Body Language of Disengagement -- and How to Deal With it
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this ever happened to you? You’re in a meeting, and it’s going well.
You can tell because of the positive body language that your colleague
has been showing you. And then, something happens – you’re not sure
what -- and everything changes.
business communication, engagement and disengagement
are the most important signals
to monitor in the other person’s body language. Engagement behaviors
indicate interest, receptivity, or agreement while disengagement
behaviors signal that a person is bored, angry, or defensive. Here’s
how it looks from head to toes:
someone is disengaged, the amount of eye contact decreases, as we tend
to look away from things that distress us and people we don’t like.
Similarly, a colleague who is bored or restless may avoid eye contact
by gazing past you, defocusing, or glancing around the room. And,
instead of opening wide, eyes that signal disengagement will narrow
slightly. In fact, eye squints can be observed as people read contracts
or proposals, and when they occur, it is almost always a sign of having
seen something troubling or problematic.
also shows up in compressed or pursed lips, clenched jaw muscles, or a
head turned slightly away, so eye contact becomes sidelong.
when you see people turn their shoulders and torso away from you,
you’ve probably lost their interest. In fact, orienting away from
someone in this manner almost always conveys detachment or
disengagement, regardless of the words spoken. When people are engaged,
they will face you directly, “pointing” at you with their torso.
However, the instant they feel uncomfortable, they will turn away –
giving you “the cold shoulder.” And if someone is feeling defensive,
you may see an attempt to shield the torso with a purse, briefcase,
someone is sitting with ankles crossed and legs stretched forward, they
are probably feeling positively toward you. But when you see feet
pulled away from you or wrapped in a tight ankle lock or pointed at the
exit or wrapped around the legs of a chair, you would be wise to
suspect withdrawal and disengagement.
you notice your co-worker exhibiting any of these disengagement
signals, there are six things you can do in response:
1. Think about the context in
which the disengagement occurred: Did you alter your body language? Did
you ask a question or touch on a particular issue – a “hot spot”? Did
someone else enter the room or join the conversation?
2. Check your body position. Are
you exhibiting any closed or disengaged behaviors that your counterpart
may be mimicking or reacting to?
3. Change your body posture into
one of increased engagement – and see if he/she will follow suit. Lean
forward, smile, and put your hands on the table – palms up.
Make them move. For example, if the person’s arms and legs are tightly
crossed (a combination that frequently signals disengagement), lean
forward and hand them something – a brochure, a report, a cup of
5. Change your “pitch.” Realize
that what you are proposing isn’t being well received, and now may be
the time for “Plan B.”
Bring their disengagement behavior to their attention: “It looks as if
this may be a bad time for us to talk. Would you prefer to postpone
this meeting until tomorrow?”
About the Author
Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is a keynote speaker and
leadership communications coach. She's a leadership blogger for Forbes,
an expert contributor for the Washington Post's "On Leadership" column,
and the author of "The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body
Language Can Help - or Hurt - How You Lead." Authors Google+
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2012-09-27 09:04:26 in Personal Articles