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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 March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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