The abridged version for the Emirates News business segment with Greg Fairlie, but great to see Allan Pease in action:
Here it is, the final part of my interview with Allan Pease: find out how to offend someone from northern Greece, by accident. Which politicians are better actors, from an expert’s point of view? Ever wondered why Pinocchio’s nose grew when he told a lie? It will all become clear…
NE: So in the years you’ve been talking about body language, what have you learned from your own audience feedback?
AP: When it comes to male and female interaction, women are hard-wired very much the same as women everywhere and have the same priorities, what they want is the same. Men are the same as men everywhere. Within a given culture, all a culture does is determine what you can or can’t do or say within that culture, it doesn’t change what you feel or how you perceive something. So if you learn how to talk in man-talk or woman-talk, that’s fairly cross-cultural, you can go to any culture and talk that way and they think you’re a winner, they like you because you clearly understand them.
In terms of body language differences that can be quite funny. For example, this gesture here is one of the most misinterpreted on Earth. In Dubai it probably means ‘OK’ as the main signal, as it does in most places. In France it means ‘zero’, in places like northern Greece and Turkey it’s a gross insult signal, it’s what we call an orifice symbol, they’re calling you a very rude name.
This one in Dubai means good, OK; in France it means number one; in northern Greece and Turkey it’s a gross insult. You can imagine what it means.
So if you go to Greece on vacation or get Greeks travelling here to Dubai to do business and you [give a thumbs up and] say ‘welcome to Dubai’ [then an OK sign and say] ‘good to see you’, you’ve just given them gross insults!
So what I’ve learnt is that you need to ask, culturally, how do you insult people within a culture, you’ve got to ask ‘how do I insult you?’ because if you don’t know how to do it, you’re likely to insult them and not know you did it!
George Bush’ favourite? The Longhorn football team. That’s their sign and all the Texans wave this when the Longhorns win, that’s the long horns of the bull. His first job was in South America when he became president. He got off the plane with 2,000 people greeting him and he got off the plane doing this because the Longhorns had won the football. Now in places like South America, and Italy, that means your wife is cheating on you.
So he was waving his fingers and they all started to whistle. Whistling in America, in a crowd, means ‘it’s good’ but whistling in South America, like in Europe, means ‘it’s bad’. So he was doing this and they started to whistle so he started to dance and do it. That’s George Bush!
NE: So give me some of the ‘tells’
AP: Well when people aren’t telling the truth, hand-to-face contact increases for most cultures, they start touching their face, particularly the nose, because the nose swells when you’re not telling the truth because the soft tissue fills with blood. That’s called the Pinocchio Effect strangely enough, and that’s why everybody has this urge to touch their nose when they’re telling a real pack of lies.
NE: Is it very obvious to you who’s had training in body language and who’s behaving naturally?
AP: It’s obvious who’s had bad training because they’re trying too hard, they’re actually trying to do things. In the last [Australian] Federal election, Julia Gillard just looked wrong because she was trying to act it and she’s a bad actor. Whereas Bill Clinton ‘s a great actor and Ronald Reagan was a professional actor. He looked like a sincere, genuinely nice guy. Who knows if he was telling the truth? I don’t know. You can’t tell, he’s an actor.
NE: Watching television with you must be interesting
AP: It’s great! Watch it with the sound off, it’s better!
NE: Well we’ve come to the end of our time unfortunately, thank you very much for speaking with us.
AP: My pleasure.
©2012 Noni Edwards. All rights reserved.
In Part 2 of my chat with ‘Mr Body Language’ Allan Pease, we talked about how men’s and women’s brains are wired differently, amongst other things…
NE: So in situations where wires get crossed with someone from a different culture, whose responsibility is it to be the bigger person?
AP: Well if it’s your objective to persuade someone, it’s on you to work out what you have to do to be able to make that person feel comfortable. So if they’ve come fom another culture, or you’re going to their culture, you need to find out, first of all, what are the usual greeting and farewell rituals, how do you meet someone? Do you kiss? Do you shake hands? If so, how do you do it? By watching the locals within a culture you can see how far apart they stand, how they behave, which gives you clues as to what to do. If you’re going to persuade, the onus is upon you to learn what you need to do to make that person feel comfortable, because if they feel comfortable, and they like you, chances are they’ll give you a fair hearing and getting a fair hearing under good circumstances is all you really want in business, because then you get a chance to sell your ideas.
NE: So if something has gone wrong, you know there’s been a culture-based misunderstanding but you have no idea where you went wrong, what’s the best thing to do to? Do you bring it out into the open or sneak away quietly? What’s the best way to address it?
AP: Well the biggest cultural gap that exists in the whole world is the culture between men and women, because men and women think of the same thing very differently. In terms of how we behave, and our operating system for communicating is very different. For example, men talk in short sentences with an opening and ending – hard fact or piece of information in the middle – and then they stop at the end and they look blankly at you, and the reason they look blankly at you is because the brain-scans show that men can either speak or listen, they can’t do both. So that’s why when men talk to other men they take turns: he has a turn, I have a turn, he has a turn, I have a turn. For women, women’s brains are organised to speak and listen simultaneously. That’s why women appear all to be speaking at the same time, on several unrelated subjects, which creates serious problems in business, so a woman starts on the first subject in business, halfway through, without warning, introduces her second point. All the women listening realise that’s her second point, they knew she was going to do it.
Now they’re on the second one, but all the men think she’s still on the first one and now the men are thinking ‘what is this woman talking about?’ and they don’t know and then she brings in the third point and all the women are happy on three scores and the men have no idea what it’s about.
Now if you do this at home with a man, he’ll bring it up. He says things like ‘does this conversation have a point?’ or ‘am I supposed to be a mindreader?’ In business, we just pretend we understood it all and walk away confused. So the strategy here is, if you’re a woman, give men one thing at a time. Make a point, then stop so there’s a little gap, he knows that’s one point. Then make a second point and stop, so he knows that’s a second point.
And don’t wait for him to have his turn!
©2012 Noni Edwards. All rights reserved.
My fascinating and highly-entertaining interview with Allan Pease. Find out why the first four minutes are crucial when meeting someone and what three things you need to know in a cross-cultural exchange.
NE: Allan Pease, welcome to Dubai, I’ll start by asking what you have on the agenda here for people in the UAE.
AP: We’ve got a seminar of business people and we’re going to show them what happens in the first four minutes of meeting somebody for the first time, because in that first four minutes we decide up to 90 per cent of our impression of that other person, and we decide pretty quickly whether we’re likely to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to anything they’re likely to propose so if you’re going for a job interview, or trying to sell an idea or convince someone and you get that four minutes wrong, you’re in trouble.
Also I’m talking about the differences in how men’s and women’s brains function and how they would perceive the same thing very differently and that’s a new concept here, because women in business is a new concept in the Middle East.
NE: Yes, you were telling me a story just earlier about an experience in Bahrain?
AP: Well in Bahrain, I was there twelve years ago when the airport was a tin-shed and I did a couple of big seminars then and it was all men. This week I did a seminar in Bahrain. There were 600 delegates and 400 were Generation-Y women – which is under-32 – in business suits, all with iPhones and iPads, doing business and that is a dramatic change in culture for anyone in the Middle East.
NE: So that’s gender differences, but in terms of cultural differences, how do you have to tailor what you say according to where your delegates are from?
AP: Well in Dubai it’s a very multicultural place, you’ve got people from every culture, you need to be aware of that if you want to be persuasive. Now the basic body language gestures are the same regardless of culture, because gestures are an outward expression of your emotions. As humans we feel the same emotions: we feel happy, sad, joyful, angry, concealing, superior: we all feel the same emotions so the basic gestures supporting those are the same.
What changes in cultures are three things, the first of those is how far away you can stand. In business, men in Dubai stand 30 centimetres away as opposed to most Westerners from cities who stand 45 centimetres away, so for me as an Australian, if I wasn’t aware of this, I’d think ‘hey this guy’s standing right in my face’ and I’m likely to step back just to give myself some space, and he starts thinking ‘Allan’s a bit distant, a bit stand-off’ so he moves forward to make himself feel comfortable and I think, ‘hey he’s moved in on me again’ and
suddenly we’ve got enormous tension that’s not good for business. So distance is an important cultural difference.
Eye contact is important as well. In this region, the locals, if they’re really intent on what you’re saying, and to show respect they’ll look at you and not look away, now to many cultures that can be seen as staring. Now if they were Japanese for example, the Japanese would think, ‘hey this guy’s staring me out, he’s aggressive’ which isn’t the case, he’s showing respect, and as the Japanese look away, the locals think he must be sneaky, he won’t look at me, and then cultural problems exist.
The third thing is touching, where you can touch and how long you can touch. A funny thing that happens in this region with locals, particularly local indigenous people is when men particularly will meet, they’ll shake hands, and if it’s a good friend, you’ll keep holding the guy’s hand and of course in Australia you’d have to marry that man if that was the case! But here they’ll hold his hand, or they’ll go for a kiss. Often three kisses starting from your right, so the rule is you kiss from the right. Now in Belgium they do three kisses, but starting from the other side so if a Belgian comes here and goes to do a kiss, you’re probably going to meet in the middle and have a big kiss. Very embarrassing!
©2012 Noni Edwards. All rights reserved.