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body language: creating barriers

November 17, 2010

I thought I’d blog a bit more about body language. In my job, I’ve seen all kinds of interesting things people do, often without being aware of doing it.

In situations in which we feel insecure or uncomfortable and can’t increase the distance between us and other people, we create barriers or protective shields by placing objects between ourselves and others, e.g., we cross our arms or we clutch a purse or briefcase against our chest.

Speakers talking to a large audience feel more comfortable behind a table or a lectern.

At many parties where people are not 100% comfortable with each other, you might have seen them standing around holding their drinks with both hands.

By the way, it’s not just my clients who do this kind of thing.


I had a colleague who recreated the Great Wall of China on her desk. She placed her nameplate, files, photographs, books, a watch, and a handful of pens on the far side of her desk, marking her territory and forcing the person on the other side of the desk to keep his or her distance.

So, have you ever observed other kinds of erecting barriers? Or used such body language in your fiction?

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