I met Blanca earlier this year when she contacted me after reading one of my posts on Triad Moms on Main. She had recently launched a “sassy” women’s t-shirt company, was looking for social media training and we immediately connected. During that time, we discussed her body language business but that wouldn’t become a focus of hers until she was literally thrown into the national spotlight during the John Edwards trial. I love her energy, her honesty and am grateful that she found me!
For some people, the holidays bring visions of happiness, kinship and relaxation. For others, unresolved hurts with family members turns the H-O-L-I-D-A-Y-S into H-O-L-I-D-A-Z-E filled with anxiety, stress and anger as the countdown to the family gathering winds down. People have created clever yet ineffective coping strategies to handle the stress. For example, some people may burst through the door just when the family is sitting down to share a holiday meal. Or, others feign a stomach ache or another holiday event to escape the family chaos. Yet, others may decide to ignore the person with whom they have unresolved issues. Although they may have avoided conflict for the time being, these indirect tactics may leave them unfulfilled because they didn’t directly tackle the situation.
What if you could use body language to silently flip-the-script of the holiday chaos at your upcoming family gathering? Imagine how powerfully calm you’ll feel if you’re finally in the driver’s seat navigating through problematic interactions with family members. You may not be able to forget the past, but you can maneuver the present by shifting gears using body language to create a more peaceful atmosphere for yourself and others so you can have a more relaxing and joyful holiday season.
Here are three, common family situations that people find stressful. Learn the body language solutions you can use to turn the tide this holiday season!
1) “Demolishing the Monopolizer” Situation: You’re talking to your mom and Aunt Jane interrupts your conversation. You look at Aunt Jane with a surprised expression, yet she continues to talk. You try to get the upper hand by talking over her. Within minutes your and Aunt Jane’s voices are escalating louder and stronger vying for your mom’s attention. You notice your mom’s face become flustered as she looks for an escape. How do you solve?
“Demolishing the Monopolizer” Solution: Close the physical gap by invading Aunt Jane’s space by standing slightly behind her. Position yourself within 12 to 18 inches of her shoulder. You want to be close enough so that she notices the physical invasion. Hook your thumb under your chin while placing your index finger vertically across both of your lips and purse your lips slightly as if to say “shhh.” Next, tilt your head slightly away from Aunt Jane and rotate your face to look directly at her with a hard stare. Watch how quickly she’ll physically pull away, allowing you to finish your conversation. You’ll be able to demolish Aunt Jane’s monopolizing with these simple yet subtle body language moves.
2) “The Quiet One In” Situation: Your brother brings Kate, his second fiancé of the year, home for the holidays. In the family room, you notice that Kate is looking down at her folded hands on her lap and is sitting alone on the couch. As laughter and conversation fill the room, family members glance over at Kate periodically, but no one approaches her. You are puzzled by their behavior, yet realize they probably think this relationship won’t last. How do you solve?
“The Quiet One In” Solution: Here are some body language moves you can use to help Kate feel welcome. You want to strategically sit near her making sure that your body is lower than hers. Pull up a short stool, sit on the cocktail table or on the floor. By looking up at someone, you are communicating respect and sensitivity. When talking to Kate, you want to have your hands out in front of you and/or use open palm gestures with hands facing up to convey sincerity and openness. Within a short amount of time you’ll notice Kate relax and turn her body towards you which is a sign of being in sync with you.
3) “Fake It Until You Can Take It” Situation: You’re dreading listening to your Cousin Charlie’s tall tales of his fishing expeditions because he exaggerates his catches. He has an uncanny way of cornering you for what feels like hours without an apparent exit. As much as you try to focus on his crazy stories, you find yourself rolling your eyes, crossing your arms or looking away which tends to hurt his feelings. You want to appear interested even though you don’t care to know the difference between a trout and a flounder. How do you solve?
“Fake It Until You Can Take It” Solution: Feigning interest starts with the eyes. Imagine an upside down triangle with the base of the triangle across the eyebrow line with the tip of the nose being the tip of the triangle. While looking at Cousin Charlie adjust your focus anywhere within the upside down triangle. If you must look away, look down as it’s a natural break in eye contact. Periodically, tilt your head slightly to one side and nod. Nodding is a nonverbal sign of listening. Cousin Charlie will appreciate your attention and won’t realize that you’re planning your get-away.
With these clever body language secrets you can once again turn your chaotic H-O-L-I-D-A-Z-E back into tranquil H-O-L-I-D-A-Y-S. Who doesn’t want peace on Earth and good will towards each other?
Blanca Cobb is a leading authority on body language and detecting deception, a national and local media guest whose been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, WFMY News 2, FOX 8 WGHP among others, and whose been quoted in national publications such as Cosmopolitan magazine and The Root. Blanca is the founder and president of the North Carolina based TruthBlazer where she offers jury consulting, statement analysis for law enforcement, body language and detecting deception courses. Blanca is also a Senior Instructor at the Body Language institute in Washington D.C. Make sure you follow her on Twitter and Facebook.