. When you smile, you demonstrate that you have noticed the person in a positive manner. The other person considers it a compliment and will usually feel good. The result? The other person will usually smile back.
   Smiling does not mean that you have to put on a phony face or pretend that you are happy all of the time. But when you see someone you know, or would like to make contact with, do smile. By smiling, you are demonstrating an open attitude to conversation.
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2.   You might not realize that closed posture is the cause of many conversational problems. Typical closed posture is sitting with your arms and legs crossed and your hand covering your mouth or chin. This is often called the “thinking pose,” but just ask yourself this question: Are you going to interrupt someone who appears to be deep in thought? Not only does this posture give off “stay away” signals to others, but it also prevents your main “signal sender” (your mouth) from being seen by others looking for receptive conversational signals. Without these receptive signals, another person will most likely avoid you and look for someone who appears to be more available for contact.
   To overcome this habitual way of standing or sitting, start by keeping your hands away from your mouth, and keep your arms uncrossed. Crossed arms tend to indicate a defensive frame of mind, and thus one not particularly favourable to outside contact. They can also indicate impatience, displeasure, or judgment - any of which would discourage people from opening up.
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   Open posture is most effective when you place yourself within communicating distance of the other person - that is, within about five feet. Take care, however, not to violate someone’s “personal space” by getting too close, too soon.

3.        Leaning forward slightly while a person is talking to you indicates interest on your part, and shows you are listening to what the person is saying. This is usually taken as a compliment by the other person, and will encourage him to continue talking.
   Often people will lean back with their hands over their mouth, chin, or behind their head in the “thinking” pose. This posture gives off signals of judgment, scepticism, and boredom from the listener. Since most people do not feel comfortable when they think they are being judged, this leaning-back posture tends to inhibit the speaker from continuing.
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   It’s far better to lean forward slightly in a casual and natural way. By doing this, you are saying: ‘I hear what you’re saying, and I’m interested - keep talking!’ This usually lets the other person feel that what he is saying is interesting, and encourages him to continue speaking.

4.    In many cultures the most acceptable form of first contact between two people who are just meeting is a warm handshake. This is true when meeting members of the same or opposite sex - and not just in business, but in social situations, too. In nearly every situation, a warm and firm handshake is a safe and positive way of showing an open and friendly attitude toward the people you meet.
   Be the first to extend your hand in greeting. Couple this with a friendly ‘Hello’, a nice smile, and your name, and you have made the first step to open the channels of communication between you and the other person.

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  5.     The strongest of the nonverbal gestures are sent through the eyes. Direct eye contact indicates that you are listening to the other person, and that you want to know about her.
   Eye contact should be natural and not forced or overdone. It is perfectly okay to have brief periods of eye contact while you observe other parts of the person’s face - particularly the mouth. When the person smiles, be sure to smile back. But always make an effort to return your gaze to the person’s eyes as she speaks. It is common to look up, down, and all around when speaking to others, and it's acceptable not to have eye contact at all times.
   Too much eye contact, especially if it is forced, can be counterproductive. If you stare at a person, or leer in a suspicious manner, the other person may feel uncomfortable and even suspicious about your intentions. A fixed stare can appear as aggressive behaviour if it takes the form of a challenge as to who will look away first.

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Read the text again more carefully and note down any practical suggestions on ‘positive’ body language.
To what extent do you agree with the advice given in the text?
How far would you personally wish to adopt the advice given?