Editor’s Desk

Column: Raise those arms in victory

May 2, 2014 

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Johnny Whitfield, columnist The Eastern Wake News and The Clayton News Star.

TAKAAKI IWABU — tiwabu@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

My friend Lorrinda Michiecka, of Wendell, listens to TED Talk presentations online.

She is very in tune to self-motivation and what moves people to do the things we do. How can we be more efficient? How can we be more productive? How can we separate the important stuff in our life from the not-so-important stuff?

These are questions that have intrigued social scientists for a long time. And they still do.

The TED Talks, if you’re not familiar with them, started way back in the 1980s as an opportunity to discuss technology, education and design (TED). The idea was to bring some of the brightest minds in those areas together to let them speak publicly about innovation in their field and how it could be used to expand our knowledge and our approach to work.

Today, the TED Talks have expanded to cover a great many topics aside from the original big three. And, though they seem most fitting for academic types, many of them are in language plain spoken enough to be understood by most folks.

At a Rotary meeting earlier this week, Lorrinda shared a video of one of those TED Talks.

The speaker was talking about body language and how that affects people we work with. Open bodies, like a sprinter raising his arms in victory as he crosses the finish line, indicate powerful people. Those who sit in a ball or wrap their arms around themselves tend to be more closed, weaker people.

I consciously uncrossed my arms when the speaker said that.

The idea of non-verbal communications is an interesting one. I’ve long heard it said that one should look another person directly in the eye when speaking to them. People who glance this way or that, or stare at the floor during a conversation, aren’t giving off confident vibes. Those who do look you straight in the eye seem more assured of what they are saying and their arguments tend to have a more convincing quality.

Sitting up straight is another of those non-verbal cues that give an indication of what kind of person you might be. Aside from the physical benefits of sitting up with a straight posture, folks like that tend to be more focused, more diligent and more active. The fellow who slouches into his chair just looks like someone who’s waiting for bedtime.

Knowing these kinds of things may seem like just so much drivel that we don’t really need to fill our brains with. But consider how many times a day or week you’re in communication with another person. Think about how you want them to receive what you are saying, and how often you are trying to convince another person to see something the same way you do.

Most likely, the person you’re talking too doesn’t sit there and consciously say, “Well, he’s slouching over. I don’t have to do what he wants.” But unconcsciously, that’s what happens. Making use of the more positive, stronger non-verbal actions can really be beneficial in the long run.

Of course for those of us, like me, who like to cross our arms, habits can be hard to break. But they can be broken and new habits formed.

That’s the kind of action the TED Talks hopes to inspire from people. And that’s the kind of thing my friend Lorrinda works on so diligently.

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