It happened the other night at a reception.
I noticed this woman standing alone; I walked over to talk with her. I saw her see me coming, caught her clear recognition of my intent to engage her in conversation (and, as it happened, to offer her an alternative to taking the bus home). And I watched in amazement as she turned her back on me.
That’s cold, isn’t it? No, in her case that’s fear.
Now I’ve known this woman long enough to pretty well read that thought balloon over her head. Something along the lines of, “Catherine’s coming to talk to me. Oh wait, why would anybody want to talk to me? I don’t have anything worthwhile to say and I’m socially awkward and unemployed and nobody would be interested in me … and blahblahblah.”
With that kind soundtrack playing in her head, no wonder she froze!
Because I could guess what was going through her mind, I ignored the snub, started a conversation anyway … and went ahead and offered her an alternative to taking the bus home.
But what if I DIDN’T know her? What if we were business acquaintances, or we’d just met at a networking event?
I would have listened to what her body language told me. I would have responded to her apparent cue to get lost. I would have immediately moved in another direction and started a different conversation with someone else entirely. And she would have been going home on the bus.
That brings us to you. What does your body language tell people? What kind of messages are you sending that you may not even be aware of?
Here’s one way to find out. When someone reacts to you in a way that surprises you, that’s a good time to look at the cues you’re giving them with your physicality, the tone of your voice, and the way you occupy your space.
You may well find that you’re inviting a certain kind of response, one that’s not what you really wanted. Then it’s time to make some changes in the signals you send.