Saturday, May 14, 2016

Gut Feelings

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My husband is frequently reading body language, I think he took a course - or maybe just read up on it, but whichever, he does tend to believe the more common interpretations, however my research has turned up many conflicting descriptions. Take for instances, templing or steepling - his interpretation is that the speaking is not telling the truth, however in this detailed description, it means thoughtfulness or being engaged.

But what got me thinking about this subject was recently, when in a meeting at work, I was responding to a question and caught myself looking to the right and down. I wondered what my husband would say about that, so I had to look it up. Apparently it means I was accessing my feelings. And actually, that sounds about right.


According to this really good article on Forbes:
"You have 3 brains; 2 of them are good at reading body language. Your conscious mind is poor at reading body language, because evolution pushed that chore down to your unconscious mind, which is much larger and faster and can handle the job in nanoseconds, reacting to danger long before your conscious mind could. But you have a third “mind,” literally in your gut.  In fact, your gut has more neurons in it than a cat does in its head.  And that brain in your gut is wired to the unconscious mind in your head, so that when you become aware that you’re nervous, for example, that’s the end of a long process of your unconscious mind and your gut exchanging signals about that nervousness. You get butterflies in your stomach. Your stomach is good at telling you if there’s danger or opportunity because it’s part of a complex sensing system with your unconscious mind (the one in your head) that is constantly scanning your surroundings and especially other people"
That sounds a lot more logical to me. Whenever I have gone with my gut feeling, I have proved to be correct, and when I ignore my gut, I am usually reminded what a mistake that is.

There are a lot of websites dealing with body language, but a great many are actually just trying to sell you something. It really is not necessary to buy a book, or CD or whatever it is, with all the free information there for the searching. Here is one good site. But I do believe that almost every body language indicator can have more than one explanation. pursed lips could mean a tooth ache. I know when I was very overweight I frequently crossed my arms in front of me, to try to hide the spare tire. Equally, crossed legs could mean you need to pee, and crossing legs towards or away from someone may just be that your legs are going to sleep so you have to swap the direction they are crossed, doesn't mean you keep changing your mind about whether or not you like someone.

I like the idea that we can control how we feel by our own body language. In this Ted Talk, Amy Cuddy expands on that idea.
"Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” - standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident - can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success."
I believe if you keep complaining, you will feel miserable. But if you put on a happy, or just contented front, you will feel that way. Of course, not only does constant complaining make you feel miserable, it will push others away - it is just flat unpleasant to be around someone who is constantly whining about themselves. On the other hand, we feel so much happier around happy people. Not rocket science.

I learnt this lesson from a song from The King and I, Whistle a Happy Tune. Here are some of the words that impart that idea:
"While shivering in my shoes
I strike a careless pose
And whistle a happy tune
And no one ever knows I'm afraid 
The result of this deception
Is very strange to tell
For when I fool the people
I fear I fool myself as well"
And here is an interesting fact (taken from a LinkedIn article by Dr Travis Bradberry)
"UCLA research has shown that only 7% of communication is based on the actual words we say. As for the rest, 38% comes from tone of voice and the remaining 55% comes from body language"
I suspect this is the main reason that I do not like having meaningful conversations on the telephone, because they are no meaningful without the body language, and more specifically facial expressions. I believe I mentioned my dislike of speaking on the phone in this blog entry. 

I will always prefer face to face communication, where I can trust my gut to help me to understand.