Do you have an invisible behaviour?

Imagine being held at gunpoint. Now reflect on your reaction to being held at gunpoint. Would you yell or scream? Duck and run? Look the perpetrator in the eye and fight?

Or would you do the completely unexpected? 

Our reactions and what we communicate – through our body language, voice, and actions – can drastically influence the outcome of a situation, and many of our reactions are instinctive – we make an ‘invisible’ decision to react in certain ways depending on the situation.

Humans have a natural instinct to mirror the behaviour of people we interact with – think of the phrase ‘monkey see, monkey do.’ For example, if you are having a relaxed coffee with a friend, you might find that you are seated in a similar position with legs crossed, or you might reach for your coffee at the same time. Similarly, if the person you are interacting with is hostile or angry, you may respond with similar hostility or aggression.

The psychological term for behaviour like this is complementarity.

The question is: when there is a negative situation, how do you influence a negative situation to have a positive outcome? 

Answer? Psychologists call it ‘non-complimentary behaviour’. At NIDA Corporate, we would call it ‘playing actions’.

Invisibilia is my favourite podcast series. A lot of their work is relevant to the work we do at NIDA Corporate. Hosts Lulu Miller, Alix Spiegel and Hanna Rosin introduce the invisible forces that control human behaviour – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.  One particular episode they produced introduces ‘non-complimentary behaviour’ as the key to ‘flip the script’ or transforming a situation by making an active choice to behave in a way that goes against your natural instinct.

In acting this is a very common process. Actors look to understand the individual motivations of a character by identifying their overall intention/objective, and then imagine the associated choices and actions that character might take to get the expected outcome.

And this process is easily translated to the office or to your next business meeting with a little forethought.

Before your next meeting or major conversation with your boss or team, think through these key points:

  1. What is your objective (what do you want your audience to do)? For example ‘I want my team to work more collaboratively’.
  2. Identify the action you will take to achieve your objective. For example, you might choose to invite somebody to put an idea forward, or to encourage your team to contribute, or to inspire your team with a story of collaboration. This speaks to the ‘invisible behaviour’ or the one that might go against your natural instinct. It is an active choice which will influence the outcome of the situation.
  3. Once you have chosen an action to achieve the objective, the associated behaviours related to that action (i.e. our body language and voice) will often follow – your natural instinct will take over.
 Vanessa White
About this author:
 Vanessa White, Head of NIDA Corporate. 
Want to know more? Give her a call today on 1300 650 357 or connect with her on LinkedIn