Carol Kinsey Goman Releases New Book, “Stand Out: How to Build Your Leadership Presence”

New Book Reveals How to Use Body Language to Increase Leadership Effectiveness, Build Trust & Inspire Other

CommPRO Editorial Staff

In business, first impressions are crucial—especially during 2020 and the age of Zoom meetings. If you are labeled as “trustworthy” or “suspicious,” “powerful” or “submissive” everything else you do will be viewed through that filter. Your use of personal space, physical gestures, posture, facial expressions and eye contact can enhance, support, weaken or even sabotage your impact as a leader. 

In her timely new book, Stand Out: How to Build Your Leadership Presence [Kogan Page, September 29, 2020] international speaker and body language expert, Carol Kinsey Goman, walks you through achieving a powerful physical presence so you get that next promotion and give your career that extra boost. Stand Out’s timely topic will help emerging leaders develop their leadership presence and secure a spot at the board-room table or an office in the C-suite as we head in to 2021.

“In Stand Out, readers will learn that the goal of leadership presence is to align other people’s impression of you with your best authentic self,” Goman says. “I also reveal how leadership presence is different for women, why you can’t ‘fake it until you make it’ and why self-promotion is essential.”

Can you project confidence and poise under pressure – do you already have a presence? Stand Out also covers the following themes: 

  • Tips for developing the five C’s of Leadership Presence: Credibility, Confidence, Composure, Connection, and Charisma
  • A leadership title or tremendous leadership potential alone does not give you presence 
  • Leadership presence is what people say about your after you leave the room
  • Leadership presence won’t matter if you’re not visible
  • How leadership presence is different for men and women
  • How to project a leadership presence on Zoom & Skype
  • The science behind talking with your hands

    An engaging, international speaker, and veteran media commentator, Goman can also discuss:

    • The biggest mistake you can make during a meeting 
    • How to make a positive first impression in seven seconds
    • What leadership presence looks like to your global team
    • Demystifying the body language of top business leaders 
    • What men need to know to help women succeed 
    • How to prepare for in-person meetings as physical distancing (hopefully) ends in 2021



    Projecting Leadership Presence in a Teleconference

     

    Projecting Leadership Presence in a Teleconference

     

    Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

    In a famous 2002 experiment, a Stanford University professor made audiotapes of physicians and their patients in session. Half of the doctors had been previously brought to court for malpractice. She then played the tapes for her students, who were able to determine which physicians had been sued.

    But here’s the catch: The recordings were “content-filtered.” All the students could hear was a low-frequency garble. But based on the intonation alone, they could distinguish one group from the other. The doctors who had been sued had a dominant, hostile, less empathetic style, whereas the other group sounded warmer.

    I use this example when I coach business professionals to remind them that whenever they are speaking to an audience (whether customers or colleagues), people won’t only be evaluating their words, they will be “reading” their voices. Listeners will be searching for clues to possible hidden agendas, concealed meanings, disguised emotions, undue stress – anything, in short, that will help them determine if they can rely on what they’re being told.

    The voice conveys subtle but powerful clues into feelings and meanings. Think, for example, how tone of voice can indicate sarcasm, concern, or confidence. Or how an increase in volume and intensity grabs attention because of the heightened emotion (passion, anger, assertiveness, certainty) it signals.

    The effect of paralinguistic communication is so potent that it can make bad news actually sound palatable or, conversely, take all the joy out of a positive message. I’ve seen managers give unflattering feedback while still exhibiting warm feelings through their tone of voice – and those who were being critiqued still felt positively about the overall interaction. I’ve also seen managers offer words of praise and appreciation in such a flat tone of voice that none of the recipients felt genuinely acknowledged or appreciated.

    Blame it on the limbic brain, where emotions are processed. It also plays the primary role in processing vocal cues. Researchers from the University of Geneva in Switzerland discovered that they could tell whether a subject had just heard words spoken in anger, joy, relief, or sadness by observing the pattern of activity in the listener’s brain.

    Paralinguistics are important in any conversation, but they are most crucial when your communication is limited to an auditory channel — as it is on any phone call. Here are six tips to keep in mind to exhibit leadership presence in your next teleconference:

    First Tip – Breathe Before You Begin

    Look straight ahead with your chin level to the floor and relax your throat. Take several deep “belly” breaths. Count slowly to six as you inhale and expand your abdomen, then count to six again as you exhale. This simple exercise will help you sound focused and in control.

    Second Tip – Modulate Your Voice

    Vary your vocal range and tone – avoiding a monotone delivery that sounds as if you are bored. Remember to enunciate and speak clearly. Vary your volume, but always make sure you are speaking loudly enough to be heard. And here’s a tip I learned from a speech therapist: Before you start talking, let your voice relax into its optimal pitch by keeping your lips together and making the sounds “um hum, um hum, um hum.”

    Third Tip – Stay Focused

    Focus your eyes and attention on one place. If you shuffle papers, check email or let your gaze wander around the room, it detracts from your concentration, and that distraction shows in your voice.

    Fourth Tip – Stand

    Stand, if possible, when you want to convey greater confidence. Standing, or even pacing, will give your voice more energy and conviction.

    Fifth Tip – Smile

    Smile while you are talking – doing so will transmit energy and enthusiasm. If your voice sounds inviting, it will draw people in. And, as my husband (whose was an actor and voiceover professional) reminds me, a key voiceover technique is being able to speak “with a smile in your voice.”

    Sixth Tip – Match your listeners

    One of the most intriguing aspects of vocal behavior is speech convergence – the way people adopt the speech patterns and voice qualities of those with whom they admire and want to be like. Speech convergence can also be used as a technique to help people understand your message. The more adept you are at altering your speed, volume and tone to match that of the group you are addressing, the better they will hear and accept what you have to say.

    You may never be sued for the sound of your voice. But then again, I haven’t heard you speak.


    5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is: https://carolkinseygoman.com/




    How to Read Zoom Body Language

    How to Read Zoom Body Language

     

    Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

    In my speeches and seminars on Leadership Presence, I include a section about body language: how to use it to create a positive impression and how to become more aware of the nonverbal messages that others are sending. After this section, I’m often asked the same question: “If all I can see is someone’s head, how can I read body language on Zoom?”

    While it’s true that we lose many nonverbal cues when moving from in-person to virtual interactions, we don’t lose everything. Here are fifteen body language signals that reveal people’s emotions and interests — and they all can be seen on Zoom:

    1. Head tilts signal of engagement — while a slow deliberate head withdrawal is a sign of disengagement.

    In primitive tribes, tilting the head was a way of hearing more clearly in order to be alerted to sounds of danger. Today, head tilting is a signal that someone is interested and involved. But when people are listening to a message that makes them uncomfortable, their heads may or pull back from whomever they are talking to in an attempt to create distance.

    2. Head ducks express discomfort.

    If you heard someone yell, Look out!” the posture you’d instinctively assume in reaction would be to raise your shoulders and pull your head down between them. In a business context, the head duck is a signal that often reveals extreme discomfort or an extreme difference in the status and relationship between individuals. It’s a posture I’ve seen employees display as they interact with their boss.

    3. Heads held high or low send a message about confidence.

    Many years ago, an experiment was conducted with a group of students who smoked cigarettes. After the results of an exam were given out, the students were observed to see if they had passed or failed the test. Those students who had done well exhaled their cigarette smoke upward, while those who had performed poorly exhaled downward. It’s all about head position. Feelings of high confidence unconsciously pull the head up. Feelings of low confidence lower it.

    4. Head nods send different messages depending on their speed.

    Just as shaking the head from side to side is an almost universal gesture meaning “no” or “I don’t agree,” head nods – the up and down movement of the head – are recognized in most cultures as indicators of approval, understanding, or agreement. The head nod is tremendously important in communication. When someone nods slowly, it usually indicates an ongoing interest in whoever is speaking. Fast nodding signals impatience with the speaker or the listener’s desire to get a turn to speak.

    5. Facial touching is a primary pacifier.

    Under stress, people self-soothe in a variety of ways. Women twirl their hair, and men stroke their beards for psychological comfort. To get the fastest relief from even mildly stressful situations, we touch our faces (chin, lips, cheek, nose, forehead) where a calming effect is most easily accessed.

    6. Wide eyes signal approval and pleased surprise.

    When someone’s eyes open wide in pleasure, their eyebrows rise and their mouth opens slightly. You’ll see a miniature version of this expression occurring when someone is discussing something or someone they like very much.

    7. If people are emotionally aroused by what they see, their pupils dilate.

    Many physical stimuli can cause human pupils to dilate, but the most fascinating reason for dilation isn’t physical, but emotional. Clinical studies by Eckhard Hess, the former head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago, have shown that the pupil unconsciously widens when the eye sees something pleasant, exciting or arousing. Successful salespeople subconsciously monitor pupil dilation (indicating the customer is interested and ready to buy) and pupil contraction (signaling resistance, anger or negativity). Because pupil changes are not within a person’s control, they provide a very reliable indication of interest, attraction, and emotional attitude.

    8. Blinking rates increase under pressure.

    During conversation, a normal blink rate is six to eight blinks per minute—and the eyelids are closed for about one tenth of a second. This rate speeds up when someone is stressed. When I was a therapist in private practice, I became aware of the significance of a rapid blink rate when a patient was trying to conceal something. (Of course, I also knew that rapid blinking could be an indicator of annoying lighting in the room or of a heightened level of anxiety for a variety of reasons.)

    9. Closed eyes is a form of eye blocking.

    Our eyes have evolved as the primary way we get information about the world around us. But eyes that let input in can also block it. In fact, eye blocking is a survival mechanism that evolved to protect the brain from seeing undesirable or threatening images. Eye blocks include closing eyes, rubbing eyes, and covering eyes with hands or objects. Eye blocking is an unconscious gesture people use to exclude you during a conversation by blocking you from sight.

    10. Tearing eyes signal high emotion.

    At the most elementary level, tearing is a physical response to allergies, foreign particles in the eye, fumes (like ammonia or onions), and injury or pain. But tears are so much more. They often say what can’t be expressed adequately by words. Tears are an eloquent statement that something intensely emotional is taking place.

    11. Raising the eyebrows may be a sign of submission or a request for approval.

    When someone is unsure of whether he is believed or how an action is accepted, you will commonly see the eyebrows raise and pause – even if just momentarily. This is an unspoken inquiry: “Did I get it right?” “What do you think of what I just said?” The gesture of raising the eyebrows slowly, over a few seconds, along with a tilted head usually comes at the end of a sentence as a nonverbal inquiry to see if the listener has understood.

    12. Smiles can be real or fake.

    A fake smile is the most common facial expression used to mask other emotions. A person who doesn’t want her true feelings revealed (especially if she wants to disguise displeasure or anger) may “put on a happy face.”

    A fake smile is easy to produce. It takes only one set of muscles to stretch the lip corners sideways and create a grin. But a false smile is also easy to detect. A genuine smile of delight affects not only the corners of the mouth; it changes the entire face. The eyes light up, the forehead wrinkles, the cheek muscles rise, skin around the eyes and mouth crinkles, and finally the mouth turns up. People use the fake smile in business settings when they don’t feel an emotional closeness to those around them; the real smile is reserved for those they truly care about.

    13. Tight lips are almost always associated with negative emotions.

    Pressing lips tightly together occurs when someone is angry, frustrated, dismayed, or trying to hold back information. That is one of the reasons why full lips are so appealing – they are subconsciously interpreted as a signal that people are responding to us in a positive way.

    14. Chin jutting is a sign of anger.

    Someone who is angry or defensive tends to jut the chin forward. You can see chin jutting in small children who don’t want to do something. Right before they holler, “No!,” they’ll stick their chins out. Your business colleagues may display a similar behavior when they are getting angry, feel they have been wronged, or are about to tell someone off.

    15. Swallowing shows anxiety or stress.

    Swallowing is especially conspicuous in males, with the up-and-down motion of the Adam’s apple (called the Adam’s apple jump). This jump is a sign of emotional anxiety, embarrassment, or stress. For example, I’ve noticed in business meetings that a listener’s Adam’s apple may inadvertently jump if he dislikes or strongly disagrees with a speaker’s suggestion, perspective, or point of view.

    Because these nonverbal signals give valuable insight into our emotional state, communication suffers without them. If you don’t use head movements and facial expressions, people may not even want to talk to you. One of my clients wondered why his business conversation so rarely gave him the results he was looking for. But after watching him for a few minutes, it was obvious. He would talk and listen with very little physical animation. This was so disturbing to his co-workers that they avoided conversations with him – and shortened the ones they were forced to have!


    About the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is: https://carolkinseygoman.com/




    How Women Escape the Impostor Syndrome Trap

    How Women Escape the Impostor Syndrome Trap

     

    Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

    I give speeches and seminars on “The Power of Presence for Women Who Lead,” and after one of my sessions, I was asked by the head of Human Resources to coach Sandra. Introduced to me as a talented business professional with exceptional leadership skills, Sandra was being groomed for a top executive position, and she sounded perfect for my favorite kind of coaching assignment. I love working with accomplished women who are looking to become even more successful.

    It should have come as a shock when, at the end of our first session, this talented woman turned to me and said, “I want you to know how nervous I was meeting you. I was afraid that you wouldn’t find me worthy to work with.”

    It should have been a shock – but it wasn’t — because I’d heard this before — but only from female clients.

    I blame the Imposter Syndrome.

    The Imposter Syndrome is the fear of being exposed as a fraud, of feeling unworthy of your success, of not being as capable as others. Both genders experience the Imposter Syndrome, but women are more susceptible to it and more intensely affected by it.

    A female’s self-doubt can negatively impact her career when, as studies show, she pushes less often than her male counterparts for a raise or a promotion.

    The good news is that if you have fallen into the Imposter Syndrome trap, there are strategies to help you escape. From my book, STAND OUT: How to Build Your Leadership Presence, here are three of my favorite:

    1. Keep a success log

    On a daily basis (preferably at the end of the day) write down all of the things you are proud of — goals you achieved and situations that you handled well. You’ll see how even small successes, when recorded and reviewed on a regular basis can make positive changes in the way you evaluate yourself

    And stop downplaying your achievements. No one gets to your level without talent and hard work. Even if luck played a role in your career, it was no accident or quirk of fate that prepared you to take advantage of the opportunities presented. So the next time someone praises you, don’t brush it off. Simply smile and say “Thank you.”

    2. Turn your inner critic into an inner coach

    Of all the negative feedback you may receive, I’ll bet none is as damaging to your self-confidence, as what you tell yourself. Or as one of my clients admitted, “If I talked to my friends the way I talk to myself, I wouldn’t have any friends.”

    Your inner critic notices the things you do wrong, or poorly. It takes to heart – and dwells on – any critical comment you hear from others. It magnifies your weaknesses and ignore your strengths.

    Instead of automatically criticizing yourself, think of how a supportive coach would react. While your inner critic might say: “You are never going to be a good presenter, you might as well stop trying” your inner coach would tell you: “Every time you speak, you learn something that makes you a better presenter the next time. Stay with it and your speaking skills will get better and better.”

    3. Fail forward

    Recently, when I asked a CEO how she handled setbacks, Suzy replied, “I don’t believe in setbacks. I try to fail quickly, learn from it, shake it off, and move forward.”

    That’s what I call the “3 Rs technique”:

    The first R is Review: Acknowledge the situation by examining what happened.

    The second R is Redo: Think about what you learned from this experience and make a clear mental image of what you would do differently the next time you were in a similar situation.

    The final R (which is often the most difficult) is Release: Let it go. There is nothing more of value that this failure has to offer – so release it and move on.

    These are my three strategies to escape the Imposter Syndrome trap. Which one works best for you?


    5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is: https://carolkinseygoman.com/




    If You’ve Got a Brain, You’re as Biased as I Am

    If You've Got a Brain, You're as Biased as I Am

     

    Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

    Whenever we meet new people, our brain automatically and immediately begins to categorize them in some way – male or female, same or different, friend or foe – in order to predict what is likely to happen next. As leaders, we need to be aware that we are always evaluating others just as they are evaluating us.

    Here are seven biases that influence our judgements:

    1. Confirmation bias.

    We make judgements about people in the first few seconds of meeting them. Because we don’t have the mental agility to consciously perceive and process all the factors needed to make these calculations, we rely on unconscious estimates. (By the way, this is why body language is so important. In such a short time, what we are assessing – and what others are assessing about us – includes clothing, posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand gestures and tone of voice.)

    Once we’ve made these evaluations, confirmation bias comes into play as the powerful bias we have to look for evidence that confirms these instantaneous and unconscious decisions, and to discount evidence that is contrary.

    2. In-group/out-group bias.

    It is far easier to trust and believe someone who comes from the same background or have similar interests. Even relatively small similarities, like rooting for the same sports team or attending the same seminar, can create a bond. That’s because of a well-known principle in social psychology that people define themselves in terms of social groupings: Any group that people feel part of is an “in-group” and any group that excludes them an “out-group.” We think differently about members in each group and behave differently toward them.

    Similarities make us feel comfortable. We assume we know what in-group people are like – they’re good people, like us! Differences make us a little wary. When we see people as part of an out-group, we are more likely to judge any negative act as typical of their character and to attribute any positive actions as “the exceptional case.”

    3. Appropriate behavior bias.

    We all have a tendency to make judgments about another person based on our ideas of appropriate behavior. This shows up in lie detection when we believe that we know how we’d act if we were telling the truth – and that other truthful people would/should behave the same way. In reality, there is no universal behavior that signals deception or honesty. People are individuals with their own unique set of verbal and nonverbal behaviors.

    4. Attractiveness bias.

    Unfair though it may be, and even if we proclaim otherwise, we judge people by their appearance. And we automatically assign favorable traits to good-looking people, judging them to be more likeable, competent, and honest than unattractive people.

    5. Gender bias.

    Stanford University communication professor, Clifford Nass, conducted research to see if students would apply gender stereotypes to computerized voices. In one study, half the subjects were tutored by computers with male voices, and half by computers with female voices. When the material being taught was about “love and relationships,” students rated their female-voiced tutors as having more sophisticated knowledge of the subject than those who had the male-voiced tutors – even though both voices had given identical lessons.

    6. Facial features bias.

    Did you know that there are facial features that we innately trust or mistrust? By studying people’s reactions to a range of artificially generated faces, researchers in Princeton’s psychology department found that faces with high inner eyebrows, pronounced cheekbones, and a wide chin struck people as trustworthy. Conversely, faces with low inner brows, shallow cheekbones and a thin chin were deemed untrustworthy. Of course, you and I realize that eyebrow shapes and cheekbone prominence have no relationship to someone’s character or honesty, but unconsciously we override our rational minds and make an instinctive judgment.

    7. Bias by stereotype.

    When we are deciding whether or not to trust someone, the category we’ve instantly and unconsciously assigned them to – and our past experiences with others from that group or how we have seen them represented (in the news, movies, etc.) most frequently — lead us to stereotype people and be more skeptical of some and more trusting of others.

    There are three steps we can take to confront our biases

    1. Become conscious of the unconscious

     The first step is to recognize that these unconscious evaluations are taking place. The minute we take an unconscious process and bring it into awareness, it begins to lose it’s power.

    2. Pause to take control

    Once we realize how our unconscious bias can influence our evaluations of others, we need to pause to consider how vulnerable we are to a variety of judgment traps. The act of pausing gives us time to check some of our assumptions to see how we might have jumped to the wrong conclusion.

    3. Assume positive intent

    When I speak to international audiences (so far in 32 countries), I have made more than my share of cultural mistakes, but they have always been graciously forgiven. As one client told me, “It’s okay, Carol, we know your heart’s in the right place.”

    We would all be wise to adopt the same attitude.


    About the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is: https://carolkinseygoman.com/




    This is What You Say When You Talk with Your Hands

     

    Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

    The body language question I’m asked the most when people are preparing to make a presentation is: “What should I do with my hands?”

    My answer? “Use them.”

    Research shows that audiences tend to view people who use a greater variety of gestures in a more favorable light. Studies have found that people who communicate through active gesturing tend to be evaluated as warm, agreeable, and energetic, while those who remain still (or whose gestures seem mechanical or “wooden”) are seen as logical, cold, and analytic.

    That’s one of the reasons why gestures are so critical to a leader and why getting them right in a presentation connects so powerfully with an audience.

    Unless you are about to make a presentation, chances are you don’t often think about your hand gestures — but in practice you naturally use them with great efficiency and sophistication to cover a surprisingly wide range of communication.

    To increase your influence and impact skills, it’s helpful to be aware of how your movements are most likely being perceived. Here are some common hand gestures and the messages you may be sending:

    Hidden hands – Hidden hands make you look less trustworthy. This is one of the nonverbal signals that is deeply ingrained in our subconscious. In our prehistory, when someone approached with hands out of view, it was a clear signal of potential danger. Although today the threat of hidden hands is more symbolic than real, our ingrained psychological discomfort remains.

    Crossed arms — Although there are cultural differences to take into account, crossing arms is almost always perceived as a closed sign of resistance. (And, by the way, since the human brain pays more attention to negative messages than it does to positive ones, what people unconsciously look for and react to the most, are signs that you are in a bad mood or that something is wrong.)

    Emblematic gestures – Some gestures have an agree-upon meaning to a group (which is why there are broad cultural differences) and are consciously used instead of words. Emblematic gestures used in North America include the thumbs-up sign that is commonly understood to mean “good job,” “OK” or “everything’s fine.”

    Pacifying gestures – When nervous or stressed, you may pacify with a variety of self-touching gestures. You might play with your jewelry, push back your hair, or cross your arms in a kind of “self-hug.” In a presentation, pacifying gestures make you look tentative, unprepared or insecure.

    Hand gestures of enthusiasm – There is an interesting equation of hand and arm movement with energy. If you want to project more enthusiasm and drive, you could do so by increased gesturing. On the other hand, over-gesturing (especially when hands are raised above the shoulders) can make you appear erratic, less believable and less powerful.

    Hand gestures of composure – Arms held at waist height, and gestures within that horizontal plane, help you – and the audience – feel centered and composed.

    Illustrative gestures – Sometimes gestures are used to physically illustrate a point, as when moving your hands apart when talking about a big issue or pinching your thumb and first finger together to illustrate a small or precise point.

    Other gestures are unconscious signals that give the viewer a glimpse into the speaker’s emotions, motivations or attitude. These include . . .

    • Open palms at an angle  Gesturing with palms showing (tilted to a 45-degree angle) signals your candor and openness.

    • Palms down – Turning your palms down signals power and certainty. This is also a controlling signal – as when trying to quiet an audience.

    • Clenched hands – When you clutch an object tightly or curl your hands into fists, it signals anger or frustration.

    • Finger pointing  Rather than being a sign of authority, aggressive finger pointing suggests that you are losing control of the situation.

    • Hands on hips – This gesture communicates a defiant, super-confident, or independent attitude.

    • The fig leaf – Be aware that when you stand with your hands clasped in front of your groin (the classic “fig leaf” position), it is one of the most common signs of nervousness.

    • Steepling gestures  When you are feeling confident about presenting a subject you know well, you may automatically use a steepling gesture (like the man in the photo with palms separated slightly, fingers of both hands spread and fingertips touching) to nonverbally signal that confidence.

    Gestures help power up your thinking and allow you to connect more convincingly with your audience. So keep talking with your hands — as long as you know, and agree with, what they are saying!


    About the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is: https://carolkinseygoman.com/




    Thriving On Post-Pandemic Change

     

    Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

    Change is difficult — and we have plenty of reasons to resist it!

    No one likes to contemplate letting go of the skills and behaviors that “got us here.” As individuals, we become psychologically attached to the status quo because it is familiar and comfortable. But even more difficult than fighting off the inertia of comfort, we find it hard to let go of the past because it is there that we’ve experienced personal success.

    The post-pandemic world of work, with its various hybrid working arrangements will bring increasing amount of the kind of change that stimulates the prefrontal cortex, an energy-intensive section of the brain responsible for insight and impulse control. But the prefrontal cortex is also directly linked to the amygdala (the brain’s fear circuitry, which in turn controls our “freeze, fight or flight” response) and when the prefrontal cortex is overwhelmed with too many complex and unfamiliar concepts, the amygdala connection gets kicked into high gear. As we continually adjust to whatever the future demands, all of us are then subject to the physical and psychological disorientation and pain that can manifest in anxiety, fear, depression, sadness, fatigue or anger.

    It’s no wonder that we need more than logic and data to help us survive. We need personal strategies that strengthen our ability to thrive in changing times. Here are six of them for your consideration:

    1. Build your self-confidence

    Confidence is the personality trait most responsible for an individual’s ability to deal well with difficult transitions. Confident people are self-motivated, have high self-esteem, and are willing to take risks because they have a deep belief in their own value.

    Self-confidence starts with being aware of and playing to your strengths. Lee Strasberg, the famous acting teacher, once said, “I can train people in anything except that for which they have no talent.” Continual learning is a career-long process — but instead of focusing solely on your weaknesses (those areas where you have little or no talent), identify the specific competencies and accomplishments that make you special — and develop your natural abilities to the fullest.

    2. Create counterbalance

    A definition of the word compensate is “to provide with a counterbalance or neutralizing device.” Change-adept individuals compensate for the demands and pressures of business by developing counterbalancing activities in other areas of their lives. They engage in exercise programs, mindfulness exercises, and healthful eating habits. They cultivate interests outside of work— sports, hobbies, art, music, etc. — that are personally fulfilling, and they have sources of emotional support. Because people with counterbalance have fuller, richer lives, they handle business-related stress better and are more effective at their jobs.

    3. Find your personal source of stability

    One of the most memorable interviews I’ve conducted was with the CEO of a cellular telephone company: “I’ve got a stabilizing force in my life,” he told me. “It’s my stocking drawer.” I must have looked startled because the CEO continued quickly. “I mean it,” he said. “All hell can be breaking loose at work, but when I open my sock drawer to find everything in color-coded, neat little piles, it does my heart good.”

    I included this amusing story in my change leadership speeches for years, and only once has someone taken offense at it. I had addressed the national convention of a real estate firm and the sales manager from another state wanted to book a similar program for his division. “I really enjoyed your talk,” he said. “But when you work with my group, please don’t make fun of the sock drawer.”

    I told the sales manager that I would be happy to do as he asked but was curious about the reason for his request. He looked at me sternly. “I don’t want you to make fun of it because it works! I tell all of my salespeople that if they are having a terrible day, where nothing is going right, they might as well stop and straighten out their underwear drawer.”

    After thinking about that comment, I had to agree. It doesn’t matter if the source of counterbalance sounds silly to others; change-adept people know what works for them.

    4. Keep a positive attitude

    With any disruptive change, dangers co-exist with opportunities. When change-adept people are asked for words they associate with the future’s chaotic workplace, they acknowledge the stress, uncertainty, pressure and disruption. But they also emphasize the benefits — opportunity, growth, excitement and challenges that will also be present.

    You never know when a seemingly negative situation may turn out to be for the best. If your job radically changes, or even if it disappears, it may also be an excellent chance to learn something new, utilize previously untapped abilities, and meet new people. If you keep a positive attitude, you’ll be more likely to rally your energy toward furthering your career regardless of the circumstances.

    5. Stay in the game

    In tough times, your first reaction may be to “hunker down.” Nothing could be less helpful. This is a time to become very visible in your organization. Volunteer for key committees and projects, take credit for your success, and speak up in meetings. If you are working remotely, add a photo to your email signature, be one who takes meeting notes and distributes them, ask questions of senior leaders, display confident virtual body language, and send your boss a weekly summary of your accomplishments.

    6. Nurture collaboration 

    Whatever the future brings, your personal success will increasingly depend on how well you collaborate internally and externally to find innovative solutions to complex problems.

    First, create social capital. Capital is defined as “accumulated wealth, especially as used to produce more wealth.” Social capital is the wealth (or benefit) that exists because of your social relationships. Think of social capital as the value created by your connections to others. There is no more valuable commodity in a chaotic business environment.

    Second, remember that you can’t command collaboration and you can’t control knowledge sharing. But you can influence people to collaborate and share by creating an environment in which it is safe, enjoyable and beneficial to do so.

    Third, build trust. Without trust, there is no true collaboration – and trust is no longer the result of positional power. It needs to be earned. You earn trust when you keep your word, share information, listen, respect diverse opinions and abilities, maintain confidentiality, support others, admit mistakes, are consistent in expressing and living your personal values. You also build trust when you deeply believe that the people on your team are equally trustworthy.

    There is no doubt that the post-pandemic world will bring vast amounts of change. If we can remain confident, balanced, stable, positive, visible, and trusting, we will not only survive, we will thrive.


    5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is: https://carolkinseygoman.com/




    We All Need Leadership Presence

    Ronn Torossian On How to Lead Team Through Change

    Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

    You are talented, skilled, and highly competent, with positive business results that have been responsible for your career progress to this point. What more could you possibly need?

    At a certain level, the force that will catapult you to more senior positions of leadership may have less to do with the abilities that got you this far, and more to do with the impression you make. You may be knowledgeable, skilled, and innovative, but that doesn’t guarantee that others see you as the talented leader you authentically are.

    The good news is that managing this impression doesn’t require you to fake or exaggerate. The goal of leadership presence is to align people’s impression of you with your authentic best self. It’s the art of better expressing those qualities you already possess. (BTW: As a speaker, author and leadership presence coach, I would be highly ineffective at helping people pretend to be something they’re not — but I am very good at helping people discover and project their genuine talents and potential.)

    So let me ask you a question: How skilled are you at expressing your authentic Credibility, Confidence, Composure, Connection, and Charisma?

    Credibility: Regardless of how credible you are, your communication style can strengthen or weaken people’s perception of your credibility. Attention spans are so short today that you have to be able to make your point in a way that’s both compelling and brief — and eliminate words (kind of, sort of, maybe, um, er, uh) and phrases like “This may be a bad idea, but . . .” or “You probably already thought of this, but . . .” which reduce the positive impact of whatever statement follows.

    Confidence: When it comes to looking confident, your body language plays a major part in how people perceive you. To appear as your confident best, remember to stand and sit with good posture — shoulders squared, head straight, arms slightly away from your torso, feet flat on the floor if seated and about shoulder-width apart if standing. Posture is especially important in a virtual environment where your body language makes an instantaneous statement about your authority and personal power. A side benefit is that good posture not only makes you appear more confident, it also makes you feel more grounded and self-assured.

    Composure: You may be presented with unwanted interruptions, tough questions, or personal attacks — and all these can be challenging situations for even the most senior leaders. To retain your composure, don’t be blindsided. Anticipate what is likely to occur and prepare to respond appropriately. And when you encounter a situation you’d hadn’t prepared for, remember to stop and take a slow breath before responding. By staying poised under pressure, you appear reliable, capable, and in control — all qualities that people look for in a leader.

    Connection: Your ability to connect with others has everything to do with how you make people feel. The goal of leadership today is to get others to willingly engage and collaborate, and that means creating work environments where people feel safe and valued. As one Silicon Valley CEO told me: “There is absolutely nothing wrong with command and control leadership. It’s simply irrelevant in the 21st century.” That’s why your ability to show empathy and make genuine connections is such a powerful element in projecting leadership presence.

    Charisma: The fact is you already have charismatic qualities that are waiting to be revealed in order to showcase your unique character and talents. Strengthening your personal brand of charisma begins with embracing and expressing your core values and by appreciating and being grateful for all that you have to offer to your organization and the world.


    5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is: https://carolkinseygoman.com/




    What is the Truth About Lie Detection?

     

    Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

    “You’re next in line for a promotion.”

    “Let’s have lunch sometime.”

    “I’d love to read your report.”

    “No, those pants don’t make you look fat.”

    We get lied to all the time. People are dishonest with us out of politeness, to avoid punishment, to protect others, or to deliberately mislead us for personal gain. But, although it happens frequently, it’s not that easy to spot a liar.

    It’s true that there are behaviors that suggest deception. Some examples are:

    • Incongruence between what’s being said and the speaker’s body language (like saying “no” while nodding “yes”).

    • An increased blink rate – especially over 50 blinks per minute – or eyelid flutter.

    • Gazing downward after asserting innocence.

    • Incomplete gestures, like a shrug that uses only one shoulder.

    • A decrease in hand gestures, especially those used to illustrate speech – like drawing pictures in the air to help explain what is meant.

    • Increased foot movement – fidgeting or kicking out.

    • Face touching – especially around the mouth and nose.

    • Pupil dilation, which can be a sign of the extra mental effort it takes to tell a lie.

    • Discrepancies in timing: When the lie is well rehearsed, deceivers start their answers more quickly than truth-tellers. If taken by surprise, however, the liar takes longer to respond.

    It’s also true you are already subconsciously picking up on signals of deception. Your ability to do that is one of your basic survival instincts. In early human’s history, rapidly deciding if someone was dangerous or duplicitous was often a matter of life or death. And consistent among the research is that as the importance of having the lie go undetected increases, the more difficult for the liar to conceal the falsehood.

    But, as innate as this ability may be, and as compelling as the scientific research is, it’s not all that easy to catch a liar. Here are four reasons why . . .

    1) There is no absolute signal for deception. Most cues, including blink rates, pupil dilation, foot movement, etc., are signs of heightened anxiety and stress. But that observed stress could be caused by lying or by something else. Likewise, incongruence, where gestures contradict words, may be a sign of deceit or simply an indication of some inner conflict between what the person is thinking and saying.

    2) Signs of deceit may differ from individual to individual. Take eye contact, for example: Some liars shift their gaze and won’t meet your eyes, while others give too much eye contact. One person may raise her vocal pitch when she lies while another speaks in a flat, unemotional tone.

    3) All nonverbal communication is influenced by cultural heritage, and the higher the stress level, the more likely it is that culture-specific gestures will show up. It is extremely difficult to judge nonverbal deception cues in people from another culture.

    4) No one, not even with the aid of functional MRIs to track brain activity, can identify sociopaths or other liars who believe the lies they are telling.


    5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is: https://carolkinseygoman.com/




    How to Become a More Collaborative Leader

     

    Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

    Lately I have had so many speaking engagements on “Leadership Presence” that I relish the chance to change course and to update my program on “Collaborative Leadership” for a client next month.

    For many organizations, “silo mentality” and knowledge hoarding behaviors are wasting the kind of collective brainpower that could lead to the discovery of a revolutionary new process or product or, in the current economic climate, be the key to keeping their company afloat when others are sinking!

    And it’s not just corporate profits that suffer when collaboration is low: the workforce loses something too. Individuals lose the opportunity to work in the kind of inclusive environment that energizes teams, releases creativity and makes working together both productive and joyful.

    Here are a few points that I will be covering in that upcoming virtual session to help participants build their collaborative leadership skills:

    Realize that silos can kill your business. Silo mentality is a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of mentality will reduce efficiency in the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture. Silo is a business term that has been passed around and discussed in many boardrooms over the last 40 years. Unlike many other trendy management terms this is one issue that has not disappeared. Silos are seen as a growing pain for organizations of all sizes. Wherever it’s found, a silo mentality becomes synonymous with power struggles, lack of cooperation, and loss of productivity.

    Build your collaboration strategy around the “human element.” In trying to capture and communicate the cumulative wisdom of a workforce, the public and private sectors have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in portals, software, intranets, and other collaborative platforms. But collaboration is more than the technology that supports it, and even more than a business strategy aimed at optimizing a organization’s experience and expertise. Collaboration is, first and foremost, a change in attitude and behavior of people throughout an organization. Successful collaboration is a human issue.

    Make visioning a collaborative process. In my seminars, speeches, and coaching I’ve worked with thousands of talented leaders around the world, and one thing I know for sure: Regardless of how creative, smart and technically savvy a leader may be, he or she can’t successfully lead an organization, a department or a team without the brain power and commitment of others.

    Today’s most influential leaders guide their organizations not through command and control, but through a shared purpose and vision. These leaders adopt and communicate a vision of the future that impels people beyond the boundaries and limits of the past. But if the future vision belongs only to top management, it will never be an effective motivator for the workforce. The power of a vision comes truly into play only when the employees themselves have had some part in its creation.

    Utilize the power of diversity. Experiments at the University of Michigan found that, when challenged with a difficult problem, groups composed of highly adept members performed worse than groups whose members had varying levels of skill and knowledge. The reason for this seemingly odd outcome has to do with the power of diverse thinking. Group members who think alike or are trained in similar disciplines with similar bases of knowledge run the risk of becoming insular in their ideas. Diversity causes people to consider perspectives and possibilities that would otherwise be ignored.

    Help people develop trusting relationships. Trust is the belief or confidence that one party has in the reliability and integrity of another party. It is also the glue that holds together any group. Since the outcome of any collaborative effort is dependent upon trusting relationships among participants, not allowing time for this to develop can be a costly mistake. But all too often, in the rush to get started on a project, team leaders put people together and tell them to “get to work.” You’ll get better results if your give your group time (upfront) to get to know one another, to develop a common understanding about the project, to discover each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and to build personal ties.

    Watch your body language. To show that you are receptive to other people’s ideas, uncross your arms and legs. Place your feet flat on the floor and use open palm gestures (which is a body language display inviting others into the conversation). If you want people to give you their ideas, don’t multi-task while they do. Avoid the temptation to check your text messages, check your watch, or check out how the other participants are reacting. Instead, focus on those who are speaking by turning your head and torso to face them directly and by making eye contact. Leaning forward is another nonverbal way to show you’re engaged and paying attention, as is head tilting. (The head tilt is a universal gesture of giving the other person an ear.) To encourage team members to expand on their comments, nod your head using clusters of three nods at regular intervals.

    Today’s organizations exist in an increasingly complex and ever-shifting ocean of change. As a result, leaders need to rely more than ever on the intelligence and resourcefulness of their staff. Collaboration is not a “interesting” leadership philosophy. It is an essential ingredient for organizational survival and success.


    5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is: https://carolkinseygoman.com/




    What if George Washington Lied?

     

    Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

    February 22nd is George Washington’s birthday and I remember a story about his childhood. It’s reported that George chopped down a cherry tree, and when his irate father saw the damage and asked his son if he knew who did the deed, George owned up: “I cannot tell a lie.”

    But what if George had lied? What if he’d denied being the culprit? What if he’d insisted that it must have been the act of some other kid with an axe? Would his father have been able to detect the deception?

    A frustrated parent asking, “Did you eat that candy?” will have a chocolate-covered toddler answering, “No!” in order to remove the stern expression from a caregiver’s face. Three- and four-year olds tell tall tales and create imaginary friends. By the time they are about seven, children start to lie to avoid doing chores or homework, to get something they want, to protect someone else, and to avoid punishment. And, of course, teenagers lie to cover up sexual activity, drug or alcohol use, and (almost always) about what time they actually got home last night.

    When children are telling the truth, they are most often relaxed, with facial expressions and gestures that reflect this. But when lying, they undergo a heightened stress response that can be spotted by an observant parent. (As we grow older, we also grow better at deception – and it is not so easy to discover.)

    So if George had responded in the negative when asked about the tree-chopping incident, his father could have watched for signs of a dry mouth (and the lip licking that accompanies it), eye contact that suddenly can’t be held or, conversely, is held too intently, an increased blink rate, face touching, squirming, biting the lips or tightly squeezing them together, head and shoulder movements that are arrested part way into the gesture, and a smile that appears at inappropriate times.

    Mr. Washington might also have spotted a telltale “micro expression” (a genuine emotion that flashes across someone’s face in less than one-fifth of a second) or a “suppressed expression” which slips out before realized and is then “caught” and replaced with a preferred reaction.

    Another deception cue he might have observed was his son’s rigid posture and lack of spontaneous hand gestures. Many liars “tighten up” and inhibit their natural body language – as if afraid that any movement will expose the falsehood.

    George’s dad should also have been advised to note the timing of his son’s verbal response. When a lie is planned (and rehearsed), deceivers start their answers more quickly than truth-tellers. If taken by surprise, however, the liar takes longer to respond – as the process of inhibiting the truth and creating a lie takes extra time. And he should have been on the watch for a variety of stalling tactics fibbers use while trying to figure out how to respond: Liars tend to repeat the question you just asked, make irrelevant statements to divert attention, or try to put you on the defensive.

    So – was the George Washington boyhood story true? Maybe. But, if not, I hope his father caught the lie.


    5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is: https://carolkinseygoman.com/




    Why You Cannot Fake Your Feelings

     

    Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

    I was once asked by the Senior Vice President of Human Resources to work with a leader whose micro-management was limiting her team’s effectiveness. When I met with the client, (let’s call her Judith), she was effusive with her praise – going on and on about how much she had heard about me and how delighted she was to have me as her coach. I noticed that her smiles, however bright, were seldom genuine.

    Smiles are often used as a polite response to cover up other emotions, but these social smiles involve the mouth only. Unless you are expressing genuine pleasure or happiness, it’s hard to produce a real smile – the kind that crinkles the corners of the eyes and lights up the entire face.

    Knowing that, I expected to discover that Judith wasn’t as delighted with me as she claimed, and that she was putting on a show for the HR executive’s sake. As time went on, it became clear that was the case. Judith had no interest in working with me (or any other coach), and no intention of changing her management style.

    The one area of body language that is identical in all cultures is the seven basic emotions that people around the world express, recognize, and relate to in the same way. Discovered and categorized by Paul Ekman and his colleagues at the University of California in San Francisco, the universal emotional expressions are joy, surprise, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, and contempt. Here is how they can be identified:

    Joy: The muscles of the cheeks raise, eyes narrow, lines appear at the corner of the eyes, the corners of the mouth turn up.

    Surprise: The eyebrows raise, there is a slight raising of upper eyelids and dropping of the lower jaw.

    Sadness: The eyelids droop as the inner corners of the brows raise and (in extreme sorrow) draw together, and the corners of the lips pull down.

    Anger: The eyebrows are pulled together and lowered, the lower eyelid is tensed, the eyes glare, and the lips tightened, appearing thinner.

    Fear: The eyebrows draw together and raise, the upper eyelid raises, the lower eyelid tenses, and the lips stretch horizontally.

    Disgust: The nose wrinkles, the upper lip raises, and the corners of the mouth turn down.

    Contempt: This is the only unilateral expression. The cheek muscles on one side of the face contract, one corner of the mouth turns up.

    Whenever any of these emotions are felt strongly, their display is intense and can last up to four seconds. Subtle expressions are emotions experienced with a lower intensity, or emotions just starting to show. Micro expressions (facial displays lasting less than one-fifth of a second) can also give an astute observer a glimpse into your true emotional state.

    On more than one occasion, I’ve seen a fleeting expression of anger or disgust between colleagues that has spoken volumes about the underlying feelings between the two people. (I tend to watch the eyes. The small muscles around the eyes are often the site of real emotional giveaway – one part of the face that reacts before you even know how you feel about something that’s been said or implied.)

    In general, expressions that are not genuine can be identified by the following behaviors:

    • An expression that does not use all the muscles in the face typically associated with that expression. One case is previous example of Judith’s smile — which included the mouth but didn’t involve the eye muscles.

    • Because all genuine expressions (with the exception of contempt) are symmetrical, any display of other expressions that are asymmetrical, are suspect.

    • An expression held for more than five seconds is typically not genuinely felt. Most real expressions last only for a few seconds.

    It’s also difficult to hide your feelings because many emotional displays are almost impossible to eliminate. The Adam’s-apple jump (especially noticeable in men) is one such emotional cue – an unconscious sign of emotional anxiety, embarrassment, or stress – often displayed when someone hears something he strongly dislikes or disagrees with.

    Even babies know when you are faking. Psychology researchers at Concordia University demonstrated that infants – as early as 18 months old — can detect whether a person’s emotions are justifiable given a particular context. In fact, the infants clearly detected when facial expressions did not match the experience. They also showed empathy toward the person only when her sad face was genuine.

    Even if you are successful masking your emotions, an audience will still know that something is “off.” Stanford University’s research on emotional suppression shows a surprising reason why it’s so difficult to hide your true feelings: The effort required to suppress an emotion takes a physical and psychological toll. Subjects instructed to conceal their emotions reported feeling ill at ease, distracted and preoccupied. And this was validated by a steady rise in their blood pressure.

    But another, quite unexpected finding showed a corresponding blood pressure rise in those who were only listening to the subjects. When you try to suppress what you really feel, the resulting tension is internally registered with your audiences.

    At home, on Zoom, or in the workplace, you constantly express emotions — enthusiasm, warmth, and confidence as well as arrogance, indifference, and displeasure — through your facial expressions. My best advice is to always be as transparent and candid as possible. Doing so will help your body language align authentically to reflect that emotional openness. Remember: If you try to fake how you really feel, your audience (family, team, staff, co-workers, boss) probably won’t buy it.


    5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is: https://carolkinseygoman.com/




    Is Your Good Body Language a Bad Choice?

    Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

    I want to tell you a story about Adam and Eve.

    No, not that Adam and Eve.

    The Adam and Eve I’m talking about are both being groomed to take larger leadership roles. And both are aware that body language is an important part of projecting the leadership presence that will help them succeed.

    This is their story:

    Adam’s assignment was to facilitate a highly collaborative meeting in which all team members would be encouraged to share insights and concerns about an upcoming project.

    Before he met with the team, Adam had assumed a “power pose” position – with hands on hips and feet wide apart to get all the advertised benefits of doing so. And it worked. He could almost feel his stress level lowering and his self-confidence rising. By the time he strode into the meeting room, took his place at the head of the table, and made strong eye contact with all the participants, Adam exuded authority, power and status.

    Eve was at her first strategy session with executives and saw this as an opportunity to be perceived as the credible and competent leader she truly was.

    Naturally empathetic and likable, Eve automatically smiled a lot, nodded to encourage others to continue speaking and tilted her head in the universal sign of “giving someone your ear.” She waited politely before interjecting her own thoughts, and when she did, she spoke in a soft warm voice.

    Both Adam and Eve exhibited good leadership body language. But both made bad choices for projecting leadership presence.

    In the workplace, we continuously and unconsciously assess leaders for two distinct sets of nonverbal signals. The first is warmth/likability/empathy and the second is authority/power/status. The art of blending warmth and authority cues is the essence of effective body language for leaders . . . most of the time. There are business situations, however, when emphasizing one set of signals over the other gives you the advantage.

    Power, status, and confidence are non-verbally displayed in height and space. The ability to project authority is a body language strength. But, like any strength, when overused or inappropriately used, that asset can become a liability. And it’s easy for power signals to slip into signs of arrogance. If your status signals are too strong, you can come across as arrogant, uncaring, or insensitive.

    When it comes to facilitating collaborative teams and building high trust work environments, high-power behaviors can undermine your efforts. After all, if you act like “the boss who has all the answers,” why would anyone else need — or dare — to contribute?

    Adam would have been more effective if he had looked more inclusive and less “in charge.” For example, he might have taken a seat in the middle of the table instead of the “power position” at the end. He could have remembered to smile more, to nod and to turn his entire body toward whomever spoke, silently indicating that he was giving others his full attention because their contributions mattered.

    Eve faced an entirely different leadership situation, and the very cues that might have been so helpful to Adam were detrimental for her.

    Warm body language including head tilts, nods and forward leans, definitely send signals of friendliness, interest and inclusion, but excessive or inappropriate warm signals can also be a credibility robber. Even a smile (which is the most positive display of warmth) is counter-productive if you smile too much when delivering a serious message or stating an objection. There are also cases where warm cues (like the head tilt) can make you look submissive — which, for Eve, was not the best image to project when her goal was to impress executives with her confidence and expertise.

    Eve’s head tilts worked well when she wanted to demonstrate interest in other members of the team, but when she stated her own opinions she would have been wiser to keep her head straight in a more authoritative position. Her soft-spoken vocal responses also worked against her, lessening the impact of her comments by making them seem tentative. She needed to speak up in a stronger voice if she wanted her remarks to reflect her genuine competence.

    My best advice for Adam and Eve — and for any leader — is to understand that body language is most effective when it is aligned with your intent. If you are in a situation where you want to be evaluated as authoritative, make sure that you are displaying nonverbal signals of confidence and power to reinforce that message. On the other hand, if your goal is to build collaboration, use your warmer signals to encourage others to contribute. By adjusting your body language, you can optimize your leadership effectiveness — and build your leadership presence.


    About the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is: https://carolkinseygoman.com/




    How Santa Claus Will Know if You’ve Been Naughty or Nice: Deception Detection

     

    Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

    Have you ever wondered how Santa Claus determined whether to leave you a present or a lump of coal on Christmas Eve? How he knew if you’ve been naughty or nice? I don’t have any hard evidence to back me up, but I’m pretty sure that he must be a first-class deception detector.

    And, if so, here is how Santa did it:

    He began with a baseline

    The first and most important step in Santa’s deception detection was learning your baseline behavior under relaxed or generally stress-free conditions so that he could compare it with the expressions, gestures, and other signals that are only apparent when you are under stress.

    He watched you while you were chatting informally and he noticed how your body looked when you were relaxed. He saw your normal amount of eye contact and blink rate, the gestures you used most frequently, the posture do you assumed when you were comfortable, and your pace of speech and tone of voice.

    Then, after he knew your behavioral baseline, he stayed alert for meaningful deviations that signaled a stress reaction (and possible deception) as you went through the days.

    He saw you when you’re faking

    There are seven basic emotions that are shared, recognized, and expressed the same way around the world. Discovered and categorized by Paul Ekman and his colleagues at the University of California in San Francisco, the universal emotional expressions are joy, surprise, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, and contempt.

    When you don’t genuinely feel the emotion that you are trying to display, it often shows up in expressions that don’t use all the muscles in the face that are typically part of that emotion. For example, if your smile doesn’t include the eye muscles, it is not a felt smile. Real smiles crinkle the corners of your eyes and change your entire face. Faked smiles involve the mouth only and are often asymmetrical.

    In monitoring your emotional reactions, Santa also looked for simulated emotions, where you tried to convince others that you felt a certain way by simulating the facial expression associated with that feeling. He noticed your “terribly sincere furrowed-brow” or your exaggerated display of anger that felt excessive. He knew, too, that any expression you displayed for more than five to ten seconds was almost certainly being faked.

    He took note when you verbal and nonverbal messages were – or were not – aligned

    When your thoughts and words were in sync (when you believed what you were saying) Santa saw it in your body language because your gestures, expressions and postures fell into natural alignment with your verbal message. But when he saw incongruence, where your nonverbal behavior contradicted your words – such as a side-to-side head shake while saying “yes” or a slight shoulder shrug (which is a sign of uncertainty) as you stated you were “absolutely positive.” Santa knew that often verbal-nonverbal misalignment is a sign of intentional deceit. At the very least, it showed an inner conflict of some sort between what you were thinking and what you were saying.

    He looked for clusters

    Clusters played a key role in Santa’s ability to spot lies. Your nonverbal cues occurred in what is called a “gesture cluster” – a group of movements, postures and actions that reinforce a common point. A single gesture could have several meanings (or mean nothing at all), but when he saw that gesture coupled with at least two other reinforcing nonverbal signals, the meaning became clearer.

    According to research by David DeSterno of Northeastern University (research that he has surely shared with Santa Claus) there is one specific cluster of nonverbal cues that proved statistically to be a highly accurate indicator of deception. The “telltale four” body language signals that are associated with lying are hand touching, face touching, crossing arms, and leaning away.

    He judged you as being “good” or “bad” only after considering the following . . .

    • For the vast majority of us, the act of lying triggers a heightened (and observable) stress response. But here’s what complicates matters:
    • Not all people demonstrate the same degree of emotion.
    • Not all liars (especially if polished or pathological) display readily detectable signs of stress or guilt.
    • Not all lies trigger a stress reaction. (Social lies, for example, are so much a part of daily life that they hardly ever distress the sender.)

    Santa Claus also knows that truthful (“nice”) people like you can exhibit anxiety for a variety of perfectly innocent reasons including the fear of not being believed or discomfort speaking about embarrassing or emotionally arousing topics.

    Santa Claus took all this into consideration, before planning his visit to your house – and that’s why on Christmas morning you will receive nothing but wonderful gifts – which I hope includes a copy of my book  STAND OUT: How to Build Your Leadership Presence

    MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!


    About the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is: https://carolkinseygoman.com/




    Do You Feel Visible?

    Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

    In a 2016 study, 240 senior leaders of a Silicon Valley technology company were asked to identify the most-critical factors for success at their level. The group agreed on track record and skills-based factors: a history of delivering results, technical depth of expertise, and the ability to manage a technical team.

    However, when asked them to name the most-critical factors for promotion to their level, a new top criterion appeared: visibility. More than technical competence, business results, or team leadership ability — these leaders agreed — visibility was the most important factor for advancement.

    How visible are you? Are the senior managers and executives in your company aware of your talents and accomplishments – or are you waiting for someone else to discover how amazing you are?

    If you believe that working hard, keeping quiet, and waiting for your talents to be discovered is the path to success, take a tip from Dana Simberkoff, Chief Risk, Privacy and Information Security Officer at AvePoint: “If you want to be evaluated as having leadership presence, then being a legend in your own mind is not enough. Instead, you need to make sure that executives in your company are aware of your work and accomplishments — and you need to do so in a way that is not seen as boasting, but as informative and helpful.

    Here are three simple tips to increase your visibility:

    1)  Speak up – literally. Not only is public speaking impactful; sharing what you know also serves others.

    • Submit yourself as a speaker for breakout sessions or panels at industry conferences.

    • After you’ve attended a webinar or training session, offer to present your takeaways from that event in an informal session to anyone in your organization who’s interested.

    2)  When participating in a virtual meeting, increase your visibility by . . .

    • Making sure to be seen on camera. Don’t hide off-screen behind a name plate or a still photo. You can’t display presence if you’re not present.

    • Starting with a smile. A smile is the facial expression we like the most. It’s an invitation, a sign of welcome. It signals that you are friendly, open and relaxed.

    • Maintaining great seated posture. It’s a powerful nonverbal signal of confidence.

    • Speaking up: Ask questions, offer suggestions, compliment others.

    3)  You gain high visibility by doing high-quality work on high-priority projects. Before you agree to join a planning committee, project team, or task force, ask yourself if this assignment will help you get the attention of senior executives and other key contacts you’d like to make.

    And when you join an important project, consider being the one who summarizes and distributes the notes of your meetings to senior leadership. It’s a great way to get them familiar with your name.

    You can be loaded with leadership presence, but it won’t matter unless you are visible!


    5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is: https://carolkinseygoman.com/




    Do You Have a Leadership Presence?

    Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

    Leadership presence is a blending of attitudes, qualities, and behaviors that send all the right signals and makes you stand out from your peers.

    But leadership presence isn’t automatically assigned to you because you have a leadership title, advanced technical skills, or a high-level of leadership potential — and it’s not necessarily an accurate reflection of your true qualities and talents.

    Instead, leadership presence depends entirely on how other people evaluate you. (It’s what they say about you after you’ve left the room.) Knowing how to influence people’s perception of you requires a deep understanding of the impact of your appearance, your body language, your emotional state, and your communication style.

    The good news is, leadership presence can be developed. Like any other skill set, it takes application and practice. But unlike other skills, even minor changes in verbal and nonverbal habits can have a major impact on people’s positive impression of you. To help you align people’s perception of you with your best authentic self, I wrote my latest book, STAND OUT: How to Build Your Leadership Presence.

    Throughout my speaking and coaching career, I’ve worked with thousands of wonderful, high-performing professionals, helping them project the qualities needed to advance their careers. Here are the five qualities of leadership presence: Credibility, Confidence, Composure, Connection, and Charisma.

    Credibility: You may be knowledgeable, skilled, and innovative, but that doesn’t guarantee that others see you as the credible leader you authentically are.

    Attention spans are so short today that you have to communicate in a way that’s both compelling and brief.

    • One sure way to increase people’s perception of your credibility is to get to the point. (It’s a technique I call “start with the headline,” in which you start your conclusion first and fill in detail later.

    • You can also practice stating your points simply and succinctly. Simplicity isn’t just a “nice to have” communication skill. It’s a necessity to be perceived as credible. If you ramble or beat around the bush, any hope of holding people’s attention is lost. A good test is to ask yourself: “In 10 words or less, what is my key message?” If you can’t state it succinctly to yourself, you are not ready to communicate it to others.

    Confidence: Confidence is the trait most associated with leadership presence, and your body language can help send the right message.

    • When you want to look your confident best, remember to stand and sit with good posture — shoulders squared, head straight, arms slightly away from your torso, feet flat on the floor if seated and about shoulder-width apart if standing. Posture is especially important in a virtual environment where your body language makes an instantaneous statement about your authority and personal power. A side benefit is that good posture not only makes you appear more confident, it also makes you feel more grounded and self-assured.

    Composure: Staying poised under pressure can be difficult, but it is essential to projecting leadership presence. By keeping your composure in stressful situations, you appear reliable, capable, and in control — all qualities that people look for in a leader.

    If you don’t have a strategy for dealing with high-stress situations, here’s what likely happens: That situation becomes the trigger for a reaction commonly known as the “flight or fight” response. As your body gets flooded with the “stress hormone,” cortisol, your heart rate increases, your breathing gets rapid and shallow, and your muscles tense. In addition, your amygdala (the emotional region of your brain) begins to override your prefontal cortex (the rational decision-making part of your brain). In other words, you literally lose your ability to think straight.

    To unlink a trigger event from this self-defeating reaction, the moment you’re aware that you are in a stressful situation, mentally say the word “stop.” Then take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Instead of automatically reacting to the trigger event, pausing gives you the time needed to take back control and choose how to respond.

    Connection: Your ability to connect with others has everything to do with how you make people feel. Which is why the most important skill for connection is empathetic listening.

    If you already rank high in empathy, you gain a genuine professional advantage. If not, empathetic listening is a skill worth further developing. Here is what’s required:

    • Be fully present. Put away all distractions and focus all your energy on what the what the other person is saying.

    • Ask questions to make sure you understand: “Tell me more about this situation.” “Did I understand you to say (restate what you heard) . . .?

    • Ignore the urge to prematurely offer your opinion or advice. Not everyone is looking for a solution. Often, people just want a “sounding board,” where they can safely express their feelings and ideas. Make sure someone wants your help before you offer it.

    Charisma: When most people think of charisma, they picture a celebrity making a flamboyant entrance to command the attention of all those present. While that may be a fitting display of charisma for celebrities, it’s not realistic nor needed to project leadership presence. You can exude charisma without being flamboyant, extroverted, or commanding.

    Charisma is a flow of energy that attracts people like a magnet – and you project this energy when you are genuinely enthused and engaged.

    That’s why I wholeheartedly endorse preparing and rehearsing for an important presentation But when you are actually standing on stage or at the front of the meeting room, you’ll be more charismatic if you stop thinking about your technique. Instead, remember these two things:

    1) When you are genuinely invested in what you’re saying, your body language automatically aligns with your words.

    2) When you focus on the audience, rather than on yourself, you connect with them at a deeper, more personal, level.

    You can’t avoid making an impression, but you can learn how to align the impression you make with your best authentic self. By understanding the five C’s of leadership presence, you can help people see you as the outstanding leader you truly are.


    Author’s Note: This Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., and I give thanks for all of you who sign up for my newsletter, buy copies of my book, write reviews on Amazon, send me creative, beautiful, and funny photos of you with the book, and bring me to your audiences in webinars and interviews. I am so very grateful!


    5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is: https://carolkinseygoman.com/




    Virtual Communication Lessons from the DNC

    Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

    Over the last few months, organizations have transitioned from traditional offices to the virtual workplace, which makes your continued effectiveness as a communicator increasingly dependent on your ability to connect with, and influence others in this dramatically new environment. 

    With that in mind, I hope you watched the Democratic National Convention. For the first time, a national convention was conducted by video from satellite locations across the United States. The speakers at that event were dealing with many of the same challenges that you face in virtual meetings, and there was a lot to learn from the communication strategies they used to project leadership presence.

    Reading Body Language at WorkBecause I coach business leaders on body language and leadership presence, I focused primarily on nonverbal cues. I was therefore delighted when two communication experts agreed to review the speakers’ verbal content.

    Here are the virtual communication insights we picked up from the DNC. See for yourself how they might apply to you.

    Brad Whitworth is a communications and marketing thought leader with more than 40 years of experience as an executive in high-tech, financial services, and non-profit organizations. Here are his observations:

    1. Content is king

    When the COVID crisis took away the standard visual cues of the Democratic National Convention — the banners, signs, music, applause, interviews from the floor and more — the organizers had to rely more heavily than ever on content. Content is king when you have to hold the attention of a remote audience that is easily distracted by the evening’s text messages putting the kids to bed. Speakers were able to paint verbal pictures of Democratic hopeful Joe Biden, President Donald Trump and the differences between the two candidates. Former Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond praised Biden’s economic recovery plan as being in touch with working people. “He knows what it’s like to live in a real neighborhood, not just penthouse apartments. He know what it’s like to take the train to work, not just a chauffeured limousine.” 

    1. Stories stick

    If you want an important point to stick with your audience, tell them a story. During the convention’s opening night we learned that Joe Biden commuted by train from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, to Washington, D.C., every day so he could tuck his kids into bed every night and eat breakfast with them every morning. This personal story was strengthened when we heard it relayed by the Amtrak conductor who got to know the then-senator during the 90-minute rides.  

    1. There is power in repetition

    We were all reminded of the importance of staying “on message” and repeating key points if we want to influence our audiences. We came away with a consistent picture of Joe Biden as a solid, predictable, dedicated public servant when we heard Sen. Doug Jones from Alabama describe “the Joe I know.” Then that same idea was echoed by South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn who explained that “we know Joe because Joe knows us.” 

    1. You need to make a strong connection

    Your employees want to know about you on two dimensions — as both a business leader and as a human being. Video conferencing during the COVID crisis has taken employees inside leaders’ homes. You can take a page from Michelle Obama’s playbook when she built empathy with her audience by admitting, “a lot of folks are reluctant to tune into a political convention right now or to politics in general. Believe me, I get that.” And later she repeated her own discomfort over speaking at the convention, saying, “You know I hate politics. But you also know that I care about this nation.” A little humility goes a long way.

    1. Realize you can have an impact with both longer and shorter speeches

    We saw that both short and long messages can be impactful. It only took 76 seconds for Marked by Covid founder Kristin Urquiza to explain how her otherwise-healthy 65-year-old father had contracted COVID when he went to a karaoke bar with friends. Her father’s “only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump — and for that he paid with his life.” By contrast, Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s closing speech on the first night was 18:30 long and riveting from start to finish.

    The owner of Champion Organic Communications, Peg Champion designs marketing, PR and communications strategies for businesses, association, government and non-profit organizations. Here are Peg’s picks for the three most memorable speeches: 

    #1. Michele Obama

    While two of the three best speeches of the evening were given by women, it was Michele Obama for the win tonight. 

    Looking directly into the camera and speaking with the kind of empathy that is, as she pointed out, utterly lacking in the in the person currently occupying the White House, Michelle Obama gave a riveting speech. She was humble, honest and caring, and that impression came through even when she delivered the dire warning that, “if you think things can’t possibly get worse, trust me, they can and they will if we don’t make a change in this election.” 

    Her tone was measured and unwavering as she recounted the collective nightmare of the past four years saying, “Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country… he simply cannot be who we need him to be for us.” And then, throwing some serious shade, with an arched eyebrow, she said, “It is what it is.”

    #2. Senator Bernie Sanders

    After an initial flurry of hand waving, Sanders settled into his groove and gave a strong speech crafted and delivered with the goal of creating party unity behind Joe Biden against a dangerous threat to our nation. His remarks were crafted to win over his own supporters, those who supported other candidates in the primary and even those who had cast a vote for Trump in the last election. He spoke with urgency and used repetition to good effect, cautioning, “The future of our democracy is at stake.”

    He got off a couple of good jabs when he said, “Nero fiddled while Rome burned –Trump golfs!” and “This is not normal!” 

    #3. Kristin Urquiza 

    Urquiza, whose father died of the Coronavirus, delivered an unexpectedly powerful and damning speech. “My dad was a healthy 65-year-old,” she said. “His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump — and for that he paid with his life.”

    She was angry and she was grieving, yet she never stumbled or became emotional. Her delivery was flawless and searingly honest. 

    Echoing what these two experts have already stated, there is tremendous power in the words a leader chooses to express his or her thoughts. However, there are two channels of communication, verbal and nonverbal, and audiences are simultaneously assessing tone of voice, facial expressions, hand gestures, and posture for clues about a speaker’s true intent. In a very real way, nonverbal signals can support or weaken verbal messages. 

    Here are three of my observations about the impact of what wasn’t said at the DNC:

    1. First impressions are instantaneous

    While an in-person presentation offers added time and opportunity to impress an audience by the way you walk on stage or greet people in the meeting room, on a television or computer screen, it’s only your initial visual image that makes that first impression. 

    Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore came across instantly with a high level of energy, South Carolina’s Rep. Jim Clyburn’s solemn expression was perfectly congruent with the solemn message he was about to deliver, Minnesota’s Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s genuine smile let us know that her presentation would be upbeat, and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich looked comfortable and relaxed from the first moment we saw him.

    But Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer only smiled after she was sure she was on camera, and since we read and react to someone’s facial expression in a fraction of a second, her smile was a fraction of a second too late. 

    Susan Molinari, the former New York Rep. also made a body language error: She sat with her shoulders rounded, chest concaved, and hands tightly clasped. By condensing her body in this manner, and she weakened her authentic leadership presence.

    1. Visual symbols are powerful

    2016 Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. Jon Kasich delivered his endorsement of Biden from an intersection of two gravel roads, amplifying his message that the country is literally at a crossroads and that President Donald Trump has taken the country “down the wrong road.” 

    As she talked about racial injustice, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser spoke from a vantage point in the nation’s capital where she could share the screen with Black Lives Matter Plaza.

    Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto from Nevada chose a kitchen background to be seen, “like all of us are,” working from home. This strengthened her message about the need for voting by mail. 

    Gov. Mario Cuomo’s early use of a simple graph showing New York’s ability to control COVID-19 infection rates over the last 170 days helped reinforce his reputation as a credible speaker on the topic. 

    Brad Whitworth noted that the lineup of speakers — and their credentials — also sent a message to the audience before a single word was delivered. A key theme of the night was “We the People” and the conference organizers took every opportunity to showcase the universal appeal of the party by including women, people of color, children and former Democratic rivals, and a group of lifelong Republicans on the virtual stage. Even the choice of polished actor Eva Longoria Baston as the evening’s emcee — a successful Latina from Texas and the daughter of a serviceman — delivered a symbolic statement of inclusion and unity.

    1. Leaders need to send two sets of signals

    There are two sets of body-language cues that people instinctively look for in leaders. One set projects warmth, empathy and likability and the other signals power, authority and status. 

    Both are necessary for leaders today, but the “warmer side” of nonverbal communication becomes central to bonding with your audience — especially over virtual mediums and when connecting with people in emotionally stressful times. 

    Michele Obama sent both set of signals last night.

    Her erect posture, raised head, unwavering eye contact, and steady tone of voice displayed power and gravitas. Her hands beat an emphatic rhythm up and down when she emphasized each word in statements like, “We’ve got to vote for Joe Biden.” 

    But it was her display of empathy that had the most impact. She shook her head slowly when she talked about “not yet being where we want to be as a country.” And any time she spoke about her feelings or her hope for the future of America, her palms turned toward her body and she pulled her hands close to her chest, as if to hold us all near. 

    Because her body language was totally aligned with her verbal message, she gained credibility and built trust. 

    As a business communicator, you may never be part of a virtual political convention — but you can learn a lot from watching one!


    About the Author: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is an international keynote speaker and leadership presence coach. She’s the creator of “Body Language for Leaders” (LinkedIn Learning’s video course with over 2 million views) and the author of “STAND OUT: How to Build Your Leadership Presence” available for pre-order on Amazon. 




    Body Language & Leadership Presence

    Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

    Lately, unsurprisingly, I have had increased interest in how to use body language when on a Zoom meeting. Here’s a link to an article from TechRepublic quoting me on the topic. And if you want a broader body language perspective, take a look at my LinkedInLearning course: Body Language for Leaders.

    Virtually or in person, people evaluate your leadership presence not only by what you say, but how you sound when you say it (people’s brains register your vocal prosody before they evaluate the words you speak) and how your nonverbal signals support or weaken your verbal message.

    Many leaders are non-verbally illiterate – completely out of touch with the effect their body language has on others and unaware of the clear nonverbal signals being sent by clients and colleagues in every business encounter. The human brain is hard-wired to read and respond to these signals, although some leaders don’t know that the process is taking place and are unequipped, therefore, to use it to their advantage.

    That’s changing.  Today, body language coaching is my most requested service.

    Body language savvy is becoming a key part of a leader’s personal brand. Powerful people sit, stand, walk and gesture in ways that exude confidence, competence and status. The most effective leaders also send nonverbal signals of warmth and empathy – especially when nurturing collaborative environments, acknowledging people’s emotions in a Covid reality, and managing change.

    I’ve been awed by the impact that body language has on leadership presence. I’ve seen first-hand how nonverbal signals can literally make or break a leader’s ability to be perceived as the talented, confident, compassionate leader he or she authentically is.

    Please send me your questions, comments, success stories and lessons learned. I’d love to hear from you and to help you position yourself for the next job, project, or promotion.

    An offer from my publisher: My new book, STAND OUT: How to Build Your Leadership Presence, will be released in September. For a 20% discount, along with free shipping to the UK and US, go to www.koganpage.com and enter the code: KOGANPAGE20. (Note: The code will not work on Amazon.)




    What We Lose When We Can’t Touch

    What We Lose When We Can't Touch

    Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

    I understand why we are keeping our social distance and replacing a handshake with a wave, but I already miss what we are losing as a result.

    It’s so simple, that it’s easy to miss its impact. You simply extended your hand for a friendly handshake. But hidden in this simplest of nonverbal greetings, was an opportunity to pick up cues about the other person – and to make your own positive impression.

    People constantly evaluate each other by the way they shake hands. Here are a few common handshakes – and how they are most often interpreted:

    The bone crusher. An overly macho grip where the person squeezes too tightly gives the impression of being overbearing or insensitive.

    The dead fish. A cold, clammy, and limp handshake sends the nonverbal message, “I’m nervous, insecure, or timid.”

    The finger grinder. Similar to the bone crusher, and sending a similar aggressive message, this is the handshake where one party squeezes the fingers of the recipient.

    The stiff arm. When someone offers a straight-arm handshake, creating more distance between him or her and the other person, it’s processed as distrust, aloofness, or reserve.

    The glove. It’s the handshake, where two hands reach out to clasp and surround another’s hand, like a glove. Because the glove handshake has been so widely associated with politicians (and since the credibility of this profession has plummeted) it’s interpretation has morphed from a gesture of sincere liking to one of faked concern.

    The perfect handshake is perceived as warm, friendly, and sincere. It still has its own rules:

    1. Make sure you have palm-to-palm contact and that the web of you hand touches the web of the other person.

    2. Offer your hand with your palm facing sideways. When a person offers his hand with the palm faced upwards, it is considered to be a submissive gesture. Conversely, when someone offers his hand with the palm faced downwards (or twists his hand downward during the handshake) it sends a message of superiority. But people who offer a sideways hand to shake send a message of equality and confidence.

    3.Shake hands firmly — especially if you are a female. Women with a firm handshake make a more favorable impression and are judged to be confident and assertive.

    Handshakes are so powerful because of the power of touch.

    Considered the most primitive and essential form of communication, touch is so powerful and effective that we are programmed to feel closer to someone who’s touched us. The person who touches also feels more connected. It’s a compelling force and even momentary touching can create a human bond. A touch on the forearm that lasts a mere 1/40 of a second can make the receiver not only feel better but also see the giver as being kinder and warm.

    We are now living in a Covid-19 world that has removed the handshake from our nonverbal vocabulary, and I mourn its loss.

    Handshakes are far more that a polite greeting, they are often the foundation for a relationship. A study on handshakes by the Incomm Center for Trade Shows showed that people are two times more likely to remember you if you shake hands with them. The trade-show researchers also found that people react to those with whom they shake hands by being more open and friendly.

    Isn’t that remarkable? Through a single handshake you connect on a deeply human level. You also become more likeable, friendly and memorable. You can’t replicate this on Zoom.

    While Mark Twain was in London, someone started a rumor that he had died. When a major American newspaper printed his obituary, Twain reportedly quipped: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” I hope this is also true for the death of the handshake.


    About the Author: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.(https://CarolKInseyGoman.com) is an international keynote speaker and seminar leader for corporations, conventions, universities, and government agencies. Her new book, STAND OUT: How to Build Your Leadership Presence is available for pre-order on Amazon.




    We Need Physical Distance, Not Social Distance 

    Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

    Work from home, don’t meet in person – or if you must get together, keep your social distance! As we increase our efforts to fend off the spread of the COVID-19, we need to watch that we aren’t worsening another threat to public health: loneliness.

    The “loneliness epidemic” has seen rates double in the United States over the last 50 years. Cigna’s recent survey of over 20,000 American adults, found that almost half of respondents reported feeling alone, left out, and isolated. Further, one in four Americans shared that they rarely feel understood, and one in five people believe they rarely or never feel close to people.

    Loneliness can also make you sick — more prone to catching cold, developing heart disease and experiencing depression. A recent report from the Health Resources & Services Administration stated that social isolation can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

    And contrary to what you might think, it is not only the elderly who feel isolated. Younger, more technologically connected generations also suffer. Cigna’s survey found that 79 percent of Gen Zers, 71 percent of millennials and 50 percent of baby boomers are lonely.

    We are social animals with a need for belonging that is powerful and primitive. The roots of connection go back to our prehistory as a matter of survival. Belonging is not only a motivating component of workplace collaboration; it is the brain’s key driver. Our brains have evolved to be social – constantly assessing what others may think or feel, how they are responding to us, if we feel safe with them, and if they feel safe with us.

    Because of that primal need for connection, our brains react negatively when we feel isolated or excluded. Neuroscientists at UCLA found that when people feel excluded there is corresponding activity in the dorsal portion of the anterior cingulate cortex — the neural region involved in the “suffering” component of pain. In other words, the feeling of being excluded – left out, overlooked, ignored – provokes the same sort of reaction in the brain that physical pain might cause.

    While people shelter in place, don’t let physical distancing make loneliness worse. Here are three tips to reduce isolation and increase connection:

    1) Make your communication as rich as possible.

    Communication mediums run a spectrum from “lean” to “rich.” A lean medium transmits less information than a rich medium. There are obvious advantages of lean, text-based communication tools. They are fast, inexpensive, and most employees have access to them and are comfortable using them. They can reach large audiences quickly, and they also create a written record of events, which can be valuable for tracking progress and for keeping everyone up to date. Just remember, if you are emailing, texting or typing in a chat window (all lean mediums), there is nothing that gives added clues to the meaning of what you write.

    When the message is straightforward and easy to understand, a lean channel is fine, but because they lack social signals, lean mediums are poor transmitters of emotion, intent, or humor.

    Communication gets richer when you add voice and/or image. Telephone calls and teleconferences give listeners access to vocal clues. Videoconferencing allows participants to view facial expressions and hand gestures. One study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Science, found that speakers, as compared to e-mail senders, were almost 40% better at communicating enthusiasm, skepticism, empathy, sympathy, irony, doubt, belief, encouragement, caution, and humor. When your goal is to make people feel included and connected, it helps to add the human elements that richer mediums like telephoning or videoconferencing offer.

    2) Watch your body language.

    On a phone call, it’s all about vocal prosody (how you say what you say.) The quality of your voice can be a deciding factor in how you are perceived. Speakers with higher-pitched voices are judged to be less empathic, less powerful and more nervous than speakers with lower pitched voices. One easy technique to do before a teleconference is to put your lips together and say “Um hum, um hum, um hum.” Doing so relaxes your voice into its warmer and lower pitch.

    Participants in videoconferences tend to be more influenced by heuristic cues – such as how likeable they perceive the speaker to be – rather than the quality of the arguments presented by the speaker. This is due to the higher cognitive demands that videoconferencing places on people. So, when you are the presenter at a videoconference, you will want to emphasize nonverbal signals of likeability and warmth – leaning forward slightly, smiling, showing palms, etc.

    A few other tips to keep in mind:

    • You’ll be more effective if you speak slowly and enunciate clearly. Pause between thoughts to let participants process what you said.
    • Remember that distracting mannerisms and facial expressions can all be picked up and exaggerated on camera.
    • Keep a “less is more” attitude. Don’t fidget by rubbing hands together, bouncing your feet, drumming fingers on your desk, or playing with your jewelry; You’ll make viewers feel nervous just watching you. Do keep your hand gestures small, fluid and close to your body.
    • Maintain positive eye contact by looking at the screen when others are speaking and at the camera when you are speaking. It’s a good idea is to lower the monitor camera a little so that you don’t have to tilt your head back to gaze up at it.

    3) Don’t let today’s necessary reliance on technology become a permanent replacement for face-to-face interaction.

    In 1984, John Naisbitt wrote the best-seller, “Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives,” in which he popularized the concept of “high-tech, high-touch.” The basic premise was that as humans became more capable of anonymous electronic communication, they would concurrently need more personal interaction.

    Naisbitt was right on target – perhaps more literally than he knew – as the loss of physical touch deprives us of the most primitive and essential form of nonverbal communication. Which is why I mourn the fact that the “high-touch” greeting of a kiss, hug, or, in business settings, a handshake, is being replaced by a head nod, a wave, or a namaste (prayer hands, slight bow) hand gesture.

    Any communication strategy takes skill. A well-crafted email can be more effective than a poorly handled in-person meeting. But for the highest level of engagement and connection, for building and deepening relationships, face-to-face is undeniably the richest and most effective communication medium. It remains the most powerful human interaction. Technology may be getting us closer to replicating the experience, but there is nothing yet that can fully replace the intimacy and immediacy of getting people together, face-to-face.


    About the Author: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. (https://CarolKInseyGoman.com) is an international keynote speaker and seminar leader for corporations, conventions, universities, and government agencies. Her new book, STAND OUT: How to Build Your Leadership Presence is available for pre-order on Amazon.