In this post, I will give you a tool you can use in any social interaction with others - even over the phone or video calls. I call it the "OK Compass" and it derives from Transactional Analysis. I developed it based on Franklin H. Ernst's OK Corral (or Life Positions) from 1971. To read more about the OK Corral (and Life Positions), please read my writing on it here. The picture below can give you a compresensive summary.
Ernst classifies the social encounters of people by using a grid with four segments. Here I am just mentioning their names (codes), as I will be using them in my Compass too - and as you might expect it will concentrate on the nonverbal behaviors of these four dynamic social operations.
One of the four major classes of outcomes of our social encounters is coded as GOW. It comes from the Get-On-With term. It is for the social encounter when our personal experience with that particular person can be described as I-Am-OK and You-Are-OK. The second one is called GRO. In the Get-Rid-Of situation we experience that I-Am-OK and You-Are-Not-OK. GAF is for Get-Away-From experience where we wish to be far from the other person as we see I-Am-Not-OK and You-Are-OK. Finally GNW is for Get-Nowhere-With when I-Am-Not-OK and You-Are-Not-OK.
Now that you know what GOW, GRO, GAF and GNW mean, we can take the next step. I have picked and now will show you 10 nonverbal cues from my Multimodal Messaging Inventory (that consists of more than 3000 hierarchically categorized cues) database. Perceive them from 1 to 10 and decide whether the subject is experiencing GOW, GRO, GAF or GNW. You may want to write down your answer on a piece of paper. At the bottom of the page you will find a key to the 10 cues (based on my interpretation that may be different from yours). Note: a cue may have more positions (e.g. first GRO then GOW) as the situation evolves.
CUE #1: Is the lady in GOW, GRO, GAF or GNW?
CUE #2: Where are the two ladies in this situation?
CUE #3: Where is the woman and where is the man?
CUE #4: Where are these people?
CUE #5: Where is the girl whose face we can see?
CUE #6: Where is the little girl?
CUE #7: Where is this guy?
CUE #8: Where are they?
CUE #9: Where are these two guys?
CUE 10: Where are they?
You can practice it further by having a look around where you are or you will be in the next couple of hours today. Observe the social interactions and using your knowledge and intuition guess what the interacting persons are expressing in the light of the Okayness. Please read on and later you can go through the 10 situations again.
Let me give you some typical cues of the four positions (that may even last a fraction of a second) so that you can have sharp senses to decode them. (Note: these are just possible cues. People widely can vary on how they express these positions and different people can use the same cues to express different positions.) Imagine the following situation now. One of your team members, Mike, comes to you and asks: "Hey boss, can you please quickly help? Sign this paper here, please. I want to sell my car and I need a witness now." Now see for some possible answers from your side both from the verbal and the nonverbal levels:
Words: "Sure, where can I sign it, Mike?"
Proxemics: You stand up and walk to Mike, decreasing the distance (movement)
Voice: higher pitch, energetic
Gestures: putting hands sideways into an open position
Head movements: nodding
Eyes: looking at the person and the paper
Face: smiling, brows up, you may blink more to see clearly your target
Matching: turning torso towards to other person
Physiological responses: dilated pupils, longer inhaling
Haptics: you tend to touch the person's shoulder or give a handshake
Words: "I am on the phone now. Can you please leave now, thanks."
Proxemics: You turn around and show your back on your swivel chair, increasing the distance
Voice: it can be loud and commanding or silent and soft depending on the context
Gestures: showing palm (stopping, blocking) or clenching fist (frustration, anger)
Head movements: shaking left and right
Eyes: keeping eye contact to show dominance (power gaze)
Face: frown may occur, tensed mouth and eyes, lines on forehead
Matching: out of sync with the other person
Posture: closed, blocking
Physiological responses: smaller pupils, sweating, red or white face may be observed
Haptics: very unlikely - mainly when the situation is violent
Words: "I am sorry, I am already late from an important meeting. Maybe next time?"
Proxemics: You are physically leaving the room, increasing the distance between your target
Voice: Higher pitch, fast
Gestures: putting two hands up in the air (defence)
Head movements: turning head up and then towards the door
Eyes: avoiding eye contact
Face: may be smiling (social smile, not a felt smile), widely opened eyes, inner lip roll can occur
Matching: turning towards the exit
Posture: blocking with hands or objects
Physiological responses: face may be red, faster breathing, sweating
Haptics: touching the shoulder or upper arm to excuse or handshake to say goodbye
Words: "Look, I won't sign anything without reading it through and knowing what it exactly is." (From your perspective the situation: I am not OK to sign it with this condition and You are not OK with my answer as you need it urgently so together, we are getting nowhere)
Proxemics: You are leaning back on your chair, increasing the distance
Voice: deeper, sighs, emphasizing certain words (especially "nothing", "never" or "all the time")
Gestures: putting hands into the pockets, crossing hands or touching head
Head movements: shaking left and right
Eyes: keeping eye contact then looking away
Face: brows down or up, some lines may appear on forehead, pressed lips or lips part
Matching: out of sync with the other
Posture: closed, rigid, powerlessly bent forward
Physiological responses: small pupils, longer blinks or keeping the eyes closed
Haptics: chance is very slight to touch the other person
Now, here is my very simple tool, the OK Compass. Once you become a good reader of GOW, GRO, GAF and GNW, (I guess once you look at the guy above you immediately detect his GAF) ask the four questions below whenever you enter a social interaction with someone:
1 - What messages am I sending on where I am with this person? (GOW, GRO, GAF or GNW)
2 - What messages is the person sending on where the person is with me? (GOW, GRO, GAF or GNW)
3 - Where do I want us to be? (GOW, GRO, GAF or GNW)
4 - What messages do I need to send now to get there?
Download the one pager here.
Isn't it simple? It is simple but not easy because it requires focus, concentration, awareness - energy, to put it simple. We tend to enter the interactions with others during a day in an autopilot mode because we have a lot to concentrate on - the deadlines, budget, bills, contracts, vendors, challenges from the facility or technology. But believe me, it is worth the effort. Why? Because you will realize that after some practice it can become your second nature and you can cultivate great relationships with others (considering you also wish to arrive to GOW with them), you can have a good time just by practicing it and by being seen as an OK person/leader/parent/neighbour etc. others will trust you more. And in our social interactions with others everything is built on trust. See for yourself.
KEY TO THE EXERCISE
If you have any questions, comments or stories, share them with me via email. We can publish them here.
(c) NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION COACH - www.nonverbalcommunicationcoach.com
by Bali Polyanki
(c) All Rights Reserved 2017