Many years ago, a drama teacher, exasperated at my bad acting in
a college play, shouted, “No! No! Your body is belying your words.
Every tiny movement, every body position,” he howled, “divulges
your private thoughts. Your face can make seven thousand different
expressions, and each exposes precisely who you are and what
you are thinking at any particular moment.” Then he said something
I’ll never forget: “And your body! The way you move is your
autobiography in motion.”
How right he was! On the stage of real life, every physical
move you make subliminally tells everyone in eyeshot the story of
your life. Dogs hear sounds our ears can’t detect. Bats see shapes
in the darkness that elude our eyes. And people make moves that
are beneath human consciousness but have tremendous power to
attract or repel. Every smile, every frown, every syllable you utter,
or every arbitrary choice of word that passes between your lips can
draw others toward you or make them want to run away.
Men—did your gut feeling ever tell you to jump ship on a
deal? Women—did your women’s intuition make you accept or
reject an offer? On a conscious level, we may not be aware of what
the hunch is. But like the ear of the dog or the eye of the bat, the
elements that make up subliminal sentiments are very real.
Imagine, please, two humans in a complex box wired with circuits
to record all the signals flowing between the two. As many
as ten thousand units of information flow per second. “Probably
the lifetime efforts of roughly half the adult population of the
United States would be required to sort the units in one hour’s
interaction between two subjects,” a University of Pennsylvania
communications authority estimates.1
With the zillions of subtle actions and reactions zapping back
and forth between two human beings, can we come up with concrete
techniques to make our every communication clear, confident,
credible, and charismatic?
Determined to find the answer, I read practically every book
written on communications skills, charisma, and chemistry
between people. I explored hundreds of studies conducted around
the world on what qualities made up leadership and credibility.
Intrepid social scientists left no stone unturned in their quest to
find the formula. For example, optimistic Chinese researchers,
hoping charisma might be in the diet, went so far as to compare
the relationship of personality type to the catecholamine level in
subjects’ urine.2 Needless to say, their thesis was soon shelved.