Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Inscrutable Professional

If you sit in the lawn or in a park and observe the birds for a few days, you will soon begin to see a pattern in their communication. After a couple of weeks, you will be able to tell a mating call from a song and a predator signal from a prey signal or
a juvenile begging. The same thing is true for human beings. You observe a person long enough and you know exactly how he/she will react in a given circumstance.

Do your eyes dart when you are nervous? Do you involuntarily yawn when you are bored? Do your nostrils flare when you are angry?

It may seem alright in a domestic situation but what about an office meeting? What if you are very unhappy with the outcome of the meeting but you don't want your boss and co-workers to know? Better yet, what if everything is going in your favour and you don't want it to show?

The solution is straight forward. Control your emotions before they translate into physical manifestations which is also called body language.

Typically, control is associated with force and unpleasantness. You will know this if you were ever in a situation where you had to control your urge to eat sweets or smoke a cigarette. When it comes to body language though, it need not be as difficult. The key is confidence. Confidence building is more of a process than an activity.

The first step of course is knowing yourself. It is imperative that you take out some time once a week and reflect on what "situations" you have been in. The reason you do this once a week is that you need a clear mind to reflect on an event and doing it right away clouds your judgement. Looking back, you can always pin point a moment of vulnerability and your physical reaction. Maybe, your lips twitched. Maybe your eyes darted. Make a mental note of this realisation. Jotting it down in a notebook along with the date and occasion is more helpful because then, you can always refer to it after several weeks. Each time you reflect on the event and your reaction, you see it in a new light. You not only understand what bothers you but also why it does. From there, it is pretty much downhill.

Although, it is easy, it is time consuming. Once you spotted your point of vulnerability or weakness, it will be a few weeks or even months before you understand the root cause and work on it. During the meantime, you still don't want to give away your emotions. Since you have already identified it, you are restless and want to get rid of any behavoiur that gives you away. So, fake it till you make it. Since you already know how your body is going to translate your emotion into a specific action, try to do something else that makes you look impassive. Each time, do a different thing. For instance, you figured that you twitch your lips when something unpleasant is going on. So, next time you are in such a situation, drink water out of your bottle but don't replace drinking water to twitching. Next meeting, adjust your tie. By this time you should be able to not give away your anxiety or anger.

Next step is confidence building. This is really a parallel activity. Never lose sight of this activity and get caught up in the faking part for too long because then, you would only have shifted the focus to faking it that you will never get rid of the "feeling" part. Confidence building is not about bottling up your emotions and not being reactive, but keeping them at bay till you have thought clearly through the situation and eventually being able to articulate your reaction/response in a professional and intelligent way to make the maximum impact/influence thus creating a winning situation.