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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 20, 2018

    How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

    How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

    Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

    If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

    1. Breathe

    The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

    • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
    • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
    • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

    Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

    2. Loosen up

    After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

    Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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    3. Chew slowly

    Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

    Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

    Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

    4. Let go

    Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

    The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

    It’s not. Promise.

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    Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

    Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

    21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

    5. Enjoy the journey

    Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

    Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

    6. Look at the big picture

    The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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    Will this matter to me…

    • Next week?
    • Next month?
    • Next year?
    • In 10 years?

    Hint: No, it won’t.

    I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

    Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

    7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

    You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

    Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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    8. Practice patience every day

    Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

    • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
    • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
    • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

    Final thoughts

    Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

    Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

    Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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