There are some body language gestures or postures which in themselves may not be negative. However the perception of them will be negative and perhaps does not display the feeling that you were intending. The first in this series that I will be discussing is known as the Hooding effect.or the full body steeple.
The Hooding Effect
When a person interlaces their fingers behind their head and leans back this is a hugely dominant position. The whole effect of this posture is to demonstrate power. The gesture leaves the torso and body wide open, which means that it is also open to attack. This gesture is so powerful because the person is saying: I have no fear of being attacked, look at how confident I am!
The reason that this posture is sometimes referred to as the Hooding effect is that it is similar to what happens with creatures in nature. One particular example is the Cobra who ‘hoods’ to alert other animals of their dominance.
This posture can often be completed by a leg cross, often raised up on a table. More often seen in men, this can be used by both genders as a form of genital display, to show power and confidence. Essentially this pose is saying “I am safe to display my body as no-one would dare attack me”
Should you wish to appear dominant or confident, then this approach can work for you. It is in fact likely to be found from leaders in organisations. However there is a danger here that you will appear arrogant, and it is not an approach that will inspire the other party to like you. If you need to inspire connection with customers, employees or suppliers this may not be appropriate.
How to counteract the hood
If you are faced with someone hooding to you there are a number of approaches you could take to try and get them out of this posture.
The first approach you could try would be to engage them in your conversation. Ignore the stance and instead focus on leaning in to emphasise your points and keep eye contact. When you engage the ‘hooder’ in what you’re saying, they will naturally amend their posture to lean in to you. When we agree or like something we like to be closer to it, so engage them!
I would not recommend that you mirror the stance. This would not be a good idea as it could be a power stand off and create further tension. It would be a very awkward conversation with you both leaning back as far as you can! Lack of eye contact may make them feel uneasy and less dominant and cause a shifting in position – but this could further the tension.
A better approach would be to hand them something tangible which would force them out of the hood. You could use a piece of paper, a pen or a drink whatever works for you in this situation.
Let me know which of these approaches work for you, or perhaps you are a ‘hooder’ and didn’t realise it! Check back in for the next in my negative nonverbal series – the Regal Stance.