Take the following situation: you are in a supervisory capacity and are about to counsel a subordinate whose work performance has been unsatisfactory and erratic. To achieve this objective, you feel that you will need to use direct questions that require direct answers and may put the subordinate under pressure. At times you will also need to show the subordinate that you understand his feelings and, from time to time, that you agree with his thoughts or actions. How can you non-verbally convey these attitudes using body formations? Leaving aside interview and questioning techniques for these illustrations, consider the following points: (1) The fact that the counselling session is in your office and that you are the boss allows you to move from behind your desk to the employee's side of the desk (the co-operative position) and still maintain unspoken control. (2) The subordinate should be seated on a chair with fixed legs and no arms, one that forces him to use body gestures and postures that will give you a better understanding of his attitudes. (3) You should be sitting on a swivel chair with arms, giving you more control and letting you eliminate some of your own giveaway gestures by allowing you to move around.
There are three main angle formations that can be used.
Like the standing triangular position, the open triangular formation lends an informal, relaxed attitude to the meeting and is a good position in which to open a counselling session (Figure 147). You can show non-verbal agreement with the subordinate from this position by copying his movements and gestures. As they do in the standing position, both torsos point to a third mutual point to form a triangle; this can show mutual agreement.
By turning your chair to point your body directly at your subordinate (Figure 148) you are non-verbally telling him that you want direct answers to your questions. Combine this position with the business gaze (Figure 149) and reduced body and facial gestures and your subject will feel tremendous nonverbal pressure. If, for example, after you have asked him a question, he rubs his eye and mouth and looks away when he answers, swing your chair to point directly at him and say, 'Are you sure about that?' This simple movement exerts non-verbal pressure on him and can force him to tell the truth.
When you position your body at a right angle away from your subject, you take the pressure off the interview (Figure 149). This is an excellent position from which to ask delicate or embarrassing questions, encouraging more open answers to your questions without any pressure coming from you. If the nut you are trying to crack is a difficult one, you may need to revert to the direct body point technique to get to the facts.
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