Do you want to better manage a meeting? Bring a small bottle of water

We are now quite aware that each emotion corresponds to a specific facial mimic and specific movements of the body, where the first is a symptom of the emotion experienced, while the latter are the way we react to it. For example, if during a conversation we say something that irritates our interlocutor, his face will manifest such emotion (anger) and then, reasonably and in reaction to it, his body will assume one or more typical closing positions, making evident the disappointment for what has been said and the unwillingness to continue on that line (closure).

If we are aware of how to handle situations like the one just described, for example correcting what has been said, hoping to break the closure of our interlocutor, the less we know how to handle a negative attitude when it does not depend directly on the object of the conversation, for example when it is linked to something that has happened before and which, returning to the memory of our interlocutor, leads him to relive it, causing the negativity of the memory to pollute the harmony of the conversation.

Finally - and here perhaps we are even less aware of it - we must not forget the basal behavior, which in some cases it can be such as to assume, in a completely disconnected way from the subject of the conversation, postures that, at a superficial reading, can be considered negative (closure, escape, ...). For example, I have the tendency to cross my arms and I do it "because I feel more comfortable". I do so unconsciously, therefore, without any connection with what I am saying or with whom I am listening; however, mainly because I work in this field, I realize it and I know that what my interlocutors observe transcends the motivations that drive my gestures and that, therefore, their reading will probably be negative, affecting the continuation of the conversation, which is why I immediately abandon this posture, hoping that its manifestation, albeit brief, has not had significant consequences.

It should not be forgotten, as numerous research has shown, that structural and biological factors are in close interconnection with psychological factors, that are emotional experiences, perceptions, sensations, and needs, which creates a close bond, not only between emotions and posture, but also vice versa, where the taking and the persistence of a certain posture induces in the individual the emotional state of which this posture is normally expression[1], giving rise to a functional or dysfunctional circle according to the circumstances (1 ).

Summarizing, we have on the one hand a posture taken by our interlocutor and, on the other, different motivations that may have led to take it, motivations that could reasonably be evident, such as when this is due to something we have just said, but also completely obscure, which occurs when they are rooted in a previous experience of our interlocutor or, more simply, is a natural consequence of his postural habits.

This partial knowledge about motivations, which of course we cannot always investigate, since we are facing a conversation and not conducting an interrogation, leaves us the only alternative to try to break the posture - I am obviously limiting the speech to those postures that have a negative meaning - in the hope of also breaking the connection that this has with the psychological component, which will not necessarily solve the potential problem but, at least, it should mitigate its effects.

For example, if we think about crossing the arms, one of the most famous positions denoting closure, then our bottle of water comes into play, which on the one hand represents a common and legitimate object in a meeting, on the other an excellent interruption tool, giving it to our interlocutor, for example, and asking him to help us open it, citing for us some impossibility to do it (a muscle pain, a lack of strength, ...), which will have a double effect: to break the posture and to gratify our interlocutor for helping us to do something that we couldn’t do on our own[2].

Basically, it is about acting on the sign rather than on the symptom, which if from a medical point of view can represent a risky simplification, from that of communication is often the only way to go, given that it is rarely possible to conduct an anamnesis of the gesture without interrupting the existing conversation.

In conclusione, ricordiamoci sempre che esiste una forte connessione tra ciò che proviamo e il modo in cui lo manifestiamo e che questa connessione, diversamente da quanto si possa comunemente pensare, agisce in entrambi i versi e benché sarebbe sempre preferibile agire sulla componente emotiva (interiore), non sempre ciò è possibile, lasciandoci come unica alternativa quella di farlo sulla componente fisica (esteriore), confidando che questo si rifletta, almeno in parte, su ciò che non abbiamo potuto indirizzare direttamente.

In conclusion, let us always remember that there is a strong connection between what we feel and the way we manifest it, and that this connection, unlike what we commonly think, acts in both directions and although it would always be preferable to act on the emotional component (inner), this is not always possible, leaving us the only alternative to do so on the physical component (outward), trusting that this is reflected, at least in part, on what we could not directly address. 

Andrea Zinno - De Corporis Voce


[1]  It is precisely on these researches, for example, that the now famous “Clown Therapy" is based (2), where the induction in patients of a state of cheerfulness has direct physiological benefits, which substantially improve their clinical status.

[2]  This second effect, however, must be carefully evaluated, especially when our interlocutor shows an attitude of superiority or dominance, given that in this case, having helped us, could exacerbate his attitude even further, making the situation worse.

Bibliographic references

  1. Allan Pease e Barbara Pease - “The Definitive Book of Body Language” - 2006
  2. Psychology Today - “The Benefits of Clown Therapy” - 2018