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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 May 15, 2019

    How to Tap Into the Power of Positivity

    How to Tap Into the Power of Positivity

    As it appears, the human mind is not capable of not thinking, at least on the subconscious level. Our mind is always occupied by thoughts, whether we want to or not, and they influence our every action.

    “Happiness cannot come from without, it comes from within.” – Helen Keller

    When we are still children, our thoughts seem to be purely positive. Have you ever been around a 4-year old who doesn’t like a painting he or she drew? I haven’t. Instead, I see glee, exciting and pride in children’s eyes. But as the years go by, we clutter our mind with doubts, fears and self-deprecating thoughts.

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    Just imagine then how much we limit ourselves in every aspect of our lives if we give negative thoughts too much power! We’ll never go after that job we’ve always wanted because our nay-saying thoughts make us doubt our abilities. We’ll never ask that person we like out on a date because we always think we’re not good enough.

    We’ll never risk quitting our job in order to pursue the life and the work of our dreams because we can’t get over our mental barrier that insists we’re too weak, too unimportant and too dumb. We’ll never lose those pounds that risk our health because we believe we’re not capable of pushing our limits. We’ll never be able to fully see our inner potential because we simply don’t dare to question the voices in our head.

    But enough is enough! It’s time to stop these limiting beliefs and come to a place of sanity, love and excitement about life, work and ourselves.

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    So…how exactly are we to achieve that?

    It’s not as hard as it may seem; you just have to practice, practice, practice. Here are a few ideas on how you can get started.

    1. Learn to substitute every negative thought with a positive one.

    Every time a negative thought crawls into your mind, replace it with a positive thought. It’s just like someone writes a phrase you don’t like on a blackboard and then you get up, erase it and write something much more to your liking.

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    2. See the positive side of every situation, even when you are surrounded by pure negativity.

    This one is a bit harder to put into practice, which does not mean it’s impossible.

    You can find positivity in everything by mentally holding on to something positive, whether this be family, friends, your faith, nature, someone’s sparkling eyes or whatever other glimmer of beauty. If you seek it, you will find it.

    3. At least once a day, take a moment and think of 5 things you are grateful for.

    This will lighten your mood and give you some perspective of what is really important in life and how many blessings surround you already.

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    4. Change the mental images you allow to enter your mind.

    How you see yourself and your surroundings make a huge difference to your thinking. It is like watching a DVD that saddens and frustrates you, completely pulling you down. Eject that old DVD, throw it away and insert a new, better, more hopeful one instead.

    So, instead of dwelling on dark, negative thoughts, consciously build and focus on positive, light and colorful images, thoughts and situations in your mind a few times a day.

    If you are persistent and keep on working on yourself, your mind will automatically reject its negative thoughts and welcome the positive ones.

    And remember: You are (or will become) what you think you are. This is reason enough to be proactive about whatever is going on in your head.

    Featured photo credit: Kyaw Tun via unsplash.com

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