A Science Called Kinesics
Within the last few years a new and exciting science has been uncovered and explored. It is called body language. Both its written form and the scientific study of it have been labelled kinesics. Body language and kinesics are based on the behavioural patterns of non-verbal com- munication, but kinesics is still so new as a science that its authorities can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Clinical studies have revealed the extent to which body language can actually contradict verbal communications. A classic example is the young woman who told her psychiatrist that she loved her boyfriend very much while nodding her head from side to side in subconscious denial.
Body language has also shed new light on the dynamics of interfamily relationships. A family sitting together, for example, can give a revealing picture of itself simply by the way its members move their arms and legs. If the mother crosses her legs first and the rest of the family then follows suit, she has set the lead for the family action, though she, as well as the rest of the family, may not be aware she is doing it. In fact, her words may deny her leadership as she asks her husband or children for advice.
|Body Language By Jullus Fast|
But the unspoken, follow-the-leader clue in her action gives the family set-up away to someone knowledgeable in kinesics.
A New Signal from the Unconscious
Dr Edward H. Hess told a recent convention of the American College of Medical Hypnotists of a newly dis- covered kinesic signal. This is the unconscious widening of the pupil when the eye sees something pleasant. On a useful plane, this can be of help in a poker game if the player is in the 'know'. When his opponent's pupils widen, he can be sure that his opponent is holding a good hand. The player may not even be conscious of his ability to read this sign, any more than the other person is con- scious of telegraphing his own luck.
Dr Hess has found that the pupil of a normal man's eye becomes twice as large when he sees a picture of a nude woman.
On a commercial level, Dr Hess cites the use of this new kinesic principle to detect the effect of an advertising commercial on television. While the commercial is being shown to a selected audience, the eyes of the audience are photographed. The film is then later carefully studied to detect just when there is any widening of the eye; in other words, when there is any unconscious, pleasant response to the commercial.
Body language can include any non-reflexive or reflexive movement of a part, or all of the body, used by a person to communicate an emotional message to the outside world.
To understand this unspoken body language, kinesics experts often have to take into consideration cultural
THE BODY IS THE MESSAGE
differences and environmental differences. The average man, unschooled in cultural nuances of body language, often misinterprets what he sees.
How to Tell the Girls Apart
Allen was a small-town boy who had come to visit Ted in the big city. One night, on his way to Ted's apartment and a big cocktail party, Allen saw a lovely young bru- nette walk across the street ahead of him and then start up the block. Allen followed her, marvelling at the explicit quality of her walk. If ever Allen had seen a non-verbal message transmitted, this was it!
He followed her for a block, realizing that the girl was aware of him, and realizing, too, that her walk didn't change. Allen was sure this was a come-on.
Finally, at a red light, Allen summoned up his courage and catching up to the girl, gave her his pleasantest smile and said, 'Hello.'
To his amazement she turned a furious face to him and through clenched teeth said, 'If you don't leave me alone I'll call a cop.' Then as the light changed, she churned off.
Allen was stunned and scarlet with embarrassment. He hurried on to Ted's apartment where the party was in progress. While Ted poured him a drink he told him the story and Ted laughed. 'Boy, you got the wrong number.'
'But, hell, Ted - no girl at home would walk like that unless — unless she was asking for it.'
'This is a Spanish-speaking neighbourhood. Most of the girls - despite outward appearances - are very good girls,' Ted explained.
What Allen didn't understand is that in a culture, such
as that of many Spanish-speaking countries, in which girls are chaperoned and there are strict codes of social behaviour, a young girl can safely flaunt her sexuality without fear of inviting trouble. In fact, the walk that Allen took as a come-on would be considered only natural, and the erect, rigid posture of a proper American woman would probably be considered graceless and unnatural.
Allen circulated through the party and slowly forgot his humiliation.
As the party was breaking up, Ted cornered him and asked, 'See anything you like?'
' That Janet,' Allen sighed. ' Man, I could really go for that—'
' Well, swell. Ask her to stay. Margie's staying too, and we'll have dinner.'
' I don't know. She's just - like I couldn't get to first base with her.'
' No. She's had the " hands off" sign out all evening.'
'But Janet likes you. She told me.'
' But—' Bewildered, Allen said,' Then why is she so -
so - I don't know, she just looks as if she didn't want me
to lay a finger on her.'
'That's Janet's way. You just didn't get the right
'I'll never understand this city,' Allen said still be-
wildered, but happy.
As Allen found out, in Latin countries girls may tele-
graph a message of open sexual flirtation, and yet be so
well chaperoned that any sort of physical ' pass' is almost
impossible. In countries where the chaperoning is looser,
the girl will build her own defences by a series of non-
verbal messages that spell out 'hands off'. When the
THE BODY IS THE MESSAGE
situation is such that a man cannot, within the rules of the culture, approach a strange girl on the street, a girl can move loosely and freely. In a city such as New York where a girl can expect almost anything, especially at a cocktail party, she learns to send out a message saying
'hands off'. To do this she will stand rigidly, cross her legs demurely when sitting, cross her arms over her breasts, and use other such defensive gestures.
The point is that for every situation there must be two elements to body language, the delivery of the message and the reception of the message. Had Allen been able to receive the messages correctly in terms of the big city he would have been spared the embarrassment of one en- counter and could have avoided much of the uncertainty of the other.
To Touch or Not to Touch
Body language, in addition to sending and receiving mes- sages, if understood and used adroitly can also serve to break through defences. A businessman who was trying a bit too hard to wind up a very profitable deal found that he had misread the signs.
'I t was a deal,' he told me, 'that would have been profitable not only to me but to Tom as well. Tom was in Salt Lake City from Bountiful, which isn't far away geographically, but is miles away culturally. It's a damned small town, and Tom was sure that everyone in the big city was out to take him. I think that deep down he was convinced that the deal was right for both of us, but he just couldn't trust my approach. I was the big city businessman, way up there, wheeling and dealing, and he was the small-time boy about to get rooked.
' I tried to cut through his image of the big city business- man by putting my arm around his shoulder. And that darn touch blew everything.'
What my businessman friend had done was violate Tom's barrier of defences with a non-verbal gesture for which the groundwork had not been laid. In body language he was trying to say, 'Trust me. Let's make contact.' But he only succeeded in committing a non- verbal assault. In ignoring Tom's defences, the over- eager businessman ruined the deal.
Often the swiftest and most obvious type of body lan- guage is touch. The touch of a hand, or an arm around someone's shoulder, can spell a more vivid and direct message than dozens of words. But such a touch must come at the right moment and in the right context.
Sooner or later every boy learns that touching a girl at the wrong moment may turn her off abruptly.
There are people who are 'touchers', compulsive touchers, who seem completely impervious to all mes- sages they may get from friends or companions. They are people who will touch and fondle others when they are bombarded with body-language requests not to.
A Touch of Loneliness
However, touching or fondling in itself can be a potent signal. Touching an inanimate object can serve as a very loud and urgent signal, or a plea for understanding. Take the case of Aunt Grace. This old woman had become the centre of a family discussion. Some of the family felt she would be better off in a pleasant and well-run nursing home nearby where she'd not only have people to take care of her but would also have plenty of companionship.
THE BODY IS THE MESSAGE
The rest of the family felt that this was tantamount to putting Aunt Grace 'away'. She had a generous income and a lovely apartment, and she could still do very well for herself. Why shouldn't she live where she was, en- joying her independence and her freedom?
Aunt Grace herself was no great help in the discussion. She sat in the middle of the family group, fondling her necklace and nodding, picking up a small alabaster paper- weight and caressing it, running one hand along the velvet of the couch, then feeling the wooden carving.
' Whatever the family decides,' she said gently.' I don't want to be a problem to anyone.'
The family couldn't decide, and kept discussing the problem, while Aunt Grace kept fondling all the objects within reach.
Until finally the family got the message. It was a pretty obvious message, too. It was just a wonder no one had got it sooner. Aunt Grace had been a fondler ever since she
_ had begun living alone. She touched and caressed every- thing within reach. All the family knew it, but it wasn't until that moment that, one by one, they all became aware of what her fondling was saying. She was telling them in body language,' I am lonely. I am starved for companion- ship. Help me!'
Aunt Grace was taken to live with a niece and nephew, where she became a different woman.
Like Aunt Grace, we all, in one way or another, send our little messages out to the world. We say, ' Help me, I'm lonely. Take me, I'm available. Leave me alone, I'm depressed.' And rarely do we send our messages con- sciously. We act out our state of being with non-verbal body language. We lift one eyebrow for disbelief. We rub our noses for puzzlement. We clasp our arms to iso- late ourselves or to protect ourselves. We shrug our
shoulders for indifference, wink one eye for intimacy, tap our fingers for impatience, slap our forehead for forgetful- ness. The gestures are numerous, and while some are deliberate and others are almost deliberate, there are some, such as rubbing under our noses for puzzlement or clasping our arms to protect ourselves, that are mostly unconscious.
A study of body language is a study of the mixture of all body movements from the very deliberate to the completely unconscious, from those that apply only in one culture to those that cut across all cultural barriers.
termed instinctive is the symbolic fighting of dogs. When two male dogs meet they may react in a number of ways, but the most common is the snarling, snapping simulation of a fight to the death. The uninitiated onlooker will usually be alarmed by this behaviour and may even try to separate the seemingly angry animals. The knowing dog owner simply watches, realizing how much of the fight is symbolic.
This is not to say that the fight isn't real. It is. The two animals are competing for mastery. One will win, because he is more aggressive, perhaps stronger and with harder drives than the other. The fight is over at the point when both dogs realize that one is the victor, though no skin has been broken. Then a curious thing happens. The van- quished dog lies down, rolls over and exposes his throat to the victor.
To this surrender, the victor reacts by simply standing over the vanquished, baring his fangs and growling for a definite period of time. Then both leap away and the battle is forgotten.
A non-verbal procedure has been acted out. The van- quished says,' I concede. You are the stronger and I bare my vulnerable throat to you.'
The victor says,' Indeed, I am stronger and I will snarl and show that strength, but now let's get up and romp.'
It is a curious aside to note that in almost no species of higher animal does one member of the species kill another for any reason, though they might fight with each other for many reasons. Among roe bucks at mating time such semi-symbolic fights can build up to the point of actual battle, and then, curiously, the animals will attack the nearby trees instead of each other.
Certain birds, after scolding and flapping in angry pre- lude to battle, will settle their differences by turning
OF ANIMALS AND TERRITORY
furiously to nest building. Antelope may lock horns and struggle for superiority, but the fight, however furious it may be, will end not always in death but in a ritual defeat. Animals have learned the art of acting out relationships in a kind of charade that is a first cousin to body language.
The controversial point about this symbolic battling behaviour of dogs and other animals is whether this con- duct, this type of communication, is inherited as instincts are inherited, imprinted in the genetic pattern of the species and handed down from generation to generation, or whether it is learned anew by each animal.
I mentioned that in some song birds the species' song must be learned; however, in others the songs are truly in- stinctive. Linnets learn their songs, while reed buntings inherit the ability to sing the characteristic species song whether or not they are in contact with other reed bunt- ings during their growth. We must be careful in studying any behaviour in the animal world not to generalize. What is true for one species of bird is not at all true for another. What is true for animals is not necessarily true for men. The symbolic battling of dogs is believed by many scientists to be an inherited thing, and yet I have had a dog trainer assure me that this behaviour is learned.
' Watch a mother dog when her cubs are scrapping. If one is triumphant and tries to carry his victory to the point of damaging the other, the mother will immediately cuff him into neutrality, teaching him to respect the defeat of his brother. No, a dog must be taught symbolic behaviour.'
On the other hand there are dogs, such as the Eskimo dogs of Greenland, that seem to have a tremendous amount of difficulty learning symbolic behaviour. Niko Tinbergen, the Dutch naturalist, says these dogs possess definite territories for each pack. Young male pups
constantly violate the boundaries of these territories, and as a result they are constantly punished by the older males who have set the boundaries. The pups, however, never seem to learn just where the boundaries are. That is, until they reach sexual maturity.
From the time they experience their first copulation they suddenly become aware of the exact boundaries. Is this a learning process that has been reinforced over the years and now takes hold? Or is it some instinctive pro- cess that only develops with sexual maturity?
Can We Inherit Language?
The inheritance of instinct is not a simple matter, nor is the process of learning simple. It is difficult to pinpoint just how much of any system of communication is inherited and how much is learned. Not all behaviour is learned, any more than it is all inherited, even in humans.
And this brings us back to non-verbal communica- tion. Are there universal gestures and expressions which are culturally independent and true for every human in every culture? Are there things every human being does which somehow communicate a meaning to all other humans regardless of race, colour, creed or culture?
In other words, is a smile always indicative of amuse- ment? Is a frown always a sign of displeasure? When we shake our head from side to side, does it always mean no? When we move it up and down, does it always mean yes? Are all these movements universal for all people, and if so, is the ability to make these movements in response to a given emotion inherited?
If we could find a complete set of inherited gestures and
OF ANIMALS AND TERRITORY
signals, then our non-verbal communication might be like the language of the porpoises or like the non-verbal language of the honeybee, who by certain definite motions can lead the entire hive population to a new- found supply of honey. These are inherited movements that the bee does not have to learn.
Have we an inherited form of communication? Darwin believed that facial expressions of emotion are
similar among humans, regardless of culture. He based his belief on man's evolutionary origin. Yet in the early 1950s, two researchers, Bruner and Taguiri, wrote, after thirty years of study, that the best available research indicated that there was no innate, invariable pattern accompany- ing specific emotions.
And then fourteen years later, three researchers, Ekman, Friesen (from California's Langley Porter Neuro- psychiatric Institute) and Sorenson (from the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness) found that new research supported Darwin's old belief.
They had conducted studies in New Guinea, Borneo, the United States, Brazil and Japan, five widely different cultures on three different continents and discovered:
' Observers in these cultures recognize some of the same emotions when they are shown a standard set of facial photographs.'
According to the three men, this contradicts a theory that facial displays of emotion are socially learned. They also feel that there is agreement within a culture on recog- nizing different emotional states.
The reason they give for this universality of recog- nition is only indirectly related to inheritance. They cite a theory which postulates '. . . innate subcortical programmes linking certain evokers to distinguishable universal facial displays for each of the primary
affects - interest, joy, surprise, fear, anger, distress, disgust, contempt and shame'.
In simpler words this means that the brains of all men are programmed to turn up the corners of the mouth when they're happy, turn them down when they're discontent, wrinkle the forehead, lift the eyebrows, raise one side of the mouth, and so forth and so on, according to what feeling is fed into the brain.
In opposition to this, they list other 'culturally variable expressions and rules learned early in life'.
' These rules,' they say,' prescribe what to do about the display of each affect in different social settings; they vary with the social role and demographic characteristics and should vary across cultures.'
The study that the three conducted tried as much as possible to avoid the conditioning that culture inflicts. The spread of television, movies and written matter makes this very difficult, but the investigators avoided much of this by studying isolated regions and, where they could, preliterate societies.
What their work proved seems to be the fact that we can inherit in our genetic make-up certain basic physical reactions. We are born with the elements of a non-verbal communication. We can make hate, fear, amusement, sad- ness and other basic feelings known to other human beings without ever learning how to do it.
Of course, this does not contradict the fact that we must also learn many gestures that mean one thing in one society and something else in another society. We in the Western world shake our head from side to side to indi- cate no, and up and down to indicate yes, but there are societies in India where just the opposite is true. Up and down means no, and side to side means yes.
We can understand then that our non-verbal language
OF ANIMALS AND TERRITORY
is partly instinctive, partly taught and partly imitative. Later on we will see how important this imitative element is in non-verbal and verbal communication.
' The Territorial Imperative'
One of the things that is inherited genetically is the sense of territory. Robert Ardrey has written a fascinating book, The Territorial Imperative, in which he traces this terri- torial sense through the animal kingdom and into the human. In his book he discusses the staking out and guarding of territories by animals, birds, deer, fish and primates. For some species the territories are temporary, shifting with each season. For other animal species they are permanent. Ardrey makes an interesting case for the fact that, in his belief, ' the territorial nature of man is genetic and ineradicable'.
From his extensive animal studies he describes an in- nate code of behaviour in the animal world that ties sexual reproduction to territorial defence. The key to the code, he believes, is territory, and the territorial imperative is the drive in animals and in men to take, hold and defend a given area.
There may be a drive in all men to have and defend a territory, and it may well be that a good part of that drive is inborn. However, we cannot always interpolate from humans to animals and from animals to humans.
The territorial imperative may exist in all animals and in some men. It may be strengthened by culture in some of these men and weakened in still others.
But there is little doubt that there is some territorial need in humans. How imperative it is remains to be seen. One of the most frightening plays of modern times is
Home, by Megan Terry. It postulates a world of the future where the population explosion has caused all notion of territory to be discarded. All men live in cells in a gigantic metal hive .enclosing the entire planet. They live out their lives, whole families confined to one room, without ever seeing sky or earth or another cell.
In this prophetic horror story, territory has been com- pletely abolished. Perhaps this gives the play its great im- pact. In our modern cities we seem to be moving towards the abolition of territory. We find families crammed and boxed into rooms that are stacked one on another to dizzying heights. We ride elevators pressed together, and subway trains, packed in too tightly to move our arms or legs. We have yet to fully understand what happens to man when he is deprived of all territorial rights.
We know man has a sense of territory, a need for a shell of territory around him. This varies from the tight close shell of the city dweller through the larger bubble of yard and home in the suburbanite to the wide open spaces the countryman enjoys.
How Much Space Does a Man Need?
We don't know how much space is necessary to any indi- vidual man, but what is important in our study of body language is what happens to any individual man when this shell of space or territory is threatened or breached. How does he respond and how does he defend it, or how does he yield?
I had lunch not too long ago with a psychiatrist friend. We sat in a pleasant restaurant at a stylishly small table. At one point he took out a packet of cigarettes, lit one and
OF ANIMALS AND TERRITORY
put the pack down three-quarters of the way across the table in front of my plate.
He kept talking and I kept listening, but I was troubled in some way that I couldn't quite define, and more troubled as he moved his tableware about, lining it up with his cigarettes, closer and closer to my side of the table. Then leaning across the table himself he attempted to make a point. It was a point I could hardly appreciate because of my growing uneasiness.
Finally he took pity on me and said, 'I just favoured you with a demonstration of a very basic step in body language, in non-verbal communication.'
Puzzled, I asked, 'What was that?'
'I aggressively threatened you and challenged you. I
put you in a position of having to assert yourself, and that
Still uncomprehending, I asked, 'But how? What did you do? '
'I moved my cigarettes to start with,' he explained. 'By unspoken rule we had divided the table in half, half for you and half for me.'
' I wasn't conscious of any such division.'
' Of course not. The rule remains though. We both
staked out a territory in our minds. Ordinarily we would
have shared the table by some unspoken and civilized
command. However, I deliberately moved my cigarettes
into your area in a breach of taste. Unaware of what I had
done, you still felt yourself threatened, felt uneasy, and
when I aggressively followed up my first breach of your
territory with another, moving my plate and silverware
and then intruding myself, you became more and more
uneasy and still were not aware of why.'
It was my first demonstration of the fact that we each possess zones of territory. We carry these zones with us
and we react in different ways to the breaking of these zones. Since then I have tried out the same technique of cutting into someone else's zone when he was unaware of what I was doing.
At supper the other evening, my wife and I shared a table in an Italian restaurant with another couple. Experimentally I moved the wine bottle into my friend's
'zone'. Then slowly, still talking, followed up my intrus- sion by rearranging wine glass and napkin in his zone. Uneasily he shifted in his chair, moved aside, rearranged his plate, his napkin and finally in a sudden, almost com- pulsive lunge, moved the wine bottle back.
He had reacted by defending his zone and retaliating. From this parlour game a number of basic facts emerge. No matter how crowded the area in which we humans live, each of us maintains a zone or territory around us - an inviolate area we try to keep for our own. How we defend this area and how we react to invasion of it, as well as how we encroach into other territories, can all be observed and charted and in many cases used con- structively. These are all elements of non-verbal com- munication. This guarding of zones is one of the first
How we guard our zones and how we aggress to other zones is an integral part of how we relate to other people.
How We Handle Space
A Space to Call your Own
Among Quakers, the story is told of an urban Friend who visited a meeting house in a small country town. Though fallen into disuse, it was architecturally a lovely building, and the city Quaker decided to visit it for Sun- day meeting although he was told that only one or two Quakers still attended meetings there.
That Sunday he entered the building to find the meet- ing hall completely empty, the morning sun shafting through the old, twelve-paned windows, the rows of benches silent and unoccupied.
He slipped into a seat and sat there, letting the peaceful silence fill him. Suddenly he heard a slight cough and, looking up, saw a bearded Quaker standing near his bench, an old man who might well have stepped out of the pages of history.
He smiled, but the old Quaker frowned and coughed again, then said, ' Forgive me if I offend, but thee art sitting in my place.'
The old man's quaint insistence on his own space, in spite of the empty meeting house, is amusing, but very true to life. Invariably, after you attend any church for any period of time, you stake out your own spot.
In his home Dad has his own particular chair, and while he may tolerate a visitor sitting there, it is often with poor grace. Mum has her own kitchen, and she doesn't like it one bit when her mother comes to visit and takes over
'her ' kitchen.
Men have their favourite seats in the train, their favourite benches in the park, their favourite chairs at conferences, and so on. It is all a need for territory, for a place to call one's own. Perhaps it is an inborn and universal need, though it is shaped by society and culture into a variety of forms. An office may be adequate for a working man or it may be too small, not according to the actual size of the room but according to placement of desk and chair. If the worker can lean back without touching a wall or a bookcase, it will usually seem big enough. But in a larger room, if his desk is placed so that he touches a wall when he leans back, the office may seem to be cramped from his viewpoint.
A Science Called Proxemics
Dr Edward T. Hall, professor of anthropology at North- western University, has long been fascinated by man's re- action to the space about him, by how he utilizes that space and how his spatial use communicates certain facts and signals to other men. As Dr Hall studied man's per- sonal space, he coined the word proxemics to describe his theories and observations about zones of territory and how we use them.
Man's use of space, Dr Hall believes, has a bearing on his ability to relate to other people, to sense them as being close or far away. Every man, he says, has his own terri- torial needs. Dr Hall has broken these needs down in an
HOW WE HANDL E SPACE
attempt to standardize the science of proxemics and he has come up with four distinct zones in which most men operate. He lists these zones as 1) intimate distance, 2) personal distance, 3) social distance, and 4) public distance.
As we might guess, the zones simply represent different areas we move in, areas that increase as intimacy decreases. Intimate distance can either be close, that is, actual contact, orfar, from six to eighteen inches. The close phase of inti- mate distance is used for making love, for very close friendships and for children clinging to a parent or to each other.
When you are at close intimate distance you are over- whelmingly aware of your partner. For this reason, if such contact takes place between two men, it can lead to awkwardness or uneasiness. It is most natural between a man and a woman on intimate terms. When a man and a woman are not on intimate terms the close intimate situa- tion can be embarrassing.
Between two women in our culture, a close intimate state is acceptable, while in an Arab culture such a state is acceptable between two men. Men will frequently walk hand in hand in Arab and in many Mediterranean lands.
The far phase of intimate distance is still close enough to clasp hands, but it is not considered an acceptable distance for two adult male Americans. When a subway or an elevator brings them into such crowded circum- stances, they will automatically observe certain rigid rules of behaviour, and by doing so communicate with their neighbours.
They will hold themselves as stiff as possible trying not to touch any part of their neighbours. If they do touch them, they either draw away or tense their muscles in the touching area. This action says, 'I beg your pardon for intruding on your space, but the situation forces it and
I will, of course, respect your privacy and let nothing intimate come of this.'
If, on the other hand, they were to relax in such a situa- tion and let their bodies move easily against their neigh- bours' bodies and actually enjoy the contact and the body heat, they would be committing the worst possible social blunder.
I have often seen a woman in a crowded subway car turn on an apparently innocent man and snarl,' Don't do that!' simply because the man had forgotten the rules and had relaxed against her. The snarls are worse when a man relaxes against another man.
Nor must we, in the crowded car or elevator, stare. There is a stated time interval during which we can look, and then we must quickly look away. The unwary male who goes beyond the stated time interval risks all sorts of unpleasant consequences.
I rode an elevator down in a large office building re- cently with another man. A pretty young girl got on at the fourteenth floor, and my friend looked at her absently but thoroughly. She grew redder and redder, and when the elevator stopped at the lobby, turned and snapped,
'Haven't you ever seen a girl before, you - you dirty old man!'
My friend, still in his thirties, turned to me bewilderedly as she stormed out of the car and asked, 'What did I do? Tell me, what the hell did I do? '
What he had done was to break a cardinal rule of non- verbal communication. 'Look, and let your eyes slide away when you are infar intimate contact with a stranger.'
The second zone of territory charted by Dr Hall is called the personal distance zone. Here, too, he differen- tiates two areas, a close personal distance and afar personal distance. The dose area is one and a half to two and a half
HOW WE HANDLE SPACE
distance at which we transact impersonal business. It is the distance we assume when, in business, we meet the client from out of town, the new art director or the office man- ager. It is the distance the housewife keeps from the repair man, the shop clerk or the delivery boy. You assume this distance at a casual social gathering, but it can also be a manipulative distance.
A boss utilizes just this distance to dominate a seated employee- a secretary or a receptionist. To the employee, he tends to loom above and gain height 'and strength. He is, in fact, reinforcing the 'you work for me' situation without ever having to say it.
Thefar phase of social distance, seven to twelve feet, is for more formal social or business relationships. The ' big boss' will have a desk large enough to put him this distance from his employees. He can also remain seated at this distance and look up at an employee without a loss of status. The entire man is presented for his view.
To get back to the eyes, at this distance it is not proper to look briefly and look away. The only contact you have is visual, and so tradition dictates that you hold the per- son's eyes during conversation. Failing to hold his eyes is the same as excluding him from the conversation, accord- ing to Dr Hall.
On the positive side, this distance allows a certain pro- tection. You can keep working at this distance and not be rude, or you can stop working and talk. In offices it is necessary to preserve this far social distance between the receptionist and the visitor so that she may continue work- ing without having to chat with him. A closer distance would make such an action rude.
The husband and wife at home in the evening assume this far social distance to relax. They can talk to each other if they wish or simply read instead of talking. The imper-
HOW WE HANDL E SPACE
sonal air of this type of social distance makes it an almost mandatory thing when a large family lives together, but often the family is arranged for this polite separation and must be pulled more closely together for a more intimate evening.
Finally, Dr Hall cites public distance as the farthest ex- tension of our territorial bondage. Again there is a close phase and a far phase, a distinction which may make us wonder why there aren't eight distances instead of four. But actually, the distances are arrived at according to human interaction, not to measurement.
The close phase of public distance is twelve to twenty- five feet, and this is suited for more informal gatherings, such as a teacher's address in a roomful of students, or a boss at a conference of workers. The far phase of public distance, twenty-five feet or more, is generally reserved for politicians where the distance is also a safety or a security factor, as it is with animals. Certain animal species will let you come only within this distance before moving away.
While on the subject of animal species and distance, there is always the danger of misinterpreting the true meaning of distance and territorial zones. A typical example is the lion and the lion tamer. A lion will retreat from a human when the human comes too close and enters his 'danger' zone. But when he can retreat no longer and the human still advances, the lion will turn and approach the human.
A lion tamer takes advantage of this and moves towards the lion in his cage. The animal retreats, as is its nature, to the back of the cage as the lion tamer advances. When the lion can go no farther, he turns and, again in accordance with his nature, advances on the trainer with a snarl. He invariably advances in a perfectly straight line. The
trainer, taking advantage of this, puts the lion's platform between himself and the lion. The lion, approaching in a straight line, climbs on the platform to get at the trainer. At this point the trainer quickly moves back out of the lion's danger zone, and the lion stops advancing.
The audience watching this interprets the gun that the trainer holds, the whip and the chair in terms of its own inner needs and fantasies. It feels that he is holding a dan- gerous beast at bay. This is the non-verbal communica- tion of the entire situation. This, in body language, is what the trainer is trying to tell us. But here body language lies.
In actuality, the dialogue between lion and tamer goes like this - Lion:' Get out of my sphere or I'll attack you.' Trainer: 'I am out of your sphere.' Lion: 'All right. I'll stop right here.'
It doesn't matter where here is. The trainer has manipu- lated things so that here is the top of the lion's platform.
In the same way the far public sphere of the politician or the actor on a stage contains a number of body-language statements which are used to impress the audience, not necessarily to tell the truth.
It is at this far public distance that it is difficult to speak the truth or, to turn it around, at this far public distance it is most easy to lie with the motions of the body. Actors are well aware of this, and for centuries they have utilized the distance of the stage from the audience to create a number of illusions.
At this distance the actor's gestures must be stylized, affected and far more symbolic than they are at closer public, social or intimate distances.
On the television screen, as in the motion picture, the combination of long shots and close-ups calls for still another type of body language. A movement of the eyelid
HOW WE HANDLE SPACE
or the eyebrow or a quiver of the lip in a close-up can convey as much of a message as the gross movement of arm or an entire body in a long shot.
In the close-up the gross movements are usually lost. This may be one of the reasons television and motion picture actors-have so much trouble adapting to the stage.
The stage often calls for a rigid, mannered approach to acting because of the distance between actors and audi- ence. Today, in revolt against this entire technique, there are elements of the theatre that try to do away with the public distance between actor and stage.
They either move down into the audience, or invite the audience up to share the stage with them. Drama, under these conditions, must be a lot less structured. You can have no assurance that the audience will respond in the way you wish. The play therefore becomes more form- less, usually without a plot and with only a central idea.
Body language, under these circumstances, becomes a difficult vehicle for the actor. He must on the one hand drop many of the symbolic gestures he has used, because they just won't work over these short distances. He can- not rely on natural body language for the emotions he wishes to project no matter how much he 'lives' his part. So he must develop a new set of symbols and stylized body motions that will also lie to the audience.
Whether this 'close-up' lying will be any more effective than the far-off lying of the proscenium stage remains to be seen. The gestures of the proscenium or traditional stage have been refined by years of practice. There is also a cultural attachment involved with the gestures of the stage. The Japanese kabuki theatre, for example, con- tains its own refined symbolic gestures that are so culture- oriented that more than half of them may be lost on a Western audience.
How Different Cultures Handle Space
There are, however, body languages that can transcend cultural lines. Charlie Chaplin's little tramp, in his silent movies, was universal enough in his movements to bring almost every culture to laughter, including the tech- nologically unsophisticated cultures of Africa. However, culture is still a guiding factor in all body language, and this is particularly true of body zones. Dr Hall goes into the cross-cultural implication of his proxemics. In Japan, for example, crowding together is a sign of warm and pleasant intimacy. In certain situations, Hall believes the Japanese prefer crowding.
Donald Keene, who wrote Living Japan, notes the fact that in the Japanese language there is no word for privacy. Still this does not mean that there is no concept of privacy. To the Japanese, privacy exists in terms of his house. He regards this area as his own and resents intrusion into it. The fact that he crowds together with other people does not negate his need for living space.
Dr Hall sees this as a reflection of the Japanese concept of space. Westerners, he believes, see space as the distance between objects. To us, space is empty. The Japanese see the shape and arrangement of space as having a tangible meaning. This is apparent not only in their flower arrangements and art, but in their gardens as well, where units of space blend harmoniously to form an integrated whole.
Like the Japanese, the Arabs, too, tend to cling close to one another. But while in public they are invariably crowded together, in private, in their own houses, the Arabs have almost too much space. Arab houses are, if possible, large and empty, with the people clustered
HOW WE HANDL E SPACE
together in one small area. Partitions between rooms are usually avoided, because in spite of the desire for space, the Arabs, paradoxically, do not like to be alone and even in their spacious houses will huddle together.
The difference between the Arab huddling and the Japanese proximity is a deep thing. The Arab likes to touch his companion, to feel and to smell him. To deny a friend his breath is to be ashamed.
The Japanese, in their closeness, preserve a formality and an aloofness. They manage to touch and still keep rigid boundaries. The Arab pushes these boundaries aside.
Along with this closeness, there is a pushing and a shar- ing in the Arab world that Americans find distasteful. To an American there are boundaries in a public place. When he is waiting in line he believes that his place there is in- violate. The Arab has no concept of privacy in a public place, and if he can push his way into a line, he feels per- fectly within his rights to do so.
As the Japanese lack of a word for privacy indicates a certain attitude towards other people, so the Arab lack of a word for rape indicates a certain attitude towards the body. To an American the body is sacred. To the Arab, who thinks nothing of shoving and pushing and even pinching women in public, violation of the body is a minor thing. However, violation of the ego by insult is a major problem.
Hall points out that the Arab at times needs to be alone, no matter how close he wishes to be to his fellow man. To be alone, he simply cuts off the lines of communication. He withdraws, and this withdrawal is respected by his fellows. His withdrawal is interpreted in body language as,
'I need privacy. Even though I'm among you, touching you and living with you, I must withdraw into my shell.'
Were the American to experience this withdrawal, he
would tend to think it insulting. The withdrawal would be interpreted in his body language as 'silent treatment'. And it would be further interpreted as an insult.
When two Arabs talk to each other, they look each other in the eyes with great intensity. The same intensity of glance in our American culture is rarely exhibited between men. In fact, such intensity can be interpreted as a challenge to a man's masculinity. ' I didn't like the way he looked at me, as if he wanted something personal, to sort of be too intimate,' is a typical response by an American to an Arab look.
The Western World's Way with Space
So far we have considered body language in terms of spatial differences in widely disparate cultures, the East and Near East as opposed to the West. However, even among the Western nations, there are broad differences. There is a distinct difference between the way a German, for instance, handles his living space, and the way an American does. The American carries his two-foot bubble of privacy around with him, and if a friend talks to him about intimate matters they will come close enough for their special bubbles to merge. To a German, an entire room in his own house can be a bubble of privacy. If someone else engages in an intimate conversation in that room without including him he may be insulted.
Perhaps, Hall speculates, this is because in contrast to the Arab, the German's ego is 'extraordinarily exposed'. He will therefore go to any length to preserve his private sphere. In World War II, German prisoners of war were housed four to a hut in one Army camp. Hall notes that as soon as they could they set about partitioning their
HOW WE HANDLE SPACE
huts to gain private space. In open stockades, German prisoners tried to build their own private dwelling units.
The German's 'exposed ego' may also be responsible for a stiffness of posture and a general lack of spontaneous body movement. Such stiffness can be a defence or mask against revealing too many truths by unguarded move- ments.
In Germany, homes are constructed for a maximum of privacy. Yards are well fenced and balconies are screened. Doors are invariably kept closed. When an Arab wants privacy he retreats into himself but when a German wants privacy he retreats behind a closed door. This German desire for privacy, for a definite private zone that does not intrude on anyone else's, is typified by his behaviour in line-ups or queues.
At a movie house in a German-American neighbour- hood I waited in line recently for a ticket and listened to the German conversation about me as we moved forwards in neat and orderly fashion.
Suddenly, when I was just a few places from the ticket- seller's window, two young men who, I later learned, were Polish walked up to the head of the line and tried to buy their tickets immediately.
An argument broke out around us. 'Hey! We've been waiting on line. Why don't you?'
' That's right. Get back in line.'
'T o hell with that! It's a free country. Nobody asked you to wait in line,' one of the Poles called out, forcing his way to the ticket window.
'You're queued up like sheep,' the other one said angrily. 'That's what's wrong with you Krauts.'
The near-riot that ensued was brought under control by two patrolmen, but inside the lobby I approached the line crashers.
'What were you trying to do out there? Start a riot?' One of them grinned. 'Just shaking them up. Why form a line? It's easier when you mill around.' Discover- ing that they were Polish helped me understand their attitude. Unlike the Germans, who want to know exactly where they stand and feel that only orderly obedience to certain rules of conduct guarantees civilized behaviour, the Poles see civilized behaviour as a flouting of authority
While the Englishman is unlike the German in his treat- ment of space - he has little feeling for the privacy of his own room - he is also unlike the American. When the American wishes to withdraw he goes off by himself. Possibly because of the lack of private space and the
'nursery' raising of children in England, the Englishman who wants to be alone tends to withdraw into himself like the Arab.
The English body language that says,'I am looking for some momentary privacy' is often interpreted by the American as, ' I am angry at you, and I am giving you the silent treatment.'
The English social system achieves its privacy by care- fully structured relationships. In America you speak to your next-door neighbour because of proximity. In England, being a neighbour to someone does not at all guarantee that you know them or speak to them.
There is the story of an American college graduate who met an English Lady on an ocean liner to Europe. The boy was seduced by the Englishwoman and they had a wild affair.
A month later he attended a large and very formal dinner in London and among the guests, to his delight, he saw Lady X. Approaching her he said,' Hello! How have you been?'
HOW WE HANDLE SPACE
Looking down her patrician nose, Lady X drawled, 'I
don't think we've been introduced.'
'But... ' the bewildered young man stammered,' surely you remember me?' Then emboldened, he added, 'Why, only last month we slept together on the trip across.'
'And what,' Lady X asked icily,' makes you think that constitutes an introduction?'
In England, relationships are made not according to physical closeness but according to social standing. You are not necessarily a friend of your neighbour unless your social backgrounds are equal. This is a cultural fact based on the heritage of the English people, but it is also a result of the crowded condition in England. The French, like the English, are also crowded together, but their different cultural heritage has produced a different cultural result. While crowding has caused the English to develop an in- ordinate respect for privacy, it has caused the French to be very much involved with each other.
A Frenchman meets your eyes when he is talking to you, and he looks at you directly. In Paris, women are closely examined visually in the streets. In fact, many American women returning from Paris feel suddenly un- appreciated. The Frenchman, by his look, conveys a non- verbal message. 'I like you. I may never know you or speak to you, but I appreciate you.'
No American male looks at women like this. Instead of appreciation this would be interpreted as rudeness in an American.
In France the crowding is partly responsible for the Frenchmen's involvement with each other. It is also held responsible for their concern with space. French parks treat space differently than American parks do. They have a reverence for their open areas, a reverence even in the city, for the beauty of architecture.
We react to space in a different fashion. In New York we are an intensely crowded city and because of this we have developed an individual need for privacy. The New Yorker is traditionally known for his 'unfriendly attitude' and yet the unfriendly attitude is developed out of a respect for our neighbour's privacy. We will not intrude on that privacy, so we ignore each other in elevators, in subways, in crowded streets.
We march along in our own little worlds, and when those worlds are forced together we go into a catatonic state to avoid a misinterpretation of our motives.
In body language we scream,' I am being forced to rub up against you, but my rigidity tells you that I do not mean to intrude.' Intrusion is the worst sin. Speak to a stranger in New York City and you get a startled, alarmed reaction.
Only in times of great crisis do the barriers fall down, and then we realize that New Yorkers are not unfriendly at all, but rather shy and frightened. During the Great Northeast Power Failure everybody reached out to everybody else, to help, to comfort, to encourage and for a few warm, long hours the city was a vital place.
Then the lights went on and we fell back into our rigid zones of privacy.
Out of New York, in small American towns, there is a more open friendly attitude. People will say, ' Hello,' to strangers, smile and often make conversation. However, in very small towns, where everyone knows everyone else and there is very little privacy, the stranger may be treated to the same stand-offish attitude that he receives in the very big city.
When Space is Invaded
Defending Body Zones
At first glance it might be hard to see the exact relation- ship between personal spaces, zones or territories and kinesics, body language. But unless we understand the basic principles of individual territories we cannot appreciate what happens when these territories are in- vaded. How we react to personal invasion of our territory is very much related to body language. We should know our own aggressive behaviour and our reactions to others' aggressions if we are to become aware of what signals we are sending and receiving.
Perhaps the most touching account of the inviolability of body zones was a novel written almost half a century ago by H. DeVere Stacpool, called The Blue Lagoon. It is the story of a young child shipwrecked on a tropical island with an old sailor. The sailor raises the boy to self- sufficiency and then dies, and the child grows to man- hood alone, meets a young Polynesian girl and falls in love with her. The novel deals with the boy's love affair with the Polynesian girl who has been declared taboo from infancy. She has grown up forbidden to allow herself to be touched by any man. The struggle between the two to break down her conditioning and
allow him to touch her makes a fascinating and moving story.
It was the early recognition of just how defensive a human can become about his body zones and personal privacy that led Stacpool to explore this theme, but it has only been in the last decade that scientists have begun to understand the complex significance of personal space.
In an earlier chapter I told of a psychiatrist who, with the aid of a packet of cigarettes, taught me a lesson about the invasion of personal space. He, in turn, had learned much of what he knew from the reaction of patients in hospitals for the mentally ill. A mental hospital is a closed microcosm, and as such often reflects and exag- gerates attitudes of the larger world outside. But a mental hospital is also a very special type of place. The inmates are more susceptible to suggestion and aggression than are normal men and women and often their actions distort the actions of normal people.
How aggressive a mental patient is to someone depends on the rank of the other person. It is a test of dominance. In any mental hospital one or two patients will attain superior rank by aggressive behaviour, but they can always be cowed by one of the attendants. In turn, the attendant is beneath the nurse and she is subordinate to the doctor.
• There is a very real hierarchy developed in these in- stitutions and it is reflected in the outer world in organi- zations like the Army, or in business where there is a definite order of dominance. In the Army, dominance is achieved by a system of symbols, stripes for the non- commissioned officers and bars, leaves, birds and stars for the commissioned officers. But even without the symbols, the pecking order remains. I have seen privates in a
WHEN SPACE IS INVADED
shower room deferential to sergeants without knowing who they were or what their rank was. The sergeants, through their manner and bearing, were able to convey an obvious body-language message of rank.
Advice for Status Seekers
In the business world, where neither stripes nor other obvious symbols are worn, the same ability to project a sense of superiority is the common attainment of the executive. How does he do it? What tricks does he use to subdue subordinates, and what tricks does he bring out for in-fighting in his own rank?
An attempt to study this was made by two researchers in a series of silent films. They had two actors play the parts of an executive and a visitor, and switch roles for different takes. The scene had one man at his desk while the other, playing the part of a visitor, knocks at the door, opens it and approaches the desk to discuss some business matter.
The audience watching the films was asked to rate the executive and the visitor in terms of status. A certain set of rules began to emerge from the ratings. The visitor showed the least amount of status when he stopped just inside the door to talk across the room to the seated man. He was considered to have more status when he walked halfway up to the desk, and he had most status when he walked directly up to the desk and stood right in front of the seated executive.
Another factor that governed status in the eyes of the observers was the time between knocking and entering, and for the seated executive, the time between hearing the knock and answering. The quicker the visitor entered the
room, the more status he had. The longer the executive took to answer, the more status he had.
It should be obvious that what is involved here is a matter of territory. The visitor is allowed to enter the executive's territory and by that arrangement the execu- tive automatically achieves superior status.
How far into the territory the visitor penetrates, and how quickly he does it, in other words how he challenges the personal space of the executive, announces his own status.
The 'big boss' will walk into his subordinate's office unannounced. The subordinate will wait outside the boss' office until he is permitted in. If the boss is on the phone, the subordinate may tiptoe off and come back later. If the subordinate is on the phone, the boss will usually assert his status by standing above the subordinate until he murmurs, 'Let me call you back,' and then gives the boss his full attention.
There is a continuous shifting or fighting for status within the business world, and therefore status symbols become a very necessary part of the shift or dance. The executive with the attache case is the most obvious one, and we all know the joke of the man who carries only his lunch in his attache case but insists on carrying the case simply because it is so important to the image he must project. I know of a black minister and educator in America who travels around the country a great deal. He told me that he would never go into any Southern city, into the downtown area or a hotel, without a business suit and an attache case. These two symbols gave him a certain amount of authority that differentiated him from the 'nigger' in the same city.
Big business sets up a host of built-in status symbols. A
large drug firm in Philadelphia earned enough money
WHEN SPACE IS INVADED
through the sale of tranquillizers to put up a new building that would house their rapidly expanding staff. The build- ing could have been designed with any number of offices and workrooms, but quite deliberately the company set up a built-in status symbol in the offices. The corner offices on the very highest floor were reserved for the very high- est personnel. The corner offices on the floor below were reserved for the next rank of top personnel. Lesser, but still important executives had offices without corner windows. The rank below this had offices without windows at all. Below them were the men with par- titioned cubicles for offices. These had frosted-glass walls and no doors and the next rank down had clear- glass cubicles. The last rank had desks out in an open room.
Rank was arrived at by an equation whose elements consisted of time on the job, importance of the job, salary and degree. The degree of MD, for example, gave any man, no matter what his salary or time on the job, the right to have a closed office. PhDs might or might not have such an office, depending on other factors.
Within this system there was room for many other elements to demonstrate degree of status. Curtains, rugs, wooden desks as opposed to metal desks, furniture, couches, easy chairs, and of course, secretaries, all set up sub-hierarchies.
An important element in this set-up was the contrast between the frosted-glass cubicles and the clear-glass cubicles. By allowing the world to see in, the man in the clear-glass cubicle was automatically reduced in importance or rank. His territory was that much more open to visual invasion. He was that much more vulnerable.
How to Be a Leader
Opening of territory and invasion of territory are impor- tant functions of rank in business. What about leadership ? By what tricks or by what body language does a leader assert himself?
Back in the years just before World War II, Charlie Chaplin did a motion picture called The Great Dictator. As with all of Chaplin's movies, it was filled with bits of body language, but the most delightful sequence was one that took place in a barber shop.
Chaplin as Hitler and Jack Oakie as Mussolini are shown getting shaves in adjacent chairs. The scene centres around the attempts of each to put himself in a dominant position to the other in order to assert his superior leader- ship. Trapped within their chairs, lathered and draped, there is only one way to achieve dominance, and that is by controlling the height of the chairs. They can reach down and jack them up. The higher man wins, and the scene revolves around the attempt of each to jack his own chair to a higher position.
Dominance through height is a truism that works from the animal kingdom to man. Among wolves, recent studies have shown that the pack leader asserts his domi- nance by wrestling a yearling or subordinate wolf to the ground and standing over him. The subordinate expresses his subservience by crawling beneath the pack leader and exposing his throat and belly. It becomes a matter of who is higher.
The same positioning occurs with humans. We are all aware of the tradition of abasement before a king, before idols, before altars. Bowing and scraping in general are all variations of superiority or inferiority by height. They
WHEN SPACE IS INVADED
are all actions to point out the body-language message,
'You are higher than I am, therefore you are dominant.'
A young man I know, well over six feet tall, was extremely successful in business because of his ability to show empathy for his associates. Observing him in action in some successful business transactions I became aware that whenever possible he stooped, sloped his body, or sat, in order to allow his associate to achieve dominance and feel superior.
In family searings the dominant member, usually the father, will hold sway at the head of a rectangle table or an oval table. Often the choice of a round table will tell something of the family set-up. In the same way in dis- cussion groups around a table, the leader will automatic- ally assume the head-of-the-table position.
That this is no new concept is obvious in the story of King Arthur and his round table. The table was round so that there could be no question of dominance and every knight could share equally in the honour of being seated at the table. However, this whole idea was weakened by the fact that Arthur himself wherever he sat, became the dominant figure and status decreased as the distance from the King increased.
The boss of a large drug company I have worked in has an office that contains, in addition to his desk and desk chair, a couch, an easy chair and a coffee table with one or two chairs around it. This man announces the formality or informality of a situation by where he sits during that situation. If a visitor comes whom he wants to treat in an informal manner, he will come around from his desk and guide the visitor to the couch, to the easy chair or to the coffee table. In this way, by his positioning, he indicates just what type of interview he will have. If it's to be an extremely formal one he will remain seated behind his desk.
The Space We Hold Inviolate
The need for personal space and the resistance to the in- vasion of personal space is so strong a thing that even in a crowd each member will demand a given amount of space. This very fact led a journalist named Herbert Jacobs to attempt to apply it to crowd size. Since estimation of crowd size tends to vary according to whether the obser- ver is for the crowd or against it, the size of political rallies, peace rallies and demonstrations are inflated by the marchers and deflated by the authorities.
Jacobs, by studying aerial photographs of crowds where he could actually count heads, concluded that people in dense crowds need six to eight square feet each, while people in loose crowds require an average of ten square feet. Crowd size, Jacobs finally concluded, could be gauged by the formula, length times width divided by a correction factor that took density of the crowd into account. This gave the actual number of people in any gathering.
On the subject of crowds, it is important to realize that
; the personal territory of the people in a crowd is destroyed
by the very act of crowding. The reaction to this destruc-
tion can, in some cases, change the temper of the crowd.
Men react very strongly when their personal space or
territory is invaded. As a crowd gets larger and tighter
and more compact, it may also get uglier. A loose crowd
may be easier to handle.
This need for personal space was known to Freud, who always arranged his sessions so that the patient would lie on the couch while he sat in a chair out of the patient's sight. In this way there was no intrusion upon the patient's personal space.
WHEN SPACE IS INVADED
The police are also well aware of this fact, and they take advantage of it in their interrogation of prisoners. A text-book on criminal interrogation and confessions suggests that the questioner sit close to the suspect and that there be no table or other obstacle between them. Any kind of obstacle, the book warns, gives the man be- ing questioned a certain degree of relief and confidence.
The book also suggests that the questioner, though he may start with his chair two or three feet away, should move in closer as the questioning proceeds, so that 'ulti- mately one of the subject's knees is just about in between the interrogator's two knees'.
This physical invasion of the man's territory by the police officer, the crowding in as he is questioned, has been found in practice to be extremely useful in breaking down a prisoner's resistance. When a man's territorial defences are weakened or intruded upon, his self-assur- ance tends to grow weaker.
In a working situation the boss who is aware of this can strengthen his own position of leadership by intruding spatially on the man under him. The higher-up who leans over the subordinate's desk throws the subordinate off balance. The department head who crowds next to the worker while inspecting his work makes the worker un- easy and insecure. In fact, the parent who scolds the child by leaning over him is compounding the relationship between them, proving and reinforcing his own domi- nance.
Can we use this intrusion of personal space to arouse defensive measures in others, or can we, by avoiding it, also avoid the sometimes dangerous consequences of an intrusion? We know that tailgating a car is dangerous from a purely physical point of view. If the car ahead stops short we can smack into it, but no one talks about
what the act of tailgating can do to the nerves of the driver ahead.
A man driving a car often loses an essential part of his own humanity and is, by virtue of the machine around him, once removed from a human being. The body- language communication that works so well for him out- side the car often will not work at all when he is driving. We have all been annoyed by drivers who cut in front of us, and we all know the completely irrational rage that can sometimes fill the driver who has thus had his space invaded. The police will cite statistics to show that dozens of accidents are caused by this cutting in, by the dangerous reaction of the man who has been cut off. In a social situation few men would dream of acting or reacting in this fashion. Stripped of the machine we adopt a civilized attitude and allow people to cut in front of us, indeed we step aside quite often to permit people to board a bus or elevator ahead of us.
A car, however, seems to act much like a dangerous weapon in the hands of many drivers. It can become a weapon that destroys many of our controls and inhibi- tions. The reason for this is obscure, but some psycholo-
, gists have theorized that at least a part of it is due to the extension of our personal territories when we are in a car. Our own zones of privacy expand and the zone of privacy of the car becomes much greater and our reaction to any intrusion on that zone is greater still.
Of Space and Personality
There have been many studies attempted to find out just how the reaction to invasion of personal space is related to personality. One, a master's thesis by John L. Williams,
WHEN SPACE IS INVADED
determined that introverts tended to keep people at a greater conversational distance than extroverts. The man who is withdrawn needs greater defences to insure the sanctity of his withdrawn state. Another study, for a doctoral thesis, by William E. Leipold arrived at the same conclusion by a clever experiment. Students were first given personality tests to see if they were introverted or extroverted, and then were sent to an office to be inter- viewed about their grades.
Three types of instructions to the students were given by the experimenter. These were called stress, praise or neutral instructions. The stress instructions were geared to upset the man. 'W e feel that your course grade is quite poor and that you haven't tried your best. Please take a seat in the next room till the interviewer can speak to you.'
The student then entered a room with a desk and two chairs, one in front of it and one behind it.
The praise interview started with the student being told that his grades were good and that he was doing well. In the neutral interview the instructions were simply,
' We are interested in your feelings about the course.' Results of the study showed that the students who
were praised sat closest to the interviewer's chair. The students under stress sat farthest away, and the ones re- ceiving neutral instructions sat midway. Introverted and anxious students sat farther away than extroverted students under the same conditions.
With this much charted, the next step was to determine the reactions of men and women when their territory was invaded. Dr Robert Sommer, professor of psychology and Chairman of the Psychology Department at the University of California, describes a set of experiments conducted in a hospital environment where, dressed in a
doctor's white coat to gain authority, he systematically invaded the patients' privacy, sitting next to them on benches and entering their wards and day rooms. These intrusions, he reported, invariably bothered the patients and drove them from their special chairs or areas. The patients reacted to Dr Sommer's physical intrusion by
. becoming uneasy and restless and finally by removing
I themselves bodily from the area.
From his own observations and the observations of
others Dr Sommer has discovered a whole area of body
language that the individual uses when his private terri-
tory is invaded. Aside from the actual physical retreat of
'- picking up and going somewhere else, there will be a series of preliminary signals, rocking, leg swinging or tapping. These are the first signs of tension, and they say, 'You are too near. Your presence makes me uneasy.'
The next series of body-language signals are closed eyes, withdrawal of the chin into the chest and hunching of the shoulders. These all say, ' Go away. I do not want you here. You are intruding.'
Dr Sommer tells of another researcher into the field of spatial invasion, Nancy Russo, who used a library as her theatre of operations. A library is a perfect place to observe
reactions. It is a subdued atmosphere geared to privacy. In most cases a newcomer to a library will isolate himself from the other researchers by taking a seat some distance from anyone else.
Miss Russo would take an adjacent chair and then move closer to her victim, or sit across from him. While she found no single universal reaction to people sitting close, she found that most spoke with body language to transmit their feelings. She described 'defensive gestures, shifts in posture, attempts to move away unobtrusively'.
WHEN SPACE IS INVADED
Eventually, she concluded, if all of a man's body- language signals are ignored, he will take off and move to another location.
Only one out of eighty students whose area was in- truded on by Miss Russo asked her verbally to move away. The rest used body language to communicate their disapproval of the closeness.
Dr Augustus F. Kinzel, who now works at the New York Psychiatric Institute, evolved a theory while work- ing at the US Medical Center for Federal Prisoners which may point the way towards detecting, predicting and even treating violent behaviour in men.
In his early animal studies Dr Kinzel noted that animals will often react with violence to any intrusion of their personal territory. While working at the prison in a population selected for violent action against society, he noticed that certain men preferred isolation cells despite the deprivations of such living. He found that these same men were sometimes troubled by senseless outbursts of violence. Could it be that these men required more space to maintain their self-control?
Dr Kinzel found that many men who were guilty of assault with violence complained that their victims had
'messed around with them', though a careful check dis- closed that they had assaulted men who had done nothing but come close to them. The fits of violence were similarly provoked in and out of prison, so the prison atmosphere could not explain it. What could?
To find out, Dr Kinzel conducted an experiment in the prison with fifteen volunteer prisoners. Eight had violent histories and seven didn't. The men were asked to stand in the centre of an empty room while the 'experimenter' approached them slowly. Each was to say, 'Stop!' when the experimenter came too close.
When the experiment was repeated again and again, each man was found to have a definite body zone, territory or bubble, a personal space Dr Kinzel labelled a 'body buffer zone'.
'Th e violent group,' Dr Kinzel said, 'kept the experi- menter at twice the distance the non-violent ones did.' Their body buffer zones were four times larger in volume than the zones of the non-violent group. When someone got too close to one of these men, he resisted as though the intruder were 'looming up ' or 'rushing in*.
In this experiment the same feeling had been induced in the violent men as when they had assaulted other prisoners for 'messing around'. These men, Dr Kinzel decided, went into an unreal panic when someone intruded upon their larger-than-normal body zones. This panic and its resulting violence occurred at a distance that other people would consider normal.
Much of what Dr Kinzel calls 'the quickly spiralling character of violence between "overcrowded" ghetto groups and the police' may be due to a poor under- standing by the police of the sanctity of body zones. Dr Kinzel's study seems to indicate that we are only beginning to understand the origins of violent outbreaks in human beings, and how to detect and manage them, outbreaks which seldom occur in the animal kingdom where a tacit understanding of territorial needs exists until man interferes.
Sex and Non-persons
There is, in the whole business of invasion, a strong sexual link. A girl moving into a man's territory en- counters a different set of signals than if she were moving
WHEN SPACE IS INVADED
into a woman's territory. There is more acceptance and the possibility of a flirtation makes the man less likely to resent the intrusion. The same situation reversed, how- ever, generally puts a woman on her guard.
The signal that invariably is sent by intruders is, ' You are a non-person, and therefore I can move in on you. You do not matter.'
This signal, in the context of a business situation between boss and employee, can be demoralizing to the employee and useful to the boss. It can, in fact, reaffirm the boss' leadership.
In a crowded subway there is a slightly different inter- pretation of the signals. There it is important that the two people regard each other as non-persons. Otherwise the fact that they are forced into such intimate terms may be awkward. The person who intrudes on another verbally in a crowded subway is guilty of a gaucherie. It may, in fact, be a little left of gauche. Here a rigid withdrawal is necessary in order to endure an uncomfortable situation. We have never seen any movies in which a boy and a girl meet on a crowded subway. It just isn't done, even in Hollywood.
The crowding in subway trains is only bearable, Sommer believes, because the riders tend to think of each other as non-persons. If they are forced to acknowledge each other's presence because of an abrupt stop, for instance, they may resent the situation in which they find themselves.
The reverse is also true. In an uncrowded situation a person will resent being treated as a non-person. Our library researcher noticed one man who lifted his head and stared at her coldly, signalling with body language, 'I am an individual, by what right do you intrude?'
He was using body language to resist her intrusion and she all at once became the person aggressed against, instead of the aggressor. So strongly did she feel this man's disapproval that she was unable to follow through her experiment for the rest of that day.
Her inability to continue was because the man whose privacy she was invading suddenly cut through her own defences and for the first time in the experiment she per- ceived him as a human instead of an object. This ability to realize humanity in another individual is an extremely im- portant key to how we act and react in body language as well as in all relationships. Dr Sommer points out that an object, a non-person, cannot invade someone else's per- sonal space, any more than a tree or a chair can. Nor is there any problem with invading the personal space of a non-person.
As an example Sommer cites the hospital nurses who discuss the patient's condition at his bedside, or the black maid in the white household who serves dinner while the guests debate the race question. Even the cleaner who empties the wastepaper basket in an office may not bother to knock when he enters, nor does the occupant of the office mind this intrusion. The cleaner is not a real person to him. He's a non-person just as the man in the office is a non-person to the cleaner.
Ceremonies and Seating
How we recognize and react to invasions includes a number of what Sommer calls 'recognition ceremonies'. In normal circumstances when you invade another's territory in either a library or a cafeteria, you send out a set of deferential signals. Verbally you apologize and ask,
WHEN SPACE IS INVADED
'Is this seat taken?' In body language you lower your eyes when you sit down.
When you take a seat on a crowded bus the proper ceremony is to keep your eyes straight ahead and avoid looking at the person sitting next to you. For other situations there are other ceremonies.
Defending personal space, according to Dr Sommers, involves using the proper body-language signals or gestures and postures as well as a choice of a location. How do you sit at an empty table when you wish to dis- courage other people from joining you? What body language do you use? A study by Sommers among university students showed that sitting down at an empty table when you wanted privacy usually involved use of two procedures. Either you look for privacy by positioning yourself as far as possible from other dis- tracting people, or you attempt to get privacy by keeping the entire table to yourself alone.
If you look for privacy by retreating from others, you approach the problem from an avoidance viewpoint. You take a retreat position, usually at the corner of the table. In body language you say, ' Share my table if you wish, but leave me alone. I am putting myself here at a corner so that the next person can sit as far from me as possible.'
The other approach would be to try to keep the entire table to yourself. This is an offensive attitude and the aggressive person who chooses it would seat himself in the centre of either side. He is saying, ' Leave me alone. You cannot sit down without annoying me, so find another table!'
Among other findings of Dr Sommer's study were the following: students who are in retreat, who wish to be as far away from others as they can get, will face away from
the door. Students who wish to hog the entire table, who are in defence, will face the door. Most students, retreaters and defenders, preferred the back of the room, and most preferred small tables or tables against the wall.
In body language, students who sat squarely in the centre of the table were asserting their dominance, their ability to handle the situation and also their desire to have the table to themselves.
The student who sat at the corner of the table sig- nalled his wish to be left alone. 'I don't min d if you share the table, but if you do, I have placed myself far away. You should do likewise. In that way we can both have our privacy.'
The same is true of park benches. If you want privacy and you take a seat on an empty park bench you will most likely sit on the far end of either side indicating,' If you must sit here too, there is room enough to leave me alone.'
If you don't want to share the bench you will position yourself in the centre and communicate, 'I want this bench as my own. Sit and you are intruding.'
If you are willing to share your bench and your privacy then you will sit to one side, but not at the far end.
These approaches to the struggle for privacy reflect our inner personality. They indicate that the extroverted man will tend to go after his privacy by holding off the world. The introverted one will look for his by sharing his place with others, but keeping them at a distance. In both cases the body language involved includes a different set of signals, not a signal of body movement, but rather a signal of placement. ' I put myself here and by doing so I say, "Keep off," ' or ' Sit here but do not intrude.'
This is similar to the signal transmitted by arranging the body in various postures relating to the environment:
WHEN SPACE IS INVADED
behind the desk in an office, to signal,' Keep off, I am to be respected'; at the top of a judge's bench, the highest point in a courtroom, to signal, 'I am far above you and therefore my judgement is best'; or close to someone else, violating their zone, to say, ' You have no rights of your own. I move in on you at will and therefore I am superior.'
The Masks Men Wear
The Smile that Hides the Soul
There are many methods with which we defend our per- sonal zones of space, and one of these is masking. The face we present to the outer world is rarely our real face. It is considered exceptional, almost peculiar behaviour to show what we really feel in our facial expressions or in our actions. Instead we practise a careful discipline when it comes to the expression of our facies and bodies. Dr Erving Goffman, in his book, Behavior in Public Places, states that one of the most obvious evidences of this discipline is the way we manage our personal appearance, the clothes we select and the hairdos we affect.
These carry a body-language message to our friends and associates. Dr Goffman believes that in public places the standard man of our society is expected to be neatly dressed and clean-shaven, with his hair combed and his hands and face clean. His study, written six years ago, didn't take into account the long hair, unshaven and care- less or freer look of today's young people, a look that is slowly gaining acceptance. But this look, too, is one that is expected or formalized. It conforms to a general ideal.
Dr Goffman makes the point that there are times, such
THE MASKS MEN WEAR
as during the subway rush hour, when the careful masks we wear slip a bit, and 'in a kind of temporary, uncaring, righteous exhaustion', we show ourselves as we really are. We let the defences down and out of weariness or exas- peration we forget to discipline our faces. Play the game of looking about a crowded bus, subway, or train during the rush hour after a day's work. See how much of the bare human being is allowed to show in all the faces.
Day after day we cover up this bare human being. We hold ourselves in careful control lest our bodies cry out messages our minds are too careless to hide. We smile constantly, for a smile is a sign not only of humour or pleasure but it is also an apology, a sign of defence or even an excuse.
I sit down next to you in a crowded restaurant. A weak smile says, 'I don't mean to intrude, but this is the only vacant place.'
I brush against you in a packed elevator and my smile says, 'I am not really being aggressive, but forgive me anyway.'
I am thrown against someone in a bus by a sudden stop, and my smile says, 'I did not intend to hurt you. I beg your pardon.'
And so we smile our way through the day, though in fact we may feel angry and annoyed beneath the smile. In business we smile at customers, at our bosses, at our employees; we smile at our children, at our neighbours, at our husbands and wives and relatives, and very few of our smiles have any real significance. They are simply the masks we wear.
The masking process goes beyond the facial muscles. We mask with our entire body. Women learn to sit in a certain way to conceal their sexuality, especially when their skirts are short. Men wear underwear that often
binds their sexual organs. Women wear brassieres to keep their breasts in place and mask too much sexuality. We hold ourselves upright and button our shirts, zip up our flies, hold in our stomachs with muscle and girdle, and practice a variety of facial maskings. We have our party faces, our campus faces, our funeral faces and even in prison we have particular faces to wear.
In a book called Prison Etiquette, Dr B. Phillips notes that new prisoners learn to 'dogface', to wear an expres- sion that is apathetic and characterless. When the prison- ers are alone, however, in a reaction to the protective dog- facing of the day, they overreact and exaggerate their smiles, their laughter and the hate they feel towards their guards.
With advancing age the masks we use often become more difficult to wear. Certain women, who have relied on facial beauty all their lives, find it hard in the mornings of their old age to 'get their faces together'. The old man tends to forget himself and drools or lets his face go lax. With advancing age come tics, sagging jowls, frowns that won't relax and deep wrinkles that won't go away.
Take Off the Mask
Again, there are certain situations in which the mask drops. In a car, when our body zones are extended, we often feel free to drop the masks, and if someone cuts in front of us or tailgates us, we may loose tides of profanity that are shocking in their out-of-proportion emotions. Why do we feel so strongly in such minor situations? What great difference does it make if a car cuts us up or comes too close?
But here is a situation where we are generally invisible
THE MASKS MEN WEAR
and the need to mask is gone. Our reactions can be all the greater because of this.
The dropping of the mask tells us a great deal about the need to wear a mask. In mental institutions the mask is often dropped. The mental patient, like the aging person, may neglect the most commonly accepted masks. Dr Goffman tells of a woman in a ward for regressed females whose underwear was on wrong. She started, in full view of everybody, to adjust it by lifting her skirt, but when this didn't work she simply dropped her dress to the floor and fixed it, then pulled her dress up again quite calmly.
This attitude of ignoring the common devices of masking, such as clothes, of neglecting appearance and personal care, is often one of the most glaring signs of approaching psychotic behaviour. Conversely, getting better in mental institutions is often equated with taking an interest in one's appearance.
Just as approaching psychotic behaviour causes the patient to lose touch with reality and become confused in his verbal communication, causes him to say things that are divorced from reality, it also causes confusion in his body language. Here, too, he loses touch with the real world. He broadcasts statements that normal people keep hidden. He lets the inhibitions imposed by society slip, and he acts as if he were no longer conscious of an audi- ence watching.
And yet this very loosening of body language may hold the key to a greater understanding of the mentally dis- turbed patient. While a person can stop talking, the same person cannot stop communicating through his body lan- guage. He must say the right thing or the wrong thing, but he cannot say nothing. He can cut down on how much he communicates by body language if he acts in the proper fashion, or acts normally, the way people are supposed to
act. In other words, if he behaves sanely, then he will send out the least amount of body-language information.
But if he acts sanely, then of course he is sane. What other criteria do we have for sanity? So by definition, the insane man must act out his insanity and by so doing send a message to the world. This message, in the case of the mentally disturbed, is usually a cry for help. This puts an entirely new face on the strange actions of mentally dis- turbed people, and it opens up new avenues for therapy.
Masking cannot cover involuntary reactions. A tense situation may cause us to perspire, and there is no possible way to mask this. In another uncomfortable situation our hands may shake or our legs tremble. We can cover these lapses by putting our hands in our pockets, by sitting down to take the weight off our trembling legs, or by moving so quickly that the tremor isn't visible or noticed. Fear can be concealed by throwing yourself vigorously into the action you fear.
The Mask that Wont Come off
The need to mask is often so deep that the process be- comes self-perpetuating, and the mask cannot be taken off or let down. There are certain situations, such as sexual in- tercourse, where the masking should be stopped in order to enjoy lovemaking to its fullest, and yet many of us are only able to unmask in complete darkness. We are so afraid of what we may tell our partners by body lan- guage, or of what we may reveal with our faces, that we attempt to cut off the visual end of sex completely and we raise moral bulwarks to help us do this. ' It's not decent to look.'' The sexual organs are ugly.' 'A nice girl doesn't do that by daylight.' And so on.
THE MASKS MEN WEAR
For many other people darkness is not enough to allow unmasking. Even in the dark they cannot drop the shields they have put up to protect themselves during sexual intercourse.
This, Dr Goffman speculates, may be partly responsible for the large amounts of frigidity found in middle-class women. But in terms of sexual practice, Kinsey has shown that there are just as many shields, if not more, among the working classes. If anything, the middle class tends to be more experimental and less apt to shield its emotions.
The key to most masking in our society is often con- tained in books of etiquette. These will dictate what is proper and what isn't in terms of body language. One book suggests that it is wrong to rub our faces, touch our teeth or clean our fingernails in public. What to do with your body and your face when you meet friends or strangers is carefully spelled out by Emily Post. Her book of etiquette even describes how to ignore women. She discusses the 'cut direct' and how to deliver it, 'Only with the gravest cause if you are a lady, and never to a lady if you are a man.'
Part of our knowledge of masking is thus learned or absorbed from our culture, and part is taught specifically. But the technique of masking, though it is universal among mankind, varies from culture to culture. Certain Aborigines, to be polite, must talk to each other without looking at each other's eyes, while in America it is polite to hold a partner's eyes while talking to him.
When Is a Person Not a Person
In any culture there are permissible moments when the mask may slip. Blacks in the South are well aware of the
'hate stare' that a Southern white can give to them for no obvious reason except skin colour. The same stare or naked show of hostility without masking can be given to another white by a white only under the greatest provoca- tion and it is never permitted in America's Southern cultures to be given by a black to a white.
One of the reasons why the mask may be dropped, in this case, by the Southern white is because the Southern white sees the black as a non-person, an object not worth concerning himself about. In the South, however, the blacks have their own private signs. One black, by a cer- tain signal of the eye, may tell another that he, too, is a brother, a black, even though his skin is so light that he could pass as a white. By another type of eye signal he may warn off a black and tell him, ' I am passing as a white man.'
Children, in our society, are treated as non-persons quite often and so are servants. We feel, perhaps con- sciously, perhaps unconsciously, that before these non- persons no mask is necessary. We cannot worry about hurting the feelings of a non-person. How can he have feelings to hurt?
This attitude is usually seen as a class-oriented thing. A class in society will apply it to the class beneath; higher- status people will apply it to lower-status people. The boss may not bother to mask in front of his employee, nor the lady in front of her maid any more than a father will mask in front of his child.
I sat in a restaurant recently with my wife, and a table away two dowager-type women were having cocktails. Everything about them from their furs to their hairdos cried out 'wealth' and their bearing confirmed the fact. In the crowded restaurant they talked in voices so loud that they carried to every corner, yet their talk was private
THE MASKS MEN WEAR
and intimate. The embarrassing result to the rest of the diners was that in order to maintain an illusion of privacy we all had either to pretend not to hear or to conduct our- selves and our own conversations so intently that we could block out the two dowagers.
In body language these two women were saying,' You are all of no real importance to us. You are all, in fact, not really people at all. You are non-persons. What we wish to do is all that matters, and so we cannot really embarrass anyone else.'
Incidentally, instead of using their bodies to signal this message, these dowagers used voice volume, and it was not the intelligence of what they said but the amount of sound they used to say it that conveyed the message. Here we have the unusual technique of having two messages transmitted by one medium, the meaning of the words transmits one message, and the loudness of the voice transmits another.
There are cases where the mask is dropped but the dropping is almost contemptuous. Unmasking in front of a non-person is often no unmasking at all. In most cases we keep our masks on and the reason we keep them on is important. It is often dangerous in one way or another to unmask. When we are approached by a beggar in the street, if we do not wish to give him anything, it is im- portant that we pretend he is not there and we have not seen him. We firm up the mask, look away and hurry past. If we were to allow ourselves to unmask in order to see the beggar as an individual, not only would we have to face our own consciences, but we would also leave our- selves open to his importuning, pleading and possible attempt to embarrass us.
The same is true of many chance encounters. We can- not afford the time involved to exchange words and
pleasantries, at least in urban areas. There are just too many people around us. In the suburbs or in the country it is different, and there is correspondingly less masking.
Also, by showing our real selves, we open ourselves to unpleasant interpretation. Dr Goffman makes this clear in the setting of a mental institution. He describes a middle-aged man, a mental patient, who walked about with a folded newspaper and a rolled umbrella, wearing an expression of being late for an appointment. Keeping up the front that he was a normal businessman was over- whelmingly important to this patient, though in point of fact he was deceiving no one but himself.
In Eastern countries the masking procedure may be a physical one. The custom of women wearing veils is pri- marily to allow them to conceal their true emotions and so protect them from any male aggression. In these countries body language is so well recognized that it becomes an accepted fact that a man, with the slightest encouragement, will try to force sexual intercourse upon a woman. The veil allows the woman to hide her lower face and any unintentionally encouraging gesture. In the seventeenth century women used fans and masks on sticks for the same purpose.
The Masochist and the Sadist
In many cases masking can be used as an instrument of psychological torture. Take the case of Annie, married to Ralph, an older man, older and better educated and very conscious of the fact that Annie, intellectually and socially, was not his equal. Yet in a strange and somewhat per- verted way Ralph loved Annie and realized she was the best wife for him. This did not prevent him from playing
THE MASKS MEN WEAR
his own type of game with Annie, a game that involved masking to an intricate and exact degree.
When Ralph came home from work each day there was a well-standardized ritual. Annie must have his supper ready and waiting at exactly six-thirty, neither later nor earlier. He would arrive home at six, wash and read the afternoon paper until six-thirty. Then Annie would call him to the table and take her seat, watching his face furtively. Ralph knew she was watching him. She realized that he knew. But neither admitted to this.
Ralph would in no way indicate that the meal was either good or bad and as they ate Annie would construct a soap opera in her head. She would feel a sick despair in the pit of her stomach. Does Ralph like the food or doesn't he? If he doesn't, she knows what to expect: a cold upbraiding and a silent, miserable evening.
Annie would eat uneasily, watching Ralph's impassive face. Did she prepare the dish correctly? Did she season it properly? She followed the recipe, but she added some spices of her own. Was that a mistake? Yes, it must have been! She would feel her heart sink, her whole body tighten with misery. No, Ralph doesn't like it. Isn't his lip twisting in the beginning of a sneer?
Ralph, living the same soap opera, would look and for a long moment keep his face inscrutable while Annie would die a thousand deaths, and then he would smile his approval. And suddenly, miraculously, Annie's entire being would sing with happiness. Life is wonderful, and Ralph is her love and she is terribly, terribly happy. She would go back to her meal, enjoying the food now, ravenously hungry and delightfully pleased.
By careful manipulation of his mask, by timing his body language, Ralph has contrived a delicate torture and reward. He uses the same technique at night when he and
Annie are in bed. He gives her no hint or indication of what he feels, of whether he will make love to her or not, and Annie goes through the same elaborate game of 'Will he touch me? Does he still love me? How will I stand it if he rejects me!'
When finally Ralph does reach over and touch her Annie explodes in passionate ecstasy. Now the question of whether Annie is a victim or an accomplice is not for us to decide. The use of a mask to achieve the torture is the point to consider. The sado-masochist relationship of Annie and Ralph benefits both of them in a strange way, but for most mask-wearers the benefits of wearing the mask are more realistic.
How to Drop the Mask
The benefits of masking, real or imagined, make us reluctant to drop the mask. We might, among other things, be forcing a relationship other people do not want. Or we might risk being rejected. Yet the very wearing of the mask can cheat us of relationships we want. Do we gain as much as we lose?
Take the case of Claudia. In her early thirties, Claudia is attractive in a thin, intense way. Because of her job in a large investment firm Claudia comes in contact with many men during the course of her day, and she dates a great deal. But she is still single and, though she hates to admit it, still a virgin.
It's not for want of desire, Claudia insists. She is a pas- sionate girl and looks ahead with horror to the prospect of a sterile old maid's life. Why then can't she become in- volved with a man emotionally and sexually? Claudia doesn't understand why, but the men she dates can.
THE MASKS MEN WEAR
' She turns you off,' one of them explained.' Hell, I like Claudia. At work she's a great gal and I've taken her out, but the moment something begins to develop she freezes up and the message is very clear. Don't touch. I'm not having any. Who needs that?'
Who indeed? Who can see past Claudia's forbidding facade to the warm and passionate woman underneath? Claudia, in terror of rejection, does the rejecting first before anything can develop. In that way she's never hurt. She's never refused because she does the refusing first.
Stupid? Perhaps, but effective if being rejected is the worst thing in the world that can happen to you. For Claudia it is. So rather than take a chance she'll live out her days in loneliness.
Claudia's masking is unnecessary and wasteful, but there are necessary maskings decreed by the society. The person who masks according to this rule may desperately want to use body language to communicate, but isn't allowed to by custom.
An example of this masking is a nubile young friend, a girl of seventeen, who came to my wife with her problem.
'There's this boy I ride home with on the bus every day, and he gets off at my stop and I don't know him, but he's cute and I'd like to know him, and I think he likes me, but how can I get to be friendly?'
My wife, out of the wisdom of experience, suggested a couple of awkward, heavy packages for the next bus ride plus a carefully rehearsed stumble to send all the packages flying as she left the bus.
To my amazement it worked. The accident called forth the only possible response, since they were the only two passengers who left the bus at that stop. He helped
her with the packages, and she was obliged to drop the mask. He, too, could now unmask, and by the time they reached her house she was able to ask him in for a Coke, and so it went.
At the proper time, then, the mask should often be dropped, must indeed be dropped if the individual is to grow and develop, if any meaningful relationship is to come about. The big problem with all of us is that after wearing a mask for a lifetime it is not so easy to drop it.
Sometimes the mask can only be dropped when further masking takes place. The man who dresses up in a clown suit for some amateur theatrical project often sheds his inhibitions as he dons his costume, and he is able to cavort and joke and 'clown around' with perfect loose- ness and freedom.
The masking of darkness allows some of us the freedom to make love without masks, and for others the mask of anonymity serves the same purpose.
I have had male homosexuals tell me that they have had encounters with men, complete from pick-up to sexual satisfaction, without even divulging their own names or learning their partners' names. When I asked how they could be so intimate without ever knowing their partner's names, the answer was invariably, ' But that adds some- thing to it. I can be relaxed and do what I want to. After all, we didn't know each other, and who cares what we did or said?'
To an extent, the same is true when a man visits a prostitute. The same anonymity may hold and bring with it a greater freedom.
But these are simply cases of double masking, of put- ting up another defence so that one may drop the mask. Along with the constant need to guard our body language,
THE MASKS MEN WEAR
to keep a tight rein on the signals we send out, there is also a paradoxical need to transmit wildly and freely, to tell the world who we are and what we want, to cry out in the wilderness and be answered, to drop the mask and see" if the hidden person is a being in his own right, in short, to free ourselves and to communicate.
The Wonderful World of Touch
Come Hold my Hand
Some time ago I volunteered to teach a young people's creative writing class at our local church. Harold, one of the young men who attended the class, was fourteen and a born troublemaker. Handsome, big for his age and very vocal, Harold made enemies without even trying, though usually he tried.
By the fifth session everyone hated him and he was well on his way to breaking up the group. For my part I was desperate. I tried everything from kindness and friend- liness to anger and discipline, but nothing worked and Harold remained a sullen, disruptive force.
Then one evening he went a little too far in teasing one of the girls, and I grabbed him with both hands. The moment I did it, I realized my mistake. What could I do now? Let him go? Then he would be the victor. Hit him? Hardly, with the difference in age and size.
In a flash of inspiration I wrestled him to the ground and started to tickle him. He squealed with anger at first and then with laughter. Only when he gaspingly pro- mised to behave did I let him up and found, to my own mixed reactions, that I had created a Frankenstein-type of
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF TOUCH
monster. By tickling him I had invaded his body zone and prevented him from using it for defence.
Harold behaved himself from that time on, but Harold also became my devoted companion and buddy, hanging on my arm or my neck, pushing me or pummelling me and getting as close to me, physically, as he could.
I returned the closeness, and somehow we both made it through the session. What fascinated me was that by in- vading his personal sphere, by violating the sanctity of his territory, I had communicated with him for the first time.
What I learned from this encounter was that there are times when the masks must come down and communica- tion must be by physical touch. We cannot achieve emotional freedom in many cases unless we can reach through our personal space, through the masks we set up as protection, to touch and fondle and interact physically with other people. Freedom perhaps is not an individual thing but a group function.
An awareness of this fact has led a group of psychol- ogists to the formation of a new school of therapy, a school based very much on body language, but also concerned with breaking through the masking process by body contact.
The Crippling Masks
Children, before they are taught the inhibitions of our society, explore their world by touch. They touch their parents and cuddle into their arms, touch themselves, find joy in their genitals, security in the texture of their blankets, excitement in feeling cold things, hot things, smooth things and scratchy things.
But as the child grows up, his sense of awareness
through touch is curtailed. The tactile world is narrowed. He learns to erect body shields, becomes aware of his territorial needs in terms of his culture, and discovers that masking may keep him from being hurt even though it also keeps him from experiencing direct emotions. He comes to believe that what he loses in expression, he gains in protection.
Unfortunately, as the child grows into adulthood, the masks all too often harden and tighten and change from protective devices to crippling devices. The adult may find that while the mask helps him to keep his privacy and prevents any unwanted relationship, it also becomes a limiting thing and prevents the relationships he wants as well as those he doesn't want.
Then the adult becomes mentally immobilized. But because mental qualities are easily translated into physical qualities, he becomes physically immobilized as well. The new therapy based on the experiments at the Esalen Institute at Big Sur in California, on research done among isolated groups of men living in Antarctica, and on group seminars all over the world called encounter groups, seeks to break through these physical immobilizations and work backwards to the mental immobilization.
Dr William C. Schutz has written a great deal about the new technique of encounter groups, a technique for preserving man's identity in the pressure of today's society. To show how much of feeling and behaving are expressed in body language, Dr Schutz cites a number of interesting expressions that describe behaviour and emotional states in body terms. Among these are: shoulder a burden; face up; chin up; grit your teeth; a stiff upper lip; bare your teeth; catch your eye; shrug it off; and so on.
The interesting thing about these is that they are all
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also body-language phrases. Each of them expresses an emotion, but also expresses a physical body act that signals the same emotion.
When we consider these phrases we can understand Dr Schutz's suggestion that 'psychological attitudes affect body posture and functioning'. He cites Dr Ida Rolf's speculation that emotions harden the body in set patterns. The man who is constantly unhappy develops a frown as a set part of his physical being. The aggressive man who thrusts his head forwards all the time develops a posture with head thrust forwards and he cannot change it. His emotions, according to Dr Rolf, cause his posture or expression to freeze into a given position. In turn, this position pulls the emotions into line. If you have a face frozen in a habitual smile, Dr Rolf believes it will affect your personality and cause you to smile mentally. The same is true for a frown and for deeper, less obvious body postures.
Dr Alexander Lowen, in his book Physical Dynamics ofCharacter Structure, adds to this fascinating concept by stating that all neurotic problems are shown by the structure and function of the body. ' No words are so clear as the language of body expression once one has learned to read it,' he says.
He goes on to relate body function to emotion. A person with a sway back, he believes, can't have the strong ego of a man with a straight back. The straight back, on the other hand, is less flexible.
You Are what You Feel
Perhaps it is the knowledge of this linking of posture to emotion that makes an army direct its soldiers to stand
straight and stiff. The hope is that eventually they will become immovable and determined. Certainly the cliche of the old soldier with the 'ramrod up his back' and a rigid personality to go with it has some truth.
Lowen feels that retracted shoulders represent sup- pressed anger, raised shoulders are related to fear, square shoulders indicate shouldering responsibility, bowed shoulders carrying a burden, the weight of a heavy load.
It is difficult to separate fact from literary fancy in many of these suggestions of Lowen's, especially when he states that the bearing of the head is a function of ego strength and quality. He speaks of a long, proud neck or a short, bull neck.
Nevertheless there seems a great deal of sense in Lowen's relation of emotional states to their physical manifestations. If the way in which a person walks, sits, stands, moves, if his body language indicates his mood and personality and ability to reach others, then there must be ways of causing a person to change by changing his body language.
Schutz, in his book Joy, notes that groups of people often sit with arms and legs crossed to indicate tightness and withdrawal, resistance against anyone else reaching them. Asking such a person to unlock himself, uncross his legs or arms, Schutz believes, will also open this person to communication with the rest of the group. The important thing is to know what the person is saying with his crossed arms and legs, what message he is sending. It is also important for the person himself to know what message he intends. He must be aware of the reasons for his own tension before he can break it.
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How to Break Out of a Shell
How do you break out of your shell? How do you reach out to others? The first step in breaking free must be understanding that shell, understanding the defences you have set up. Recently, at a counsellor training centre at New York University, I was shown a number of video- tapes of interviews between counsellors who were learning the counselling technique and troubled children who were being counselled.
In one tape, a pleasant-featured, well-dressed white woman who reeked of gentility was interviewing a dis- turbed and extremely introverted black girl of fourteen. The girl sat at a table with her head down, her face hidden from the woman, her left hand further covering her eyes and her right hand stretched across the table top.
As the interview progressed, the girl's left hand still shielded her eyes. She would not look up though she was quite articulate, but her right hand stole out across the table top towards the counsellor, the fingers walking the hand along, retreating then advancing, cajoling and inviting, crying with an almost audible shriek of body language, 'Touch me! For heaven's sake - touch me! Take my hand and force me to look at you!'
The white counsellor, inexperienced in counselling techniques and thoroughly frightened by the entire experience, one of her first interviews, sat upright with her legs crossed and her arms folded across her chest. She smoked and moved only when she needed to tap the ash off her cigarette, but then her hand came back defensively across her chest. As plain as sight her physical attitude mirrored her mental attitude. 'I am frightened and I
cannot touch you. I don't know how to handle the situa- tion, but I must protect myself.'
How do you unlock such a situation?
Dr Arnold Buchheimer, professor of education at the university, explained that the first step in unlocking came through showing the videotape (taken without the know- ledge of either the counsellor or the counsellee) to the counsellor. Along with this went an in-depth discussion of how she had reacted and why. She would then be encouraged to examine her own fears and' hesitations, her own rigidity and tightness, and to attempt at the next session to achieve physical contact with the girl first and then verbal contact.
Before the series of counsellor sessions was over, the counsellor by training and analysing her own behaviour was able not only to reach the core of the girl's trouble on a verbal level, but also on a physical level; she was able to put her arm around her, hug her and give her some of the mothering she needed.
Her physical reaction was the first step towards open- ing a verbal reaction, and in due course towards helping the girl to help herself. In this situation the girl had asked in obvious body language for some physical contact. Her head down and her hand covering her eyes had said, 'I am ashamed. I cannot face you. I am afraid.' Her other hand, reaching across the table, said, 'Touch me. Re- assure me. Make contact with me.'
The counsellor by clasping her arms across her breast and sitting rigidly had said, ' I am afraid, I cannot touch you nor permit you to invade my privacy.'
Only when a mutual invasion became possible and there was direct physical contact could these two meet, then give and receive help.
The contact or invasion of privacy necessary to break
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down the barriers and strip away the masking need not always be physical. It can also be verbal. At a recent trip to Chicago I met a remarkable young man who was staying at my hotel. He had the unusual ability of verbally demolishing people's masks and barriers. Walking along the street with him one evening, we passed a restaurant in the style of the mid-nineteenth century. The commis- sionaire was dressed in a costume suitable to the period and physically was an imposing man.
My new friend stopped and to my intense embarrass- ment began the most intimate conversation with the commissionaire, intimate in terms of his family, his hopes in life and his achievements. To me it seemed the worst breach of good taste. One just does not intrude on a man's privacy in this way.
I was sure the reaction of the commissionaire would be to take offence, to be embarrassed and to withdraw. To my amazement, it was none of these. The commis- sionaire responded after only a moment's hesitancy, and before ten minutes were up, he had confided his hopes, ambitions and problems to my friend. We left him delighted and enthusiastic. Stunned, I asked my new friend, 'D o you always come on that strong?'
'Wh y not?' he asked. 'I care about that man. I was willing to ask about his problems and give him advice. He appreciated that. I feel better for doing it, and he feels better for my having done it.'
The Silent Cocktail Party
It was true, but the ability to cut across the lines of taste and privacy is a rare thing. Not all of us have it, and not all of those who have it can avoid giving offence. I
wonder, too, if my friend would have been as successful with someone who was his superior. Commissionaires are seen by many of us as non-persons and may react with gratitude to any notice.
But even if we cannot reach out verbally, we can devise methods of reaching each other in non-verbal ways, ways that may or may not include physical contact. One very successful way was a cocktail party given recently by a psychologist friend. He invited his guests with little invitations that informed them this was to be a non- verbal gathering.
'Touch, smell, stare and taste,' his invitation read, 'but don't speak. We're spending an evening in non-verbal communication.'
My wife and I groaned at the precious quality of the invitation, but we couldn't gracefully get out of it. We went and to our surprise found it fascinating.
The room had been rearranged so that there were no available seats. We all stood and milled around, danced, gestured, mimed and went through elaborate charades, all without talking.
We knew only one other couple, and all our intro- ductions were self-made and handicapped, or helped, by the imposed silence. We had to really work at getting to know each other, and amazingly enough we ended the evening with a clear and deep knowledge of our new friends.
What happened, of course, was that the verbal element of masking was taken away. All the rest of our masks were only half supported. They slipped easily and we found that we had to do without them to make our best contacts, and the contacts were physical for the most part.
In the silence, all accents and speech inflections and their link to status were eliminated. I shook hands with
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one man and noticed the callouses on his palm. This led to an acted-out version of his job with a construction crew and, without the barrier of words, to a closer under- standing than is usually possible between two men in different class situations.
This is very much a parlour game, but a parlour game with a difference. There are no losers, and the total result is a more meaningful understanding of the people with whom you play. There are other games designed to enhance communication, to make body language under- standable and to break down the barriers we erect to protect ourselves.
Playing Games for Health's Sake
Dr Schutz has put together a number of these 'parlour games', some garnered from the California Institute of Technology, some from the UCLA School of Business and some from the National Training Laboratories at Bethel, Maine. They are all designed to break down barriers, to unmask yourself and others and to make you aware of body language and its message.
One of them Schutz calls ' Feeling Space'. He instructs a group of people to sit together on the floor or in chairs and, with eyes closed, stretch out their hands and 'feel' the space around them. Inevitably they will contact each other, touch and explore each other and react to that contact and their neighbour's intrusion upon their own bodies.
Some people, he notes, like to touch others and some do not. Some like being touched and some do not. The possible interactions, combinations, and permutations will often bring hidden emotions to the surface. If these
are discussed afterwards, the touchers and touchees can find a new awareness of themselves and their neighbours.
Another game Schutz calls ' Blind Milling'. Here, again with eyes closed, the group moves around a room en- countering, touching and exploring each other with their hands. The end result is similar to that in Feeling Space.
Beyond these tentative explorations, Schutz suggests techniques that put emotional feeling into body language. As an example, he tells of a young man who withdrew from any direct relationship that might hurt him. It was easier for him to run away than to risk being hurt. To make him aware of what he was actually doing, his therapy group tried to get him to tell the person he dis- liked most in the group his true feelings about him. When he protested that he just could not do this, he was told to leave the group and sit in a comer. The physical acting out of his usual withdrawal made him realize he would rather withdraw than face a person directly and truthfully. He would rather remove himself from a group than risk doing something that might end up in an unpleasant situation, that might make someone else dislike him.
Much of the technique of the encounter groups is based on, the physical acting out of an emotional problem.
On another level it is putting into body language what has already existed in emotional terms. Saying it with your body, however, allows you to understand it more completely.
In Schutz's technique, the man who has a suppressed hatred mixed with a very real love for his father, can best realize and deal with these conflicting emotions by pre- tending some other malleable object, say a pillow, is his father. He is encouraged to hit the pillow while expressing his anger and rage.
Often the furious beating of the pillow (if it does not
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come apart and fill the' air with feathers) will carry the beater into an emotional state where his hostility to his father can empty out of him. Having expressed himself this way, in blatant physical terms, he may no longer feel in deep conflict, may indeed be able to express his love for his father, a love that has always been smothered by resentment and hostility.
What has happened to him is a freeing of emotion and the ability to hate as well as love. Often, instead of an inanimate object such as a pillow, the emotions can be freed in interaction between actual people.
Another technique for exposing a man to himself is for a group of people to form a circle with closed arms and let the person who is struggling to understand himself fight his way into the circle. The way in which he handles him- self in this situation can help him to understand his real self and his real needs.
Some people will force and butt their way in to become part of a circle. Some will talk their way in, and others will use sly and devious techniques, such as tickling one member of the circle till he moves aside and lets the tickler join.
When a new encounter group is being formed, one interesting technique, Schutz suggests, is to have the members, one by one, brought up before the group to be examined physically, to be prodded, pushed, watched, touched and smelled. This, he feels, makes the reality of the person much greater to his fellow group members.
I would suggest that another technique could be based on body language. One member of a group could be watched by the others and then described in terms of body language. What is he saying by his walk, by his stance, by his gestures? Is what we think he is saying the same as what he is actually saying?
A discussion of the signals sent and the signals received
might enable a person to gain new insights. What mes- sages do you send? Does your walk express the way you really feel, the way you think you feel, or the way others see you? We send out certain signals of body language and it is possible to learn more about ourselves by listening to others interpret the signals that we send.
Psychologists have been aware of this for a long time, and the technique of filming a man in a relationship with others, then showing the film to him and discussing his own signals, his own body language, has proved effective in opening his eyes to reality.
Without the sophisticated techniques of film and videotape, how can we begin to understand our own signals? There are a number of ways, and perhaps the most obvious and the easiest is through a parlour game like charades - but different.
One man or woman at a gathering or group goes out of the room and then enters and without words tries to get across an idea or an emotion such as happiness, ecstasy, mourning or chagrin. Without resorting to the symbolic gestures and abbreviations of charades, this becomes a problem of personality projection. The one trying to project the idea suddenly becomes aware of himself, of his own gestures and signals, of how he holds himself and how he moves.
Afterwards, when the group discusses the success or failure of his attempt to speak with body language, he becomes aware of their reaction to his signals. Has he tried to signal shyness and succeeded instead in getting haughtiness across? Has he sent out amusement for pain, assurance for uncertainty? In the larger mirror of life itself does he also confuse his signals? Or are his signals correctly interpreted?
This is a matter we should all take some time to con-
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sider. Do we present our real selves to the world? Are the messages our friends receive the same as the ones we think we send? If they aren't, this may be part of our failure to integrate into the world. This may be a clue towards understanding our failures in life.
Another parlour game that can help towards self- understanding is to ask a group to give one of its members a new name, a name that is suited to his body movements. Then the person is asked to act in accordance with the new name the group has given him. Often the sudden freedom to act in a new fashion, to accept a new person- ality, will serve as a liberating force and will clear away inhibitions, allowing the newly named person to under- stand himself on a different level. This is acting out a new personality, but also a personality he would prefer to the one he has.
There are other variations of 'acting out' that can cut to the heart of a situation. A friend of mine told me recently that in his own family he was having some very serious problems between his seventeen-year-old daughter and his fourteen-year-old son. ' They've gotten to the stage where they can't be in the same room without exploding. Everything he does is wrong in her eyes, and she's always at him.'
At my suggestion he tried a non-verbal game with the two of them and told them to do whatever they wanted, but not to use words.
' For a few moments,' he told me later, 'they were at a loss. Without words she couldn't scold him, and it seemed as if she didn't know what else to do, what other way to relate to him. Then he came over to where she was sitting and grinned at her, and all at once she caught him, pulled him down on her lap and actually cuddled him to the amazement of the rest of the family.'
What came out of this in a discussion later was that the entire family agreed that by her actions she had seemed to be mothering him. She did indeed feel like a mother to him, and her constant scolding was less in the nature of criticism and more in the nature of possessive mother- love. Her body-language action of cuddling made her aware of this and opened his eyes as well. Afterwards, my friend reported, while they continued their bickering, it was hardly as serious as before and underlying it on both parts was a new warmth and understanding'.
What often happens in any relationship is that language itself becomes a mask and a means of clouding and con- fusing the relationship. If the spoken language is stripped away and the only communication left is body language, the truth will find some way of poking through. Spoken language itself is a great obscurer.
In love and in sexual encounters, the spoken word can act as a deterrent to the truth. One of the most useful therapeutic exercises for a couple in love is to attempt, in complete darkness, to transmit a definite message to each other with only the tactile elements of body language. Try to tell your lover: 'I need you. I will make you happy.' Or 'I resent you. You do not do this or that properly.' 'You are too demanding.' 'You are not demanding enough.'
Stripped of words, these exercises in sexuality and love can become intensely meaningful and can help a relation- ship develop and grow. The same communication with- out words, but with the visual instead of the tactile sense, can be a second step in the maturing of a love affair. Somehow it is a great deal easier for many people to look at each other's bodies after having touched them.
The Silent Language of Love
Stance, Glance and Advance
Mike is a ladies' man, someone who is never at a loss for a girl. Mike can enter a party full of strangers and within ten minutes end up on intimate terms with one of the girls. Within half an hour he has cut her out of the pack and is on his way home with her - to his or her place, depending on which is closer.
How does Mike do it? Other men who have spent half the evening drumming up enough courage to approach a girl, will see Mike come in and take over quickly and effectively. But they don't know why.
Ask the girls and they'll shrug.' I don't know. He just has his antennae out, I guess. I get signals, and I answer them, and the first thing I know . . .'
Mike is not particularly good-looking. He's smart enough, but that's not his attraction. It seems that Mike almost has a sixth sense about him. If there's an available girl Mike will find her, or she will find him.
What does Mike have?
Well, if he hasn't looks or brilliance, he has something
far more important for this type of encounter. Mike has
an unconscious command of body language and he uses it
expertly. When Mike saunters into a room he signals his
message automatically. 'I' m available, I'm masculine. I'm aggressive and knowledgeable.' And then when he zeroes in on his chosen subject, the signals go, ' I'm interested in you. You attract me. There's something exciting about you and I want to find out what it is.'
Watch Mike in action. Watch him make contact and signal his availability. We all know at least one Mike, and we all envy him his ability. What is the body language he uses?
Well, Mike's appeal, Mike's non-verbal clarity, is compounded of many things. His appearance is part of it. Not the appearance he was born with, that's rather ordi- nary, but the way Mike has rearranged that appearance to transmit his message. There is, when you look at Mike carefully, a definite sexuality about him.
' Of course,' a knowing woman will say,' Mike is a very sexy man.' But sexy how? Not in his features.
Pressed further, the woman will explain, 'It's some- thing about him, something he has, a sort of aura.'
Actually it's nothing of the sort, nothing so vague as an aura. In part it's the way Mike dresses, the type of trousers he chooses, his shirts and jackets and ties, the way he combs his hair, the length of his sideburns - these all contribute to the immediate picture, but even more important than this is the way Mike stands and walks.
One woman described it as an 'easy grace'. A man who knew Mike was not so kind. 'He's greasy.' What came through as pleasing to the woman was transmitted as disturbing or challenging and therefore distasteful to the man, and he reacted by characterizing the quality contemptuously.
Yet Mike does move with grace, an arrogant sort of grace that could well arouse a man's envy and a woman's excitement. A few actors have that same movement, Paul
THE SILENT LANGUAGE OF LOVE
Newman, Marlon Brando, Rip Torn, and with it they can transmit an obvious sexual message. The message can be broken down into the way they hold themselves, their stance or posture, and the easy confidence of their motion. The man who has that walk needs little else to turn a woman's head.
But Mike has more. He has dozens of little gestures, perhaps unconscious ones, that send out elaborations of his sexual message. When Mike leans up against a mantel- piece in a room to look around at the women, his hips are thrust forwards slightly, as if they were cantilevered, and his legs are usually apart. There is something in this stance that spells sex.
Watch Mike when he stands like this. He will lock his thumbs in his belt right above the pockets, and his fingers will point down towards his genitals. You have surely seen the same stance a hundred times in Western movies, usually not taken by the hero, but by the sexy bad guy as he lounges against a corral fence, the picture of threaten- ing sexuality, the villain the men hate and the women - well, what they feel is a lot more complex than hate or desire or fear, and yet it's a mixture of all these things. With his blatant body language, his leather chaps, his cantilevered groin and pointing fingers he is sending out a crude, obvious but effective signal.' I am a sexual threat. I am a dangerous man for a woman to be alone with. I am all man and I want you!'
On a minor scale, less blatant, Mike sends out the same message.
But his body language doesn't stop there. This much serves to signal his intentions, to create an atmosphere, an aura if you will. This fascinates the available women and interests or even irritates the non-available ones.
Mike himself explained how he proceeded after this.'I
size up the women, the ones who want it. How? It's easy. By the way they stand or sit. And then I make my choice and I catch her eye. If she's interested she'll respond. If not, I forget her.'
'How do you catch her eye?'
'I hold the glance a little longer than I should, since I
don't really know her. I won't let her eyes slide away, and
I narrow mine - sort of.'
But there is even more to Mike's approach than the
insistent eye, as I observed one evening at a' party. Mike
has an uncanny instinct for sizing up a woman's defensive
body language and insistently breaking it down. Are her
arms clasped defensively? He opens his. Is her posture
rigid? He relaxes as they talk. Is her face pinched and
drawn? He smiles and loosens his face.
In short, he answers her body signals with opposite and complementary signals of his own, and by doing this intrudes himself into her awareness. He brushes aside her body-language pretences, and because unconsciously she really wants to open herself up, she opens up to Mike.
Mike moves in on a woman. When he has made signal contact, when his body language gets the message of his availability across, his next step is physical invasion, but physical invasion without touch.
He cuts into the woman's territory or body zone. He comes close enough for her to be uneasy, and yet not close enough for her to logically object. Mike doesn't touch his victim needlessly. His closeness, his intrusion into her territory, is enough to change the situation between them.
Then Mike carries his invasion even further by visual intrusion as they talk. What they say really doesn't matter much. Mike's eyes do far more talking than his voice. They linger on the woman's throat, on her breasts, her
At a party. Who will go with whom? The man on the left has just joined the group in a relaxed easy mood. Next comes a complete example of masculine aggression, while the tilt of the head marks recognition of a rival. The girl is not open to any approach, legs and hands display the same message. The third man is not really inter- ested, note the tightly folded arms while his partner is equally un- interested in him - she is almost falling over in her determination to keep her distance. We can just see the third girl. She isn't following either conversation, but her attention is entirely on one man.
In the street. Are you sure he's on the prowl?
From reading the book, the answer is obviously yes.
Can she be persuaded? The couple on the left don't seem to have any problems. The girl in the centre looks uninterested but this couple have established a firm relationship - close contact, legs crossed towards each other. The third girl would welcome a new partner, she really isn't interested - elbows, hands, glass and legs all tightly closed up and she is certainly looking across the wide open spaces.
'I don't even know you are there.' Everyone wants an area of space around them. In a crowd it isn't always possible but woe betide either man if he thinks he can make something out of this situation,
Three's a crowd .. . He may think this is a three-way discussion but the other two have already forgotten him. They are so intent on each other that they have completely copied each other's gestures and posture.
'Hey, you're invading my territory.' Another example of intrusion which will cause a hostile reaction - ashtray, score pad, candles and cards have all been pushed across the table.
'Just look this way.'
Two will soon be company. Any minute that handbag is going to drop and his knee will just be in the way. He started in the middle of the bench, an indication that he wanted it all to himself, but now he's well aware of the girl and he's even turning over the pages of that book the wrong way.
'I'm more important than your caller,' Not content with standing in front of his secretary he has to further emphasize his importance by kneeling on the chair.
'Relax, everything's fine.'
Nothing but tension and aggression here.
THE SILENT LANGUAGE OF LOVE
body. They linger sensuously and with promise. Mike touches his tongue to his lips, narrows his eyes, and invariably the woman becomes uneasy and excited. Remember, she's not just any woman, but that particular susceptible woman who has responded to Mike's opening gambit. She has returned his flattering attentions, and now she is in too deep to protest.
And anyway, what could she protest against? Just what has Mike done? He hasn't touched her. He hasn't made any suggestive remark. He is, by all the standards of society, a perfect gentleman. If his eyes are a bit too hot, a bit too bold, this is still a matter of interpretation. If the girl doesn't like it she has only to be rude and move off.
But why shouldn't the girl like it? Mike is flattering her with his attention. In effect he is saying,' You interest me. I want to know you better, more intimately. You're not like other women. You're the only woman here I care about.'
For, in addition to his flattering attention to this woman, Mike never makes the mistake of spreading his interest. He narrows his focus and speaks to only one woman, and he makes the impact of his body language all the stronger for it. Half the time, when Mike leaves with the girl of his choice, she hardly needs any persuasion. By that time a simple, 'Let's go!' is enough.
Is She Available?
How does Mike single out his victim? What body language does an available girl at a party use to say,' I'm available. I'm interested. I can be had'? There must be a definite set of signals because Mike rarely makes a mistake.
A girl in our society has an additional problem in this
game of sexual encounters. No matter how available she may be, it's considered pretty square to let anyone know it. This would instantly put her value down and cheapen her. And yet, unconsciously, she must let her intent be known. How does she do it?
A big part of the way she transmits her message is also in stance, posture or movement. An available woman moves in a studied way. A man may label it posing, another woman, affectation, but the movement of her body, hips and shoulders telegraph her availability. She may sit with her legs apart, symbolically open and invit- ing, or she may affect a gesture in which one hand touches her breast in a near-caress. She may stroke her thighs as she talks or walk with a languorous roll to her hips. Some of her movements are studied and conscious, some completely unconscious.
A few generations ago female availability was broadly burlesqued by Mae West's 'come up and see me some time' routine. A later generation turned to the baby-face and hushed and breathless voice quality of a Marilyn Monroe - a tarnished innocence. Today, in a more cynical age, it is again blatant sexuality. Someone like Raquel Welch spells out the message. But these are the obvious, motion-picture messages. On a subtler, living-room level, the level on which Mike operates, the message is more discreet, often so discreet that the man who is ignorant of body language misses it completely. Even the man who knows a little about the subject may be misled. For example, the woman who crosses her arms across her chest may be transmitting the classic signal, ' I am closed to any advance. I will not listen to you, or hear you.'
This is a common interpretation of closed arms, and it is one with which most psychologists are familiar. As an example of this, there was a recent story in the papers
THE SILENT LANGUAGE OF LOVE
about Dr Spock addressing a class at the Police Academy. The audience of police were extremely hostile to the good doctor, in spite of the fact that he was responsible for the way most of them and their children had been brought up. They demonstrated their hostility verbally in their dis- cussion, but also much more obviously in body language. In the news photo, every policeman sat with his arms crossed tightly over his chest, his face hard and closed.
Very clearly they were saying,' I am sitting here with a closed mind. No matter what you say I'm unwilling to listen. We just can't meet.' This is the classical inter- pretation of crossed arms.
But there is another equally valid interpretation. Crossed arms may say, 'I am frustrated. I am not getting what I need. I am closed in, locked in. Let me out. I can be approached and am readily available.'
While the man who knows only a little about body language may misinterpret this gesture, the man well educated in body language will get the correct message from the accompanying signals the girl sends out. Is her face pinched and tight with frustration? Is she sitting stiffly instead of in a relaxed position? Does she avert her eye when you try to catch it?
All the body signals must be added up to a correct total if a man is to use body language effectively.
The aggressively available woman acts in a predictable fashion, too. She has a number of effective tricks of body language to telegraph her availability. As Mike does, she uses territorial intrusion to make her point. She will sit uncomfortably close to the man she is after, taking advantage of the uneasiness such closeness arouses. As the man shifts and fidgets, unaware of why he is disturbed, she will move in with other signals, using his uneasiness as a means of throwing him off balance.
While a man on the make cannot touch the woman if he is to play the game fairly, it is perfectly permissible for a woman on the make, at this stage of the game, to touch the man. This touch can exaggerate the uneasiness of the man into whose territory she has cut.
A touch on the arm can be a disarming blow. ' Do you have a match?' Steadying the hand that holds it to her cigarette can allow a moment of flesh-to-flesh contact that may be effectively troubling.
The contact of a woman's thigh, or her hand care- lessly brushed against a man's thigh can be devastating if it is applied at just the right moment.
The aggressive approach by a woman can utilize not only body language - the adjustment of a skirt as she sits close, the uncrossing of her legs, the thrusting forwards of her breasts, a pouting mouth - it can also utilize smell. The right perfume in the right amount, to give an elusive but exciting scent, is an important part of the aggressive approach.
Is the Face Worth Saving?
But sight, touch and smell are still less than the complete arsenal of the woman on the warpath. Sound is a very definite part of the approach. It is not always what she says, but the tone of her voice, the invitation behind the words, the pitch and the intimate, caressing quality of the sound.
The French actresses understand this well, but French is a language that lends itself to sexuality, no matter what is being said. One of the most amusing off-Broadway revue sketches I have ever seen consisted of an actor and actress doing a 'scene' from a French movie. Each recited
THE SILENT LANGUAGE OF LOVE
a list of vegetables in French, but the tone of voice, cadence and vocal innuendo dripped sexuality.
This, as we described earlier in the book, is the use of one communication band to carry two messages. In the area of love and sex it is a very common use. For the aggressively available woman it can serve to throw a man off guard. This is a trick used by both men and woman in the aggressive sexual pursuit. If you throw your quarry off balance, make him or her uneasy, moving in for the kill becomes relatively easy.
The trick of using the voice to carry one innocuous spoken message and another more meaningful, and much stronger, unspoken message is particularly effective because the quarry, male or female, cannot protest by the rules of the game. The aggressor, if protest is made, can always draw back and say, with some truth, 'But what did I do? What did I say?'
There is a face-saving device in this, for no matter how hot the pursuit of love or sex, it cannot be done with the risk of losing face. For many people, particularly if they are insecure, losing face is a devastating and humiliating occurrence. The sexual aggressor, if he or she is truly successful at the trade, is concerned with face-saving in his victim only as a means of manipulating his quarry. To be sexually aggressive, a man or woman must have enough self-assurance, enough security, to function without the need of face-saving devices.
On the opposite side of the coin, the sexually insecure person, the quarry in the inevitable hunt, desperately needs to avoid humiliation, to save face. This puts her at a tremendous disadvantage in the game. The aggressor can manipulate the quarry, holding loss of face as a threat.
When, for example, the aggressor moves in on the