Thursday, February 12, 2015

Show No Emotion - it's a Psychological Advantage

The photo above is of American Olympic boxer Marlen Esparza, and what makes it perfect for this post is the look on her face.  She's expressing the attitude of a fighter... non-emotional... fearless.

Compare that with the photo below.  Not only is the businessman expressing extreme emotion (anger), he has raised his fist outside of his body-frame. 
Why is that important?  Well together those features indicate that he's out of control (emotionally)... that he wants to appear bigger than he actually is... and that deep down, he isn't completely confident in his ability to carry out his threat. 
In short his aggressive display is a desperate attempt to trigger fear and submission in his victim.

Below another example of the same thing. This time the gesture is a pointed (stabbing) finger... but once again it's raised outside of his body-frame... which is an indication that the man wants to appear bigger and more threatening than he actually is... and that he isn't completely confident in his ability to actually carry out his threat.

This kind of display is something that's common in all primates - and that includes human beings. 
To understand what I mean, imagine a chimpanzee jumping around, waving its arms and screaming loudly. The chimp doesn't really want to fight (in case it gets injured or killed), so it tries to avoid a confrontation by using big threatening gestures and lots of noise.
However, in this example the man's face is non-emotional, and his pointing (stabbing) gesture is inside his body-frame. These are indications that he is deadly serious. 
This is called a primal threat indicator... and it's something that registers at an unconscious level with people.
So why is a lack of emotion and keeping your arms inside your body-frame so threatening? Well there are three very important reasons :
  • extreme outbursts of anger indicate that the person is out of control... and on a primal level that's considered to be a weakness
  • human beings naturally fear 'the unknown'... so if an adversary shows no emotion, then we don't know what to expect from them
  • a lack of emotion can also be an indication that our adversary is fearless, and therefore a real threat to our survival.

So if you want to create a primal psychological advantage in any kind of confrontation : 
  • show no emotion
  • keep your arm inside your body-frame 
  • and gesture with either a stabbing finger or a bladed hand. 
It's a tactic that has the Presidential seal of approval!
It's Primal Protection.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Avoid Making Contact - it's a Psychological Advantage

If you were a fan of the television series 'Lie to Me' you will have picked up some useful pointers about interpreting body language, and about micro facial expressions

But one thing you may not have noticed is that in the majority of interrogations they avoid making physical contact with the person they're questioning.  And that psychological tactic has applications in a wide range of confrontations.

Let me explain the basic principle.  When we meet someone we generally shake their hand.  This contact is an act of human bonding, and it gives each person a feel for the other.

However, if there is no physical contact, then the other person has no way of getting a proper feel for you... and consequently you become something unknown.

That in turn can trigger a sense of uncertainty that's based on a primal fear of the unknown... and consequently the other person can't be sure if you're friend or foe

Not surprisingly, this can make them hesitant about opposing you... and that's a definite advantage. 

Good interrogators use this tactic of not making contact to psychologically empower their position.  It makes them an unknown quantity.  And the person being questioned often can't be sure if the interrogator is friend or foe..... if they're going to be compassionate or adversarial

It's interesting to note that if an interrogator does make contact... especially if it's something aggressive like a push or a slap... then it transforms the interrogator from something unknown into something known... a physical threatAnd in response the person being questioned will often start defending themselves by being defiant or evasive. 

So if you suddenly find yourself in some kind of heated exchange... like a road rage incident... the first thing I suggest you do is create a safe distance and adopt a primal threat indicator in an attempt to de-escalate the situation.

A primal threat indicator is simply body language that expresses confidence and a readiness to engage (if necessary).  And this is how you create it :
  • first of all, stand side-on
  • point with your finger, pen, or a bladed-hand
  • but keep your gestures inside your body's frame 
  • drop your chin and speak deeply and confidently 
  • and for as long as possible, avoid making any contact.

It's Primal Protection.