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Status Cues and the Presentation of You

Status Cues and the Presentation of You

In his great book, Improv for Actors, Dan Diggles talks about how actors use status to convey subtext. In this context, status means how one actor’s role is perceived against the other actor. A rich CEO acts full of vim and vigor while the lowly gardener keeps his head low and his eyes averted. In acting, status is helpful to convey the meaning of a scene. It’s exaggerated to make a stronger contrast for the sake of the audience. But there’s something here for you to consider.

High Status Behavior

According to Diggles, an actor intending to convey that he or she is of high status should do the following:

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  • Maintain strong direct eye contact.
  • Take up physical and vocal space.
  • Invade other people’s space. Touch them.
  • Stand tall, straight, head up.
  • Keep yourself physically higher up than the other person. Taller.
  • Keep your head still while talking.
  • Maintain verbal dominance. Use “uh” to hold the stage.
  • Posture-wise, use strong contrasts in angle: hands on hips, leg up on stool, etc.
    (list paraphrased from p44)

    Look at that list. Do you know someone in a position of power within your organization that demonstrates these traits? I do. Someone I work with shot RIGHT into my mind when I read this list. And they ARE in a position of power. In fact, I wonder if he’s read Diggles’s book.

    How does this list compare to how YOU present yourself? Do you stand straight and tall when you’re representing yourself at work? Do you fidget, or can you keep your head still? (I fidget). Do you shy away from physical impact, or do you step into it?

    Now, if you consider all those queues up top, you could make an easy stretch from saying this person is a leader to saying he’s an asshole. I’m not suggesting that you go forth and demonstrate these status traits all the time. Dear lord. I sure wouldn’t hang out with you. (Then again, my status is low enough that I probably wouldn’t anyhow).

    What I am suggesting is this: you can use this list to understand how you might consider presenting yourself when something very important is on the line. And that some traits layered inside this description would be good to demonstrate if you want to be taken seriously, as the authority. Let’s look at low status behavior.

    Low Status Behavior

  • Make furtive eye contact. Look, look away, look again.
  • Shrink away from space. Pull into yourself.
  • Never invade space. Apologize if you do.
  • Move your head often while talking.
  • Touch your face and hair.
  • Fidget.
  • Use lots of little “uhs” inside your sentences.
  • Giggle.

    Did you see traits on this list that remind you of you? I sure did. Hell, I demonstrate at least half of these in any given situation. And knowing that about myself is just as important as not knowing it. Now that I’m aware, I can try to curb some of these traits, a little at a time, and by doing so, perhaps build a little bit towards people’s impression of me. For instance, I’m not good with immediate eye contact. I make eye contact and keep it, but not right away. Especially in a crowd or walking-by-someone situation.

    Model Your Behavior

    To me, the next step might be to determine which of the high status queues would be useful more often than not. I think eye contact is a big one. Probably there are times when I’d want to be standing straighter and projecting my authority more. I might at least be aware of the heigh status queue. In fact, there’s another use for this. Use the queues as a way to observe others and how they are acting. It will give you a better sense of what someone thinks of herself, and that in turn, might help you understand how you’ll want to proceed.

    Improvisational acting, and acting in general, is rife with information that you can use in your daily life, in negotiating with others, and even in understanding and modeling better self-esteem. You can learn from disciplines that aren’t directly related to your profession, if you view them with an eye towards how the theories and thoughts apply to you. I encourage you to consider this more.

  • –Chris Brogan writes about self-improvement and creativity at [chrisbrogan.com]

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    Last Updated on September 16, 2019

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

    We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

    The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

    Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

    1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

    Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

    For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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    • (1) Research
    • (2) Deciding the topic
    • (3) Creating the outline
    • (4) Drafting the content
    • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
    • (6) Revision
    • (7) etc.

    Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

    2. Change Your Environment

    Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

    One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

    3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

    Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

    Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

    My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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    Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

    If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

    Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

    I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

    5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

    I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

    Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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    As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

    6. Get a Buddy

    Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

    I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

    7. Tell Others About Your Goals

    This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

    For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

    8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

    What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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    9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

    If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

    Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

    10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

    Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

    Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

    11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

    At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

    Reality check:

    I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

    More About Procrastination

    Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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