I am going to speak today on the CC5 Project, “Your Body Speaks!” Your body language reveals a lot about you and your state of mind, at any given point in time. Now, there is around a six-month gap between my last speech and this one. I think my reason for delaying this speech will become clear from the title of my speech — My Body Lies! Or rather, my body exaggerates every emotion that I’m feeling.
For example – my guilt threshold is very low. I feel guilty about the most trivial issues. I’ll be late to office by 15 mins and I’ll try to slink in unobserved through some back door. And this when I come in by the office cab. There’s no one watching me. My manager sits in the US, in a different time zone altogether. I’ve no reason for feeling guilty. But my body thinks differently.
It takes all that guilt, amplifies it, and broadcasts it through my face and body. Especially when some sort of an authority figure is around. Delhi policemen for instance. If I’m anywhere near a policeman, my body automatically goes into ‘Guilt Mode.’ I get all flustered and shifty-eyed. If a policeman so much as steps towards me, I take a step backwards, trying to shrink myself, and disappear. My instinct is to run far, far away. Again, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s a hangover from a past life when I was a thief or smuggler. This time round, I’m leading a fairly blameless life. My encounters with the police have been restricted to passport verification checks, airport security checks, and one red light jump. But each time a policeman sees me exhibiting all these classic signals, like nervousness, avoiding eye contact, trying to blend in but failing, basically everything they have been told to watch out for in their handbook, they naturally assume the worse and question me more than necessary. Then the next time I come across a policeman, because of my previous ordeal, I become more wary, look even more guilt. It’s sort of a vicious cycle.
I’ve noticed that this problem of disproportionate or incorrect body signals is not just restricted to me. My husband another manifestation of the same problem. He sweats..he sweats excessively. Even while doing the simplest of tasks like eating, he sweats profusely. A minute into his meal, you can see beads of sweat forming at the top of his head. He’s balding so it’s all the more easier to see. Three, four minutes later, you can see rivulets of sweat flowing down his sides. This when he’s having a simple, non-spicy meal. So imagine what happens when he’s been walking briskly for five to ten minutes. Now this sweating is a physiological condition, but excessive sweating is also considered an indicator of extreme stress, such as that faced by a suicide bomber. Once he walked for over a kilometre to the metro station. The security guard placidly sitting there with one eye on the baggage scan machine and the other on the walk-through detector took one look at him passing through and waved him to a corner. He probed him twice with a handheld metal detector, frisked him to be doubly sure, then asked point-blank, “Why are you sweating so much?”
“I’ve been walking,” he said feebly.
“It’s a pleasant day,” retorted the guard and repeated, “Why are you sweating?”
My husband explained that he can’t control it and that’s how it is. Eventually, the guard let him go, though not without adding “Get yourself checked!” as a parting shot.
So here’s I am on one hand with my excessive guilt complex and my husband on the other with his excessive sweating problem. Imagine what happens when we are together. We probably come across as a terrorist couple. I had some interesting anecdotes related to that, but due to time restriction, I’ll not share them right now.
In any case, my point is that body signals are sometimes disproportionate to intent and there might be interesting fallouts if they are misinterpreted. Once I was interviewing a guy who seemed to have taken body language advice too seriously. He kept looking directly into my eyes for the whole duration of the interview, wouldn’t even blink. It wasn’t an uncomfortable kind of stare, more like his mom or trainer had asked him to be sure to make eye contact. I discussed it with my coworker, who had also interviewed him, and she felt the same that he simply had no idea that making eye contact is all good but you don’t need to go on and on. Since the candidate was otherwise suitable for the position, we hired him. He probably never learned that he was this close to getting rejected. Because of ill-tuned body signals. That’s one of my interpretations. The other is that maybe, maybe, he actually hypnotized us into hiring him.
But jokes apart, I would really like to know if any of you had similar experiences where a person’s body signals were not in tune with what you thought was their intent. So, do share your experiences with me.