Standard Arm Cross Gesture
Both arms are folded together across the chest as an attempt to 'hide' from an unfavourable situation. There are many arm-folding positions, but this book will discuss the three most common ones. The standard arm-cross gesture (Figure 70) is a universal gesture signifying the same defensive or negative attitude almost everywhere. It is commonly seen when a person is among strangers in public meetings, queues, cafeterias, elevators or anywhere that people feel uncertain or insecure.
During a recent lecture tour in the United States, I opened one particular meeting by deliberately defaming the character of several highly respected men who were well-known to the seminar audience and who were attending the conference. Immediately following the verbal attack, the members of the audience were asked to hold the positions and gestures they had taken. They were all quite amused when I pointed out that about 90 per cent of them had taken the folded arms position immediately after my verbal attack began. This clearly shows that most people will take an arms folded position when they disagree with what they are hearing. Many public speakers have failed to communicate their message to the audience because they have not seen the folded arms gestures of their listeners. Experienced speakers know that this gesture demonstrates the necessity of using a good 'ice breaker' to move the audience into a more receptive posture that will alter the listeners' attitude towards the speaker.
When you see the arm-cross gesture occur during a face-to-face encounter, it is reasonable to assume that you may have said something with which the other person disagrees, so it may be pointless continuing your line of argument even though the other person may be verbally agreeing with you. The fact is that the non-verbal medium does not lie -the verbal medium does. Your objective at this point should be to try to discover the cause of the arms-folded gesture and to move the person into a more receptive position. Remember: as long as the arms-folded gesture remains, the negative attitude will remain. The attitude causes the gestures to occur and prolonging the gesture forces the attitude to remain.
A simple but effective method of breaking the folded-arms position is to hand the person a pen, a book or something that forces him to unfold his arms to reach forward.
This moves him into a more open posture and attitude. Asking the person to lean forward to look at a visual presentation can also be an effective means of opening the folded-arms position. Another useful method is to lean forward with your palms facing up and say, 'I can see you have a question, what would you like to know?' or, 'What do you think?' and then sit back to indicate that it is the other person's turn to speak. By leaving your palms visible you non-verbally tell the other person that you would like an open, honest answer. As a salesman, I would never proceed with the presentation of my product until I had uncovered the prospective buyer's reason for suddenly folding his arms. More often than not, I discovered that the buyer had a hidden objection that most other sales people might never have discovered because they missed seeing the buyer's non-verbal signal that he was negative about some aspect of the sales presentation.
Continue reading here: Reinforced Arm Cross
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