Have you ever seen someone who looks like they TRY to come off as cool and confident?
In my early twenties, I read somewhere that you’re supposed to lean back rather than forward in a conversation.
As a result, I tried to lean back even when it didn’t fit the situation. I came off as disengaged, try-hard, or just a jerk.
Me being laid-back.
This is an example of why this kind of advice can be so dangerous. My mistake was to read tips and advice and apply it without context.
Sure, we know that a person leaning back and takes up space comes off as more attractive than a person crouching together. (1)
However, just as importantly, if we want to connect with someone, we want to match the body language of that person. (2)
Furthermore, if we lean forward and maintain eye contact, we come off as attentive and even charismatic if we tell an engaging story and are congruent with our body language. (3)
This is just one of many examples where a single piece of advice can do more harm than good.
If we want to intuitively master the complex world of social interaction, we have to understand the system as a whole, so we can put each piece of advice into context.
This is why a book is more powerful than a blog post, and a course is more powerful than a book (if you’re serious about mastering a new skill).
- Don’t cling on too hard to the rules. Following rules when it doesn’t feel right makes us less natural and hampers us socially.
- If you want to bond with someone, match how that person acts rather than trying to follow some rehearsed behavior.
- Don’t fall into the trap of reading scattered pieces of advice. Rather, learn a system.
1: Dominant, open nonverbal displays are attractive at zero-acquaintance. Tanya Vacharkulksemsuk et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Apr 12.
2: Group Rapport: Posture Sharing as a Nonverbal Indicator. Marianne Lafrance Maida Broadbent. Group & Organization Management Vol 1, Issue 3, pp. 328 – 333.
3: Communicating Visions: An Exploration of the Role of Delivery in the Creation of Leader Charisma. Sherry J. Holladay W. Timothy Coombs. Management Communication Quarterly Vol 6, Issue 4, pp. 405 – 427.