Transcript – Body language, the power is in the palm of your hands by Allan Pease at TEDxMacquarieUniversity
Allan Pease – Professor of Psychology, ULIM International University
Good morning. Before we kick off let’s get a bit of light in the room guys, so I can see the faces of the participants that we get little lighter and see where you are. That’s a bit better. Good.
Everybody hold your right hand in front like this in a handshaking position. Uncross your legs. Relaxed position. Right hand in front.
When I say the word, “Now” here’s what we’re going to do. I am going to ask you to turn to someone besides you, shake hands as if you’re meeting for the first time and keep pumping till I ask you to stop. Then you’ll stop and freeze it and we’re going to analyze what’s happening. You got that? You don’t have time to think about this. Do it now. Pick anybody and pump. Pump, everybody.
Pump! Pump! Pump!
Freeze it. Hold it. Stop. Hold it. Freeze it.
Keep your hands locked. Keep them locked.
Person’s whose hand is most on top is saying I’ll be the boss for the rest of the day.
And when you meet people for the very first time, the first 4-minutes of meeting a new person you decide pretty much 80% of your attitude about it, don’t you? You decide in the first 4-minutes of meeting somebody if you’ll give them a fair go, a fair hearing or if you’re going to reject them.
The first thing is likely to happen is a handshake. And I’m going to try a couple in the front row here. You get one of three feelings when you lock hands with people. First feeling is — it feels pretty good. I think you and I will get on pretty well. I think we could do business together. We’re going to get on well. That was a good one.
Let’s try a second one.
Just check my cash, see if it’s all still there, yeah. Felt a bit intimidated there.
Let’s try the third one. 1Yes, she’ll do anything I want. Won’t you? Actually you all had roughly the same handshake. But you do get one of three gut feelings. It has to do with two things.
One, the angle of the hand, second, the power of the hand. I’ll demonstrate. This gentleman in the front row. Can you join me up here please? Yes? The fellow looking concerned. Come up here.
Here’s your modern western handshake. Here’s how it looks.
It’s been in this position for about 2,000 years. If you go back 4,000 years to the Roman era, on vases you would have seen it looking like this. That’s the original position. It has several significances. So what would happen is that the troop leaders would meet after battle or training. They’re always men, so this has remained a male activity until recent times.
When they would meet they would do this. If his arm was stronger it would go something like this. And you’d then say “He’s got the upper hand.” Upper hand is an ancient Roman expression. If he’s got the upper hand, his guys get the first crack at the wining, the dining and the dancing. My guys have to wait.
If it goes the other way my guys get first crack. If it’s in the middle it’s 50/50. This was originally done squatting. Now we do it standing. So the fingers are below the wrist instead of above. But essentially, we have the same position.
So when the hands lock if his hand is slightly on top — doesn’t have to be right on top, just a little bit. I’ll get a feeling, at a gut level, and we think this is hard wired because you’ve never been trained to decode this. But I get a feeling he’s coming on a bit heavy. It feels like, yeah, I think I get dominated here.
If it goes the other way, I feel like I got this sucker all lined up, haven’t I? How do you create rapport with a handshake?
Here are the two rules. First keep your hand absolutely straight. Second this takes a bit of practice, particularly if you’re female. Give the same pressure you receive. So on a scale of 1 to 10. Let’s say that 10 is a really strong one, and a 1 is four breakfast sausages. Okay?
Now let’s try it again.
Okay, on a scale of 1 to 10, yours is about a 7. Mine’s about a 7 too. Therefore, it felt pretty good. Neither got the upper hand, the dominant hand. And that’s why at a gut level we both felt pretty good. I can see the look on your face. That felt okay. Yeah, that felt good. Yeah, that’s very good.
What happens if you meet someone who’s got — This time you’re going to give me a 9 and I’ve only got a 7. So give me a 9 on intention. Now the hand will go straight on top. I’ve got to respond with an extra 20% just to level it up. If I don’t, he’s going to have one up on me before we start. He’ll know it and I’ll know it, but not a word’s been said. Makes sense? Give him a round of applause. Thank you.
There are more connections between your brain and the palm of your hands than any other body part. Did you know this? More connections between the brain and the palm of the hands. Including men, ladies, then any other body part.
So clearly, the palms have evolved as an important part of human brains. And they are. They make your bed. They brush your hair. They do small artwork. They do handshakes. They play the piano. They do more things than most other body parts.
But here’s my question to you. When you’re dealing with people where you want to persuade them, convince them, get them on your side, you want them to say “Yes” to whatever you’re proposing. Whether it’s that job, or a date, or just get your idea accepted. Where are your palms as you’re talking? This is something that most people have never considered. Never.
After this session you’ll consider it, you’ll think about it. Later today you’ll start to realize things about why people respond to you in the way they do that you’ve never thought about.
Here’s what I’m going to do.
I’m going to say the same thing three times. I’m going to change only what I do with the palms of my hands. I’ll keep my body fairly still, so I’m not using any other body signals. And I’ll keep my voice as close to the same as I can. I say as close as I can because when you change your body language, it’s hard wired to your brain to change how you sound. I’ll try to keep it as close as I can.
And I’ll use exactly the same words. Same instruction 3 times. Your task is to decide. Do you accept what I’m saying, or do you reject me? Or do you want to fight me or do you get along with it? You want to say Yes or No? Okay, clear on this? Here we go.
First instruction, don’t do this. Just imagine what we’re going to do.
In a moment I am going to ask the people who are sitting in these seats here, I’ll invite you to come and sit on this side of the room, please. And I’ll invite the people here to take their seats. Those in the back of the room come forward to the front. And those in the front can sit anywhere you choose.
Raise your hand if you feel okay about what I’m asking. Who’s Okay? Raise your hand.
Just about all of you are prepared to do what I want. You don’t even know what that is. But you’re prepared to do what I want, because you feel like I won’t threaten you, I won’t intimidate you. While it might look a bit silly, this could be a bit of fun. That’s what our mind’s thinking. I used a signal that appealed to your ancient brain.
Let’s try the second instruction. Same words. Same voice. Changing only the palms.
Here we go. Now I am going to ask the people sitting on this side of the room here, I invite you to come and take these seats. The people here can sit over here. Those at the back come forward please. And those at the front can sit anywhere they like.
Give me a word that goes with this. What are you feeling, a word? Feel like you’re getting an order?
Raise your hand if you got an order. Are you telling me that all I have to do is change my palms from an upward position where you wanted to do anything I wanted without question. I’ve turned them over and now you say to yourself, Hang on a minute, this guy is giving me an order. Well, maybe I don’t want to do that. I’m an independent. I’ll just check it all out. Make me laugh, funny guy.
So now many of you are resisting? Let’s try the third approach.
Now I am going to ask the people sitting in these seats here, if you can come and sit over this side of the room please. And those people can sit here. The back of the room, you can come forward please. Sit here. And those in the front can go anywhere you like.
Give me a word that goes with this. And not a gesture, a word.
I guess that was a word. What are you feeling with this? This is more than an order. This is a directive. You have no choice and you’re an idiot. So we tested this in a very simple way.
We got an audience to sit in a room like this. We got a speaker to present a proposal. In 20 minutes they had to convince the audience to agree with the proposal. The speaker was instructed to do the same thing 3 times with 3 audiences same demographics we just changed the audiences.
The first time the speaker spoke primarily using palm up position. That’s how the proposal worked. Here’s the bottom line. It would work for you, sir. It would work in Australia and in America. That’s the way they did the first proposal.
We moved that audience and put a second audience in there. Same presentation is given to the same demographic, but a different audience, using palm down. Here’s how the deal works. It would work for you and you. It would work in the United States and in Iceland.
Move that audience, put in a third one, they give the same presentation using finger pointing. Here’s the way it works and the bottom line. It will work for you, you and you. And America, Australia and Africa.
Now we survey all three audiences looking for two things. First, with a simple test, how much can they recall what the deal was about? We were looking for how much were they listening to the deal as opposed to judging the speaker.
Secondly, from a list of adjectives they were asked to pick those hat best described how they feel about the speaker. You reckon there was any difference? You already know the answer, don’t you? You know the answer already without ever seeing the results. That the palm up speaker had up to 40% more retention of the deal than the palm down speaker. Palm up speaker had the best adjectives, laid-back, friendly, humorous, engaging. Palms turned over, authoritative, telling me what to do, pushy. When the finger came out, nobody could remember much and they got the worse adjectives about that person.
Now here’s my question for you.
What’s your prominent position? You have a dominant position of one of these and which is yours? Most people never considered. But you’ve got one that you’re using when you’re dealing with others. Now is it up, is it over, is it finger?
We know the palm down, historically, is a power signal. There’s 4 times more power in your hands facing down than up. I think the famous example is Adolph Hitler. The Nazi salute with “Heil Hitler”. And it frightened everybody.
How would he have gone if he had gone Heil Hitler?
Nobody’s going to follow Heil Hitler. That’s scary, that’s submission. Here’s the good news about this. 1You can change and modify your hand signals with a little practice.
Now when you first start to do this — what happens if later today or tonight you suddenly discover you’re a finger pointer? You’re talking with your friends and you’ve forgotten this session. They’re watching your hand and there it is hitting these silly idiots on the head knocking them into submission.
The thing about body language, it’s an outward reflection of your emotional condition. All body language shows is how you’re feeling. Whatever attitude or emotional you’re feeling is likely to be reflected in gesture, movement or posture.
Now the reverse is true as well. If you intentionally take certain positions or postures, you’ll start to feel the emotions that go with it. For example, everybody copy this.
Like a form of praying, just lightly tap it back and forth. Put a little smile on your face. No teeth.
Call that your attitude. How do you feel when you do this? Yeah, you’re hatching a good plan.
You’re pretty smart. You are in charge. The word for this is confidence. If you’re feeling confident, like I know what I’m talking about. I’m in charge. I’m an expert. This one that may appear. You may unconsciously use it. But if you intentionally use this in situations where you’re feeling tense or nervous, it does two things.
First, when you intentionally make the gesture as you just did you start to feel more confident, in charge. I’m in charge of my emotions.
Importantly, the person who sees you do it, gets a feeling you seem to know what you’re about. You know, when I first met that guy or that woman, they just seem to have a confident attitude. Well no, they’re probably intentionally doing this to create that — to reassure themselves and to make you feel good. Fake it until you make it.
If you keep doing this as part of your repertoire eventually when you do this, you will feel confident about what you’re talking about, even when you don’t. So you can go into politics.
Here’s my question for you.
What is your dominant position? Palm up, palm over or finger pointing? Think about life today, business and personal relationships. It’s all first about people. Does somebody buy you? If somebody buys you, particularly the first 4-minutes, they’re forming up to 90% of their opinion about you. If they buy you, there’s a good chance they’ll buy whatever goes with you. What goes with you is what you want them to do.
The other thing is also true. If they don’t buy you, they’re not going to buy whatever goes with you. Even if it’s a good idea. Without that connection, they feel that you don’t like them, or you’re threatening or intimidating. Suddenly, they just don’t want to say yes to whatever you’re suggesting, even if this is a good idea. So you can practice palms up where you want to get cooperation. Sometimes you might want a bit of authority. You’ll turn the palms over.
For example, if the fire alarm went off in this building, I would say, now here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go by that exit — I wouldn’t say, here’s what we need to do. We’re going to — Because it would be every man for himself if I did this. So, by intentionally practicing positions– suddenly, with the palm up, you’ll find that people start feeling like they’re drawn to you.
In fact as we’ve been talking I’ve been doing the Obama hug. We want to help the Americans. We want you to come here. Yeah, we love you. Like your Mom or Dad cuddling you. Like his predecessor who said we want to help everybody. We want to help. You, you and you!
Body language is an outward reflection of emotions. If you intentionally take certain positions and practice them, it suddenly changes how people perceive you and it changes your own physiology. You start to feel different about yourself. That’s the great thing about it.
You can do things on purpose which gives you a better chance of getting a “Yes” to the job, to the proposal, to the idea, to the date. Or better.