You’ve probably heard the saying, “Keep your chin up!” which means, “Try to have an optimistic view of things.” What does your point of view have to do with the position of your chin? Well, it’s not just where your chin is situated, but the way your entire head is angled. If your chin is looking upward, then you will be, too … or so the theory goes!
Studying Your Shoes?
The idea behind the old chin-up adage is that if your chin points down toward the ground, you can’t help but have a grim outlook on life. A head that angles downward doesn’t appear to be a happy little head; it looks like its owner wants nothing to do with the world surrounding her. If your head is pointing toward the ground, you don’t look like a confident person, no matter what you do with the rest of your body language. In fact, if you combine a confident walk and friendly mannerisms with a downward-tilted head, people will be completely confused. “She seems like she has her act together,” they might say, “but she also appears to be depressed about something.”
The one situation where a head angled downward works to your benefit is when you’re trying to be coy with a member of the opposite sex. Picture this: You’ve just met a guy who’s sweet, conversational, and good looking, to boot. You don’t want him to think you’re too worldly; you’d rather come off as innocent or naïve at this point. Angle your head down and look up at him while he’s speaking. If you really want to play the innocent-girl card, keep your head angled down when you speak, but make sure you’re smiling and looking right at him; otherwise, you’ll be in danger of seeming uninterested.
When you angle your head downward, your eyes usually follow suit, which means you’re not making eye contact with the people around you. This leads to other assumptions about your personality. Coworkers might think you’re aloof; acquaintances might believe you’re painfully shy; friends and family members might think you’re trying to hide something from them.
On the Side
If you want to appear to be really, truly listening to someone else, angling the head to the side is a move you’ll want to add to your bag of body language tricks. When you employ this gesture, you appear to be lifting an ear, as though to say, “I’m doing everything I can to take in each and every word that comes out of your mouth.” It doesn’t matter which way you angle your head—left or right works equally well. And keep in mind, this is just a slight angling of your noggin; you’re not trying to touch one ear to your shoulder in an effort to prove that you can hear just fine out of the other one.
Although this gesture is used to emphasize listening skills, it’s also employed when people are expressing sympathy. You might see someone say, “I’m so sorry” as her head tilts to the side. What’s this all about? Are these people offering—nonverbally—to listen to the other person’s troubles? Sort of, but in this case, the head tilt is more a way of showing that you feel for the other person’s pain without making it your own. Later in this chapter, you’ll read about other ways to express sympathy with your head.
Angling your head to the side is another way to play the cutesy, coy card with a member of the opposite sex. Not only does this gesture make you appear innocent and harmless, it’s also a good way to show that you’re a good listener.
The head tilt can also come in handy if you want to appear innocent. Let’s say your husband has accused you of scratching his beloved motorcycle. You honestly had nothing to do with the damage to his bike. You’re upset and feeling more than a little defensive—two emotions that could easily lead to you throwing your head back in an effort to appear rather dominant. While you’re well within your rights to express your indignation, your real goal is to end the fight before it goes too far. To defuse the situation quickly, try angling your head to the side while you stick to your story. You’ll appear much more innocent (which you are, after all), and this might be all it takes to convince your mate that he’s got it all wrong.
Leveling the Head
Want to appear confident? It all starts with your head. When you walk through the office or down the street, make sure your head is parallel with the ground. Your eyes are straight ahead, your chin isn’t dropping down or pointing up toward the sky. Now broaden those shoulders and watch as people stand up and take notice of you.
Where else will a level head come in handy? Well, in any situation, really. A head that’s held straight and steady appears to be alert, so even if you’re having a drawn-out chat with your sister or listening to a rather dull speech or presentation, a level head will say, “I’m paying attention and I’m completely present in the moment.”
Kids often refer to their arrogant classmates as being “stuck-up.” This is shorthand for saying that the person in question has her nose stuck up in the air. The reason she has her nose stuck up in the air—metaphorically speaking, of course—is because her head is angled back. And her head is angled back because she’s arrogant. It’s a classic case of cause and effect.
Picture the most arrogant person you know. Now imagine you’re having an argument with her; how does she hold her head once she’s let you know that you’re wrong? Chances are it’s angled slightly back, with her chin pointing toward the ceiling. In fact, if you tune in to dramatic television shows where haughty women are the main characters, watch how they hold their heads during intense scenes. The head invariably lifts and you have a perfect shot of the character’s nostrils. Angling the head back, as you might have deduced by this point, is a way of saying, “You know, I really am better than you are.” It’s a domineering move.
If you want to show someone that you’re higher up on the food chain than he is, make use of the backward head tilt. If it’s done subtly, it’s hardly noticeable, and yet this move makes you appear regal, somehow above the common man. Just be aware of its power and its implications—you’re not going to win many friends with this move, but you might be able to stop an argument in its tracks, and you might be able to convince people to see your point of view simply because you look like a person who isn’t to be trifled with.
Remember: If you want to come across as a regular, down-to-earth, friendly sort of gal or guy, don’t tilt your head backward! Learn to level out your head to project confidence while occasionally tilting it to the side to show you’re not too confident.