Body language: defense mechanisms

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Text comes from: Die Macht der versteckten Signale: Wortwahl - Körpersprache - Emotionen. Nonverbale Widerstände erkennen und überwinden (2014) from Dr. Gabriele Cerwinka, Gabriele Schranz, published by Linde Verlag, Reprints by friendly permission of the publisher.
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Our shoulders are important building blocks of our physical defensive wall. Pulling it up, we protect our neck, which is an extremely vulnerable part of our body. Here our main lifebloom flows through, an attack on it can be deadly.


Here writes for you:


Dr. Gabriele Cerwinka cerwinkaDr. Gabriele Cerwinka is a shareholder of Schranz and Cerwinka OEG.


From the author:




Here writes for you:


Gabriele Schranz SchranzGabriele Schranz is a shareholder of Schranz and Cerwinka OEG; Vienna - Zurich.


Like a turtle

Anyone who wants to withdraw from a conversation, pulls his neck imperceptibly and shoulders up. The neck is made as short as possible to reduce the area of ​​attack.

We are thereby blocking ourselves not only from attacks, but also from new, perhaps threatening, ideas. This attitude is also called the turtle conservation.

Move away unpleasant

If we want to push an unpleasant situation away from us, we often do so not only with hands and feet, but with the whole body.

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In conversation with his colleague, the boss stretches his hands forward, straightens his legs forward with raised toes and at the same time leans back as far as possible in his chair.

When the body signals defenses

The whole body signals defense, no matter what its words also express: "This is an interesting proposal, Mr. Meier!" - Poor Mr. Meier, his suggestion will probably end up in the large storage area called a waste basket!

Our body has a whole series of threatening gestures that serve to intimidate, "push away" the conversational opponent or protect themselves.

The "anger-swollen" chest is a clear sign: Who fluffed up like a fighting cock, has no peaceful, harmonious conversation in the Sense.

John Wayne look

The classic gunslinger stands wide-legged, hands ready at all times and already in a "firing position" - an outstretched thumb - near the belt, with a focused look and the setting sun behind him on the village street of "Showdown-City".

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His whole body expresses the highest tension, willingness to attack at any time. Every opponent correctly interprets this body language signal. But also without a holster revolver, without dramatic background music and a “John Wayne look”:

Ammunition of words and looks

We find this gesture again with one or the other conversation partner. The slightly angled arms with the pointed elbows pointing upwards and the more or less shooting hand on the side are threatening - even if the ammunition only consists of words and looks!

But not only are threats creating barriers in a conversation. Even gestures, openly displayed, often harm the harmony decisively.

Confident or arrogant?

If a participant leans back demonstratively in a team meeting and folds his arms behind his head, he seems at first glance relaxed, casual, confident.

But what does his gesture really say? He presents his sensitive soft tissues openly and without defense (the hands are “fixed” behind the head), yes, he almost provokes an attack.

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Distance zones - everyone feels different

Anyone who gives the other so clearly to understand that he is neither afraid of taking his attack nor taking it seriously is already very sure of his cause. “Whatever arguments you bring up now, mine is the best, my position as winner is absolutely unassailable!”

People perceive physical closeness differently. One is already having a hard time with the general practice of greeting kisses, the other one can not get close enough to his fellow human beings.

Where do the differences come from?

These differences arise, on the one hand, from our different perceptions - depending on which are more pronounced: hearing, seeing or feeling - and, on the other hand, our experiences so far.

Our social distance starts at 1,50 meters and reaches up to about two meters. Here, we have all the places we meet in the professional world: employees, bosses, customers, salesmen, etc. A very tight space for so many people!

Social minimum distance

This minimum social distance can not always be met. Very often we also have to move wildly. Just think about the situation in the crowded subway, the crowded elevator, the dentist or the hairdresser.

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Everywhere we feel the others up close. We defend ourselves unconsciously: sometimes with the simple turning to the side - also here our bone side is used again.

When proximity becomes unavoidable

We withdraw into ourselves, our body “ignores” the proximity, we try to avoid a conversation in such situations as much as possible.

At the dentist and the hairdresser, we can hardly turn aside, because we have to accept the crossing of the distance zone.

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