10 Good Ways to Lie to Your Boss
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We behave differently around individuals of higher status and
power than ourselves. Without realizing it, we observe them more
intently, display exaggerated interest in all they say, suspend
judgments about them, nod agreement to their opinions, mimic their body
postures and laugh at their worst jokes. We do all of this
automatically because we feel intimidated or pressured to try to please
these powerful people. And in the workplace, our illogical (and
sometimes embarrassing) displays of deference are most exaggerated when
the powerful person in question is our boss.
Now, I’m a proponent of candor. I much prefer (and advise)
honest and transparent communication in all professional relationships
– a principle with which I’m sure all would agree. Except when the boss
suddenly appears and you feel yourself slipping helplessly backwards
into psychological bunker mode. At that point I advise lying.
Not bad lying, though, good lying. Because there is a critical
difference: Bad lies are meant to deceive: to dodge responsibility, to
gain unfair or unmerited advantage over colleagues, to shift the blame
for mistakes onto others, to cover dishonest or
unprofessional behavior. Bad lies are destructive – to bosses
who don’t spot them, to teammates who suffer the
consequences, and to the overall goals of the organization.
Good lies, on the other hand, are meant to outfox that bunker
mentality so you can “be yourself” with the boss when all instincts are
telling you to hide behind the water cooler; let you display your
genuine competence and professionalism despite the unconscious signals
that your boss may well mistake for lack of initiative and self-esteem.
Good lies can be good for your career – and using them well springs
directly from good body language skills.
Here are 10 ways to lie to your boss — to project confidence
and credibility when you might actually feel intimidated, shy, or
1. Examine your body language through your
boss’s eyes. The impact of your nonverbal signals lies
less in what you really mean by them, and more in what your boss
believes you mean. For example, the fact that you cross your arms while
speaking may mean that you are more comfortable that way (or that you
are cold or you’re concentrating), but that doesn’t really matter. What
does matter is understanding that most bosses will interpret your
crossed arms as a sign of insecurity, resistance, or even deceit.
Conversely, if you hold your arms at waist level, and gesture within
that plane, most bosses will be perceive you as assured and credible.
2. Become a Method actor. Trying
to display confidence when you’re actually feeling tentative, or trying
to be perceived as upbeat and positive when (for any reason) you are
feeling the opposite, is a tricky thing to pull off. But
here’s a technique (adopted from Constantin Stanislavsky’s Method
acting), which draws on real but past emotions: Think of an occasion
where you were wholly enthused and absolutely certain about a course of
action. (This doesn’t have to be taken from your professional life.
What’s important is identifying the right set of emotions.) Then
picture that past event clearly in your mind. Recall the feeling of
certainty, of clarity of purpose – and remember or imagine how you
looked and sounded as you embodied that state of mind. Recalling that
genuine emotion will help you embody it as you interact with your boss.
3. Prepare for action using a power pose.
Research at Harvard and Columbia Business Schools shows that simply
holding your body in expansive, “high-power” poses (leaning back with
hands behind the head and feet up on a desk, or standing with legs and
arms stretched wide open) for as little as two minutes stimulates
higher levels of testosterone — the hormone linked to power and
dominance — and lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
Try this before your next meeting with the boss. In addition
to causing hormonal shifts in both males and females, these poses lead
to increased feelings of power and a higher tolerance for risk. The
study also corroborated my observation that people are more often
influenced by how they feel about you than by what you’re
4. Maintain steady eye contact.
You may be an introvert, you may be shy, or your cultural background
may have taught you that extended eye contact with a superior is not
appropriate, but bosses from the U.S., Europe, and Australia (plus
several other parts of the world), will expect you to maintain eye
contact 50-60% of the time. When you don’t — if you continually look
down (which is a signal of submission) or let your eyes dart around the
room — you will nonverbally indicate that you don’t want to be there,
that you aren’t really committed to your message, or that you have
something to hide. (Tip: To improve your eye contact, make a practice
of noticing the eye color of everyone you meet.)
5. Lower your vocal pitch. When
you are anxious or nervous, your vocal pitch tends to rise. Before
talking with your boss, allow your voice to relax into its optimal
pitch (a technique I learned from a speech therapist) by keeping your
lips together and making the sounds “um hum, um hum, um hum.” And if
you are a female, watch that your voice doesn’t rise at the ends of
sentences as if you are asking a question or seeking approval. Instead,
when stating your opinion, use the authoritative arc, in which your
voice starts on one note, rises in pitch through the sentence and drops
back down at the end. One word of caution: Don’t lower your volume when
you lower your pitch. When you speak too softly, your boss will judge
you as tentative and uncertain – even if you’re neither.
6. Take a belly breath. Stress
and anxiety can cause you to tense up, breathe shallowly, and even hold
your breath. You can counter this tendency by sitting with your weight
“centered” – evenly distributed on both feet and sit bones. 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 increase the tension in your body by making fists and tensing the
muscles in your arms torso and legs. As you exhale, allow your hands,
arms and body to release and relax.
7. Talk with your hands. Brain
imaging has shown that a region called Broca’s area, which is important
for speech production, is active not only when we’re talking, but when
we wave our hands. Since gesture is integrally linked to speech,
gesturing as you talk can actually power up your thinking. Whenever I
encourage clients to incorporate gestures into their deliveries, I
consistently find that their verbal content improves. Experiment with
this and you’ll find that the physical act of gesturing helps you form
clearer thoughts and speak in tighter sentences with more declarative
language. (Tip: An especially powerful gesture is the “steeple” — in
which the tips of your fingers touch, but the palms are separated. If
you find yourself fiddling with your jewelry or picking at your
cuticles, try replacing that nervous gesture with a steeple.)
8. Smile. Charles Garfield, the
author of Peak Performance, once coached the Russian Olympic
weight-lifting team. Garfield noticed that when team members lifted to
exhaustion, they would invariably grimace at the painful effort. In an
experiment, he encouraged the athletes to smile when they got to that
point of exhaustion. This seemingly minor difference enabled them to
add 2-3 more reps to their performance.
No matter the task, when you grimace or frown while doing it,
you are sending your brain the message, “This is really difficult. I
should stop.” The brain then responds by sending stress
chemicals into your bloodstream. And this creates a vicious circle: the
more stressed you are, the more difficult the task becomes.
So, smile when you enter the boss’s office. A genuine smile
not only stimulates your own sense of well-being, it also signals to
your boss that you cooperative, and trustworthy. Smiling directly
influences how other people respond to you. When you smile at someone,
they almost always smile in return. (Yes, even your boss!) And, because
facial expressions trigger corresponding feelings (called “facial
feedback”), the smile you get back will actually change your boss’s
emotional state in a positive way.
9. Dress for success. The old
saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover” may be true, but book
jacket and product packaging designers around the world have created an
industry betting that people do judge (and purchase) products based on
how they look. Your boss is judging you, at least to some degree, by
your appearance – your clothing and your grooming. (Research from
Harvard Medical School even found that women who wear makeup are
perceived as more competent than those who do not.) If you want your
boss to know you as the consummate professional you really are, my
advice is to dress the part!
10. Let your body speak for you.
Standing tall is one way of demonstrating a high level of confidence.
Another is showing your torso. The more you cover your body with folded
arms, crossed legs, etc. the more it appears that you need to protect
or defend yourself. Feet also send their own messages: When you stand
with your feet close together, you can seem timid or hesitant. But when
you widen your stance, relax your knees and center your weight in your
lower body, you look more “solid” and sure of yourself.
Power and status is nonverbally displayed through height and
space. If you stand you will look more powerful to those who are
seated. If you move around, the additional space you take up adds to
that impression. If you are sitting, you can look more assertive by
putting both feet flat on the floor, widening your arms away from your
body, and spreading out your belongings on the conference table and
claiming more territory.
Think this is all too much to remember?
So, I’m not suggesting that you memorize “the right” physical
gestures and facial expressions to display for the boss at the crucial
moment like some kind of pre-programmed robot. (First, those who try to
do this actually look like robots; and second you’ll want to focus most
of you concentration on hearing what’s being said.) Instead, I suggest
that you experiment with one idea at a time: the power pose if you want
to look assertive or belly breathing if you need to calm down.
I’m also suggesting that you stay aware of how your body
language dramatically impacts the impression you make on your boss.
Like good manners and good grammar, body language is a tool for
expressing your best self in a certain situation. And it is a highly
valuable tool for all you “good” liars!
About the Author
Carol offers energizing, informative,
interactive, and custom-tailored keynote speeches, full- and half-day
seminars tailored for senior managers, women leaders and salespeople.
contact Carol about speaking or coaching, call 510-526-172 or email
To more information or to view videos, visit Carol’s website: http://www.SilentLanguageOfLeaders.com.
can also follow Carol on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CGoman,
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2012-04-24 15:00:28 in Personal Articles