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Mark Bowden is a body language expert, keynote speaker and bestselling author of the books Winning Body Language; Winning Body Language for Sales Professionals; Tame the Primitive Brain; and Truth & Lies, What People are Really Thinking. He’s well known for his TedX talk “The Importance of Being Authentic” and his YouTube channel and weekly show “The Behavior Panel.”

Mark has a system of nonverbal communication called GesturePlane™ that helps audiences maximize the power of using their own body language to stand out, win trust and gain credibility.

He is also the founder of a communication training company TRUTHPLANE®, where he offers presentation skills training with live sessions or online learning.

Mark trains business and political leaders and he is the go-to media commentator on body language of politicians, celebrities and public figures for CNN, CBS, and Global News, and he is frequently quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and GQ Magazine.

In this week’s podcast, Sonya and Mark talk how to be approachable when you walk in a room, body language, charisma and more.

“The horizontal level at which you gesture has an incredibly profound effect on the way people judge you and what you’re saying. So not just the gestures your hands are making, but literally the horizontal level compared to your body. Because our bodies across the planet are very much the same, very much the same, and the relationship in height to the hands are to the rest of the body helps other people, and yourself, the frame of mind, the operation, the situation that you may well be in, and how you’re thinking and feeling about the world. And so when you have hands at navel height, which is a very vulnerable area of your body, especially if you’re doing open palm gestures at navel height, signal of no tools, no weapons, exactly at navel height, you will feel very calm and assertive. People will see you as calm and assertive. Your voice will become calm and assertive.”

– Mark Bowden

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Key Takeaways

  • Curiosity
  • Agreement vs acceptance of others
  • How to be approachable when you walk into a room
  • Levels of understanding someone: phatic, data, evaluation, emotion, self reflection
  • What is charisma
  • Truth plane vs grotesque plane
  • How you talk with your hands impacts energy




Sonya Looney: Well, we’ve already had a fun conversation as to the different rooms that we are residing in. How am I doing so far with the the body language reading?

Mark Bowden: Well, pretty good. You know what? You know, I haven’t really been reading your body language, just reading your room instead. And you’ve already told me a whole bunch about yourself just by me going, hey, what’s that bike? Who’s the cyclist? Like you or somebody you live with? And then you told me about your spiritual alignments as well, based on some of the ideas that my guess is you picked up in Nepal. And so you’ve actually already told me a lot about your value system simply by me being inquisitive about the environment that you’ve chosen to be in.

Sonya: Yeah. And I can tell that you love Hawaii and you have a seemingly good relationship with your mom, and also that you value your behavior panel, because I see your coffee cup there that has the pictures of all of your buddies on there.

Mark: Absolutely. And you know what? This behavior panel logo on the mug is on a symbol of resource and comfort. So not only is it just a logo, it’s a logo on something that you would associate with hanging out in a comfortable place, having some kind of resource, being warm. So it’s even more than just a logo.

Sonya: The power of curiosity is something that seems to be very important when it comes to understanding other people.

Mark: Yeah, you’ve got to be as curious as you possibly can be within the confines of the amount of time and energy that you have for any one person or a situation. But I think you could always leave us more curiosity than you imagine, more interesting information than you possibly imagine. I mean, imagine if we’d have got on the conversation together and I’d have taken you at face value, which kind of means there’s a human being in front of me. I’m just going to look at your face, and I’m just going to judge you based on that. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s so much more interesting when I go, before I even get into you, where are you? Before I even think about you, what is the context of you? And that gave me you telling me maybe unwittingly a little bit about your context means I can align with you instantly. Because what you went into was, look, I do the cycling. And I cycled in Nepal. And then I see this picture in the background, which seems to me, though it’s in black and white, I’ve got to think you’re cycling in snow or something near a mountain. And the mountain looks like it’s going way past the boundaries of the frame. So I instantly go, wow, that’s a really high mountain. And I go, wow, you’re cycling somewhere that most people wouldn’t walk or even take a vehicle, or maybe you couldn’t even get a vehicle there. And then you go, oh, well, because what I’m interested in is people who really challenge themselves. That’s who we’re talking today to people who really challenge themselves. And I think to myself, well, I’m not one of those people that would ever take a bicycle where it should never go. But I do challenge myself. I totally do. And so what it allows me to do is instantly align with you, because by not taking anything at face value, by not going, oh, that’s a statuette of a bicycle in the background. I know what that is. That’s a bicycle. By going, that must mean something. By getting past the face value of it and getting into the actual value of it, the emotional value of it, or the reasoning value of it, or the spiritual value of it, the self reflexive value of it, I get to understand how I’m more related to you than I ever thought and your audience. So instantly, I kind of feel more comfortable here because I know I’m with somebody who likes to challenge herself, who likes to be amongst people, who like to challenge themselves. And whether you’re doing it with a bicycle or anything doesn’t actually really…how you’re doing it doesn’t matter. It’s the challenge that matters. Anyway, I hope that makes sense as to what my mind happened there.

Sonya: So you’re trying to establish almost a commonality between people so that you can have rapport and almost a common ground so that you can say, hey, I’m like you, you’re like me, and it breaks down some barriers so that you can maybe have a real conversation or take your relationship past just looking at something and making a snap judgment as to what that is.

Mark: Totally. I’m trying to get past that snap judgment that I know I’ll make because I’m a human being, because I know it’s going to happen. I know it’s going to happen. I know my brain is going to look at your bookcase and go, books. So let me try this, because my brain goes, oh, books, yeah, I understand books. I got books. Okay. But it’s interesting. I’m curious about those books in the background there. What for you, that you see there has been the most important in that case?

Sonya: Oh, my gosh, I can’t answer that. All.

Mark: All, okay. Why all of them? What is it about all of them that is so important to you?

Sonya: So here, I think this is a fun way to say that what I enjoy is learning, and that from each book, I take something into my life that’s really important. So by looking at the books and asking me about the books, you can say, oh, she likes learning, and she really likes having visual representations of learning, too.

Mark: Love it. Well, when I think about learning, I know people who love to learn, but some of them like the certificates that they get with that, and some of them like the better job that they might be able to get with the knowledge and better skill level. People who like all kinds of things that come for learning. What views the most important thing that you get from that constant lifelong learning attitude?

Sonya: Now you’re switching the podcast around on me. I’m going to have to take back control in a second. But I’m going to answer your question.

Mark: Because it’s much more interesting to answer my question.

Sonya: Well, I love learning because by learning about myself and the world, I can help other people do the same. And I think that that’s what you need in order to be more fulfilled and find more meaning in your life.

Mark: Yeah, I really like that. I can see it has a benefit for you, but I can see what you’re saying there is, what’s more important is the benefit for others. And so look, I won’t interrogate you anymore, but I do have just one last thought for you. I’m just so curious about it. What does it say about you, do you think, that you want to turn your learning into help for other people? What does it say about you, do you think?

Sonya: I’m not really sure. I think that number one is that I believe other people are capable of doing the things that I’ve done and that being able to share common ground. Like we talked about a few minutes ago, I’m trying to create common ground so that people feel like they can learn as well and that they can find whatever it is that’s important to them in their life too.

Mark: Really nice. So it feels to me like you totally trust in the capability of other human beings. You totally trust that they can achieve something extraordinary as well for themselves. It’s interesting when I fed that back to you, you nodded your head in a way that makes me believe that you feel that is actually true. And what I want people to recognize in that exchange that we had where you did understand that I was completely taking over and questioning you and interrogating you, but look, from that, being curious about the bookcase and going, what’s the most important book for you back there? By getting you to create hierarchy to which you went, hey, they’re all important. And I went, okay, well, what’s so important about them all being important? And you went education, learning. And I went, well, what’s so important about that? And you went, well, other people. And I went, well, you find other people more important. Like, what does that say about you? And we came down to this idea that you trust that people can be more than they think they are, more than they ever believe they can be, and you want to help that. I would say very quickly we’ve got down to what might be a core part of why you are who you are. And that’s way more interesting for me as the start of an exchange than so tell me about body language.

Sonya: Yeah, right. You cross your arms.

Mark: I cross my arms on that because that stuff is kind of interesting. But all that is about as people might know, I’m an expert on human behavior and body language, but all that is about is getting on better with people. All that is about is trying to understand other people better so you can better get along with them. And so my feeling would be I would be able to so much better get along with you. Not that it’s difficult, but how could I make it even better? How can I make getting along with you even better? Well, by going to quickly understand and recognize who you actually are. Who have I actually got in front of me? Because it’s kind of weird this, isn’t it? Because I’m a two-dimensional representation of myself in front of you. A two-dimensional representation of you, by the way, for those of you listening right now, which is all of you, we are on video screens with each other, so we’re not actually together in reality, we are two dimensional representations. And that’s a bit disconcerting for the mind because it means it can slightly detach from you and treat you as not entirely human and present. So it’s nice to get closer to the human being, but you should take over.

Sonya: I can carry on…Something that I think that you said was important there was it’s about trying to get along with other people. And something that you did there when you were asking me those questions is there was actually no judgment as to whether learning is good or bad or what I believe about other people is good or bad. It was just trying to understand me as a person. So if somebody has a family member or a friend or just somebody, or just maybe someone on the street you walk by who looks disagreeable, you don’t have to necessarily be on the same page with values or even what you believe, but just trying to get to understanding somebody can be really powerful.

Mark: Yeah. So here’s what we know, Sonya, is that for the human brain, actually, let’s take a step back. Values, what you value is really important to you. What you value is really important to me simply because our values are very similar. Our personal values aren’t really personal values. They belong to a group that we’re part of, and that group supports us. And if our values change or we don’t understand that that group who helps us to support us and we rely on, if we don’t understand that they hold the same values, life is too dangerous. We don’t know that we’re going to get the help and support we need to literally survive. So having values is a survival mechanism, okay? And so if we collide in life in some way and you understand that I don’t accept your values or I don’t believe your value, no, I don’t accept your values, you won’t like me. You’re designed not to like me, okay? It’s very important. You shouldn’t like me because I might come into conflict with you and I might start dismantling the world that you need. And that’s not only going to affect you, it’ll affect those people that are most important to you. So you have to protect yourself from people who do not accept your values, okay? Now, you would actually be fine with me disagreeing with your values, okay? You’re fine with disagreement, but you need to know that I accept your values because I can disagree and go, but I accept yours so I’m going to leave you alone with those, okay? I’m not going to impinge on those. I don’t value what you value, I don’t believe what you believe, but I’m going to leave you alone because I accept you and your group, okay? What people often do and show each other very quickly is that they don’t accept other people’s values. What I think people can do more, if you’re really interested in challenging yourself, I challenge you to meet up purposely with people who you don’t think you believe what they believe or value what they value and practice accepting their values and beliefs. Doesn’t mean you agree with them. You can actually go, I totally disagree with that, but I totally get that you don’t. And I totally get that’s how you see the world and that’s the system under which you live, okay? And that’s good, that’s fine, but I don’t agree with this and I don’t believe that. That’s actually really challenging to do, but it’s how you actually get along with people a lot better and spread your network and your influence a lot further. Anyway, I hope that makes sense, Sonya.

Sonya: I think it’s really important what you said, acceptance doesn’t mean agreement and you don’t have to agree. But especially in the world that we’re living in now, there’s a lot of pain, there’s a lot of division and being able to have conversations without saying you’re the other and I don’t even accept you. I think that that’s an important skill set to work on. And I like your suggestion is to say, hey, go hang out with somebody that you might not have the same values with and just see if you can get along with them because it’s really important to be able to do that.

Mark: Yeah, getting along is the most important social skill, getting along. Because without getting along, you can’t move along and you’re more likely to move into conflict. And conflict is going to cause you stress and pressure and pain and it will use up resource that you could easily be using on other stuff. Now, it’s very easy for me to say to you how you want to be able to get along with people because it’s super hard to do. Super hard to do because you are designed, you have a part of your brain, the social mammalian brain, which is designed to pick up unconsciously on the signals of the other. Its only purpose is to pick up on the signals of those that are like you and the signals of those that are not like you and be able to clearly black and white thinking differentiate between the two. No gray area. How do I choose quickly who is most likely to give me a glass of water and who most likely isn’t? Because even if you’re not under stress and pressure right now, the brain thinks, well, I might be in the future, so I got to partition these people immediately and work out where my best chance of survival is. And if you are under stress and pressure, well, you’re going to partition those people really fast and not accurately, but safely. So your instinct about people wants to be safe now in order to live, to be more accurate tomorrow, yeah. But tomorrow you meet a whole bunch of other people, so you forget about those people that you inaccurately partitioned and grouped because now you’re in front of a whole bunch of new people that you need to quickly go, who am I most affiliated with? Who am I most going to survive with? So just taking that extra time to critically think the situation, which is like purposely thinking the situation, which is why I say, hey, you want to purposely go and find people who you most likely think you’re going to be disagreeable with and see what you can do on purpose. It’s a great exercise.

Sonya: So I’m going to pivot here a little bit and just ask about some general, either things we can do with our voice or body language, because you’re more than just a body language expert, you’re an expert in human behavior, as you said. You notice things. You’re looking at things. You’re also listening and using words in order to help people and yourself communicate better. So if someone is walking into a room for the first time and, adults, it’s not as easy for adults to make friends as it is for little kids. Like my son is two years old, and then this Elmo song we were listening to today, it’s just saying, hey, go ask someone to be your friend. And I actually do that sometimes as an adult and people look at me like, that was way too direct, and I’m afraid of you now because you just asked me to be my friend. So if people want to walk into a room and feel like they can make friends, feel like they’re portraying confidence, how can people do that? To be more likable and approachable, but also relatable with others?

Mark: Yes. Lovely. Okay, look, great, great question. First of all, you want to make sure that you move into the room gently but directly. Okay, so there’s something but if you are nervous or anxious, you’re more likely to be indirect. So your brain is kind of going, well, I know where I should be hitting, I know where I should be going right now, but I’m not confident that it’ll be safe for me there or I can accurately work out what will happen, so I’ll tentatively make my way there. Well, people’s peripheral vision of that will sense that there is something in the room that doesn’t quite have direction right now. When I say sense it’s not an extra sensory perception, it’s grabbing a multitude of data, crunching it really simply to get a best guess at their risk in the room or is their benefit in the room. And if something is being indirect, it goes, look, best guess today to be safe is that’s an indirect thing over there? And then therefore that’s trouble. I’m treated as trouble right now. I’ll work out tomorrow where I’m still alive, whether I was actually accurate or not. And it doesn’t recognize that tomorrow you’re in a whole different situation, so it never goes back to it to rejudge that situation. So be more direct. Now, having said that, if you’re walking into a room and you’re super direct, don’t come into people’s peripheral vision because the brain stem, that part of the brain that does shivering in a cold shower or moving your hand away when it’s hot, it’s also looking for things coming into peripheral vision fast. So it’s really looking for direct stuff in peripheral vision because it knows that predators will most likely come in from your peripheral vision fast. So try and move into a room directly, but find a place that you can move in from to approach people where they’re more likely to see you in their full vision. You won’t scare them. Okay. Now, next part of this which brings in your lovely two year old and how you’re taking that advice and going, hey, will you be my friend? Which is a great idea, but it’s missed out some levels and conversational levels there, which is I would suggest that most societies start any relationship at what’s called a phatic level, a customary level, phatic from, I think, the Latin or Greek, as is the custom. So for example, Sonya, if I say to you, hey, how are you doing? What is your reply?

Sonya: Fine.

Mark: Okay, that’s phatic. I know that if I say, hey, how are you doing? You’ve got to say fine, thank you, okay. Or good. And that helps me know if you give the right reply or you understand that as a question. That helps me understand that you’re from roughly the same land mass as me or society, like you speak English, you understand that phatic call and response. And now I can start because if I go, hey, how are you doing? And you go, well, you know, what? I’ve actually got a heart problem and I was at the doctor the other day and… I’m like, okay, no, we’ve jumped now, we’ve jumped to level. I went, hey, how are you doing? And you go, I want to be your friend. I would go, oh, okay, I’ve got a four year old. This adult is four years old because they haven’t understood the structure. So what comes after the phatic becomes data, okay? After phatic, it becomes data, which is, I would say, so what can I best call you? Or what’s your name? Or maybe, why do you come here? Or where do you live? Normally, I would ask you a data question that you’re not likely to be deceptive on, like, why would you not tell me your name? I’m not a police officer, you’re not an interrogation. There’s stuff in a social situation, like, you’re most likely to tell me and tell me accurately so I can get some accurate data, okay? And some of what I did early on looking at your room was going, tell me about that because I just want the data. I want to get that far so you’re comfortable that you will give me accurate data. Then I would move to evaluation, which is if you tell me where you live, so where do you live close to here or somewhere or far away? And you go, oh yeah, I live in Place X. I might go, oh, what do you like most about that? So now I’m getting you into evaluation because if I can get your evaluation around why you live in a place you live and what your likes are, I might be able to work out whether we should be friends or whether I’m going to go, you know what, I’m not sure Sonya is my usual friend, but I’m going to make an extra effort to see whether Sonya could be my friend, though she said, I like living in Place X because of the gas guzzling cars. Okay, I’m not sure that’s my value system, but I’m going to now make an extra effort to go, okay, tell me more about that. So do you see where I’m going here? Is that walking up to people and going, let’s be friends? First of all, you’ve got to approach them nonverbally in a way that won’t trigger their brainstem into fight and flight risk analysis. And then you’ve got to follow a pattern of working out what their data set and then the evaluation of that. I could then move to emotion and say, so, I understand you love X about living in Place Y, how does that feel? So now I’d move you to telling me the emotions of being there. Anyway, I hope that’s giving you some ideas of some of the things you can do to get on better.

Sonya: Was there a fifth?

Mark: Yeah, there is. So, look, you’ve got phatic, you’ve got data, you’ve got evaluation of the data. So hierarchy, what is most important about that thing or that area? Then you’ve got, how does that make you feel? What’s the feeling you attach to that? And then you’ve got self reflection, which is that you feel that way about that value, what you believe that says about you. At that point, just like you did when I said so, that you get all this knowledge in order that you want to get other people moving. What does that say about you? And if you go back and replay that part of our talk, Anybody go back and replay it, okay, yeah, replay that and notice how quiet Sonya gets and she needs a little bit of time as she files around her brain to go and find the information on how she reflects on herself, what she thinks about herself. Because Sonya has not been asked that question for quite a while, just because of the nature of the question. When were you ever last asked how you think about yourself? Well, maybe if you’re in weekly therapy or bi-weekly therapy or once a month or it should be happening in those situations, but outside of that, even best friends and partners doesn’t happen often. But it’s the key to human beings is what they think about themselves because that’s super unique. Not everybody will agree with me on this, Sonya, but go find me a monkey, an ape, chimpanzee, even a whale, I’m going to say they don’t self reflect, don’t think about themselves. Monkeys, like we know monkeys, they don’t even have really the capability of looking back in history because we know that every year when the cheetahs come, for the tree dwellers that are in a rainforest and chimpanzees, this would be as the cheetahs or maybe whatever wildcats, the predators come along the ground and they do about the same time every year within the cycle. Nobody’s ever seen or heard the chimpanzees discuss that event before it happens. They’re never going, hey guys, now do you not remember last year a whole bunch of predators came by. We should be super ready for that. We should just organize ahead of time on that one. They don’t do that because what we know is, every year as these things come by they’re like, whoa, there they are, oh no, what a surprise, what a surprise. They’re like suddenly there’s this eruption of look, now you could go, okay, well they’re sending out a warning, but we don’t see any non verbal or sound language, animal communication system, that even suggests that they’re talking about it ahead of time or communicating about it ahead of time. So they’re not even reflecting on their history. We’re reflecting on our internal state. And that is very unique. And so when you get a human being to do that, you’re really helping their brain do one of its highest actions, which is to think about themselves. I hope that didn’t digress too much and you gave me an idea.

Sonya: I love that. And self reflection. I’m actually a coach as well, so I’m always asking people to reflect on themselves. And sometimes people just don’t do that. And you can tell when they haven’t actually spent the time doing that because they always are…their eyes get wide. They kind of are taken aback by the question. And then once they have a minute to think about it, they’re kind of excited to give you their answer.

Mark: Their brain is literally excited in an area that doesn’t get used a lot. And that’s the interesting thing. It’s not getting used as much as it maybe could be. And that is useful for a human being because we don’t have any of this stuff by accident. You don’t have a part of your brain that can self reflect just because it would be nice. The brain only has essential stuff in there. Now why do we know that? Because it’s painful for a mother to give birth. And the reason it’s painful for the mother to give birth is the head is already really large, overly large compared to like a horse. Like a horse – it’s ready to go. A foal is ready to go pretty much immediately. It doesn’t take long. It’s like, I got it, I can walk. I can do a lot of stuff. A human brain is already massive and still can’t do a lot of the stuff that it’s going to want to do. And it’s already painful to get that head out. The human being, our adaption to our niche, to what helps us survive, is not doing that because it would be nice. It’s giving us a big brain because it’s essential to have one in order to live as we live, to be able to sit in the niche that we sit in. And therefore it’s probably best to use as much of that thing as we possibly can because it was really painful. Unless you had drugs for it, which I’m absolutely not against. I would. I would take the drugs. I’d be the first person go, yeah, the less I feel during this, the more I think it’s going to be a good experience for me.

Sonya: It sounds like if somebody wants to walk into a room and be able to be more approachable or be able to make friends is number one, walk into the room, be direct, but not too direct, not too scary, so that you’re not alerting this primitive part of somebody’s brain saying, oh, there’s a threat coming. And then next is slowly starting to ask questions that aren’t too direct, but they also start building this, hey, I’m going to ask you questions about yourself. I’m going to see where you’re from. I’m going to see how you feel. I’m going to see if you think about yourself and how you feel about yourself. So it’s lots of asking questions and getting the person to talk. And that is one way to help make friends. So, taking that a step further, there’s people who seem to be more I think in one of your books, you address charisma, but more charismatic or more magnetic. Is there something that differentiates people that seem to be more magnetic in a room compared to somebody else, even if they’re doing these same things at the start of a conversation?

Mark: Yes, I would say this charisma is simply focus, that’s all. Charisma is just somebody who is so focused on a thin set of performance that it is super clear what they’re doing. Like, it’s so clear what they’re up to. Imagine somebody at a party and they are utterly focused on eating the cheese that’s at the party. Now, is it healthy? No. Is it a charisma that people are going to go, that person is a god. Look at that god of cheese over there. 

Sonya: There’s probably a marvel character in there somewhere.

Mark: Incredible. Well, you probably might go at the end of the part, you might go, did you see that person? Like, just ate all the cheese, just ate it. It all you would remark on it now that maybe not people’s ideas of what they think is charisma, but ultimately it is. It’s somebody who is remarkable. Either they’re remarkable for good reasons or bad reasons. And when somebody is super charismatic and everybody’s talking about it, it’s because they’re remarkably clear around something that is valued highly, at the time/ Genghis Khan was utterly charismatic, slaughtered millions of millions of people and ruled most of the planet with an iron fist. So not necessarily our current ideal, but ultimately totally focused on that power display. Totally focused on that. So, look, if you want to be charismatic, first of all, make a choice. Make a choice on what you’re going to do. That’s the first thing. It’s like you can’t be charismatic if you haven’t made a choice. You’ve only got a limited amount of resource, even people who are into challenging themselves. I noticed in that picture of you on your bike there, close to what looks like a very high, snowy mountain to me, I notice you’re not doing embroidery at the same time. You might go, well, why would I? And I go, Because you can challenge yourself. You could challenge yourself to do cycling and some very fine needle work at the same time. And you might go, well, I think it would be hard to do both of those things. They’re very departed from each other. One is using large motor skills and the other is really fine, detailed motor skills. And I go, oh, challenge yourself. But ultimately, you’ve made a choice, haven’t you? Pick a mountain, pick a way you’re going to go up it and the time of year. And yes, it might be difficult, but do it. Do that. It’s going to be a challenge, do it. So you can’t pick everything you pick one thing, and so you make a choice. Then what you do is you make it bigger. Your first choice was probably safe. Your first choice was probably you going, I reckon I’ll be okay. Your first choice to be charismatic was probably, yeah, if I choose that, I probably won’t fail. It probably won’t fail, and it’s probably not a big enough choice. So if I fail, probably nobody will notice. No, you got to pick one which is big enough that people really notice if you get that one wrong, because they’re going to have to notice it in the first place. They’ve got to go, what is that person doing over there with such extreme focus? And if that doesn’t go right, we’re going to notice that that didn’t go right because it’s very clear what they’re doing. Now, here’s the next… make a choice, make it bigger. And the third part of this is keep it tidy. Keep it tidy. Here’s what tends to happen. The moment you’ve made that bigger choice, then your brain goes, yeah, but I could add this to it, and I could do this to it, and I could do this and this, and I could add all these things to it and it would make it even better. No, it wouldn’t. It’ll make it muddy, and we won’t see it because you’re now trying to hide it. You’re now trying to hide that big choice in a bunch of other little things that you think will make it even better if we see it, or probably it will hide it behind the foliage that you put in there. So make a choice. Make it bigger and then keep it tidy. Don’t add anything, and then go for that and do that. That essentially is my model for how’d you be an artist, really, how’d you create something. And that’s what you’re doing if you’re being charismatic. You’re creating a very clear communication around what you’re trying to get done and the big goal of that, and you’re not making it muddy. I hope that makes sense to people.

Sonya: I imagine that there is a high level of self reflection in somebody who is charismatic, because they have to be okay or safe enough with themselves to put themselves out there and be clear and big enough so that they could put something out there and people might not like it, but they could be focused and people might not like it.

Mark: Yeah. So I think there’s potentially one or the other, but there is a great deal of self reflection and reflection on the risks and purposely taking the risk, going, oh, if I do that and I focus on that, people will really know. And if I fail, here is the punishment for failing. Here’s what’s going to happen. If I fail around that and they either go, I’m not willing to take that punishment, or they go, I don’t take that punishment. I’m willing to step up the punishment of failure as much as I’m willing to step up to the price of success. Okay? So there’s that group, and then there’s also psychopaths who just don’t feel the risk. Well, the psychopaths, and this is a generalization, and this is just a generalization, and I’ll tell you why that is. In the moment, the psychopath. And there are males between about the age of 14 and 26, okay, which is when, as a good generalization, their testosterone levels are peaking more generally, consistently higher than most females as a generalization on the planet. They’ll pick individuals and outliers, and you’ll find that’s absolutely not true, okay? Because you can pick a female on one day who will have higher testosterone than that male over there on day X. And we know as a generalization that’s true, because actuaries have to ensure the population of the Earth for driving cars. And we know what they know that the data is, which is if you’re a male between the ages of driving age or earlier and around the age of 26, 27, something around that, you will pay more for your car insurance. Why is that? Because it is most probable and likely your testosterone levels will most probably and likely be higher than most probably and likely females. Which means that as testosterone levels go, testosterone does all kinds of things – causes hair to grow, bone density, bone growth, all of that stuff – one of the things it does to the brain is reduce the idea of risk. It makes the world feel less risky. It doesn’t make the world less risky. It makes it feel less risky. So if you want to have a world where you feel very, very confident, get yourself some testosterone. Other stuff will happen, by the way. You can’t stop that stuff. But suddenly you’ll go, as many males go at that age, they’ll go, I think I can make it, and some of them do and some of them don’t. Some of them do, and some of them don’t. So you can find that in that piece about, I guess, being charismatic, that the people that assume the risk and take on the risk of really thought about it. And then there’s psychopaths where the risk, they don’t care. Social risk. Who cares about people? They’re not important. Just other people are just a blight on the planet. They’re just worms. They’re just insects compared to the might of the psychopath. Their brain isn’t set up for all kinds of ways socially, as your or my brain would be and is. And then there’s testosterone, which will cause you to go, you know what, I don’t think there’s even a risk. And everybody around will go, watch out, watch out. And they’ll either go, oh dear, or they go, whoa, they made it. They made it. Amazing. One or the other.

Sonya: So I want to talk about truth plane. I noticed that you’re gesturing a lot with your hands in the video, and I know talking with your hands. And using hands and body language is important when it comes to being on video, like, that’s something that I’ve kind of I talk with my hands, but my video is not at a height where you can see my hands. So if I tilt my camera down, it cuts my head off of it, but you’ll be able to see my hands moving more. Can you talk about truth plane versus grotesque plain and sort of some of these body language things you’re doing?

Mark: So one of the things that marked me out early on from any other nonverbal expert out there or writer out there was I wrote a book called Winning Body Language, which was the first ever committing to paper this idea that the horizontal level at which you gesture has an incredibly profound effect on the way people judge you and what you’re saying. So not just the gestures that your hands are making, but literally the horizontal level compared to your body, because our bodies across the planet are very much the same. Very much the same. And the relationship and height of the hands are to the rest of that body helps other people and yourself understand the frame of mind, the operation, the situation that you may well be in and how you’re thinking and feeling about the world. And so when you have hands at naval height, which is a very vulnerable area of your body, especially if you’re doing open palm gestures at naval height, signal with no tools, no weapons, at exactly naval height, you will feel very calm and assertive. People will see you as calm and assertive. Your voice will become calm and assertive, though you may not be. But if you do it, it will trigger your breathing and your endocrine system and the neurochemicals that are then going around your brain into a state, a theory, around being more calm and assertive. And that theory will impress upon other people as well because they’ll internally mirror you with their mirror neurons and project that theory of mind, that experience onto you and go, hey, Mark is confident right now. They don’t know, they don’t know anything about me, but they are certainly confident in me. They feel they can trust me right now. Why? Because I’m being very clear with them in my gesture planes, which means I’m charismatic right now. I’m easy to judge. I’m easy to judge right. So truth plane at naval height, open palm gestures. Where I’m spending a lot of time with you today because we’re on camera together, I’m not actually in the same physical space as you, and also because people are listening to this right now and they can’t even see me right now is that I need to make sure that my voice has some energy in it that is most likely to attract their attention over an hour. So I actually have my hands most of the time at chest height right now, which actually raises my heart rate, my breathing rate, gets me quite excited. And what should be happening is you’re seeing that you’re getting a theory of mind that I’m excited, that I’m passionate about it. Now, maybe I am or maybe I’m not. But your theory will most likely be that and you, everybody listening to me right now, which is everybody listening to me right now, you’ll be picking up on that excitement in my voice. Because look, here’s what I’m going to do right now. I’m just going to let my hands hang down by my side in what I call the grotesque plane, which is now the physiological effect of that is to take down my heart rate and my breathing rate. That’s now changing the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in my bloodstream. And everybody will know that the vagus nerve is now picking up on those levels. And based on that, first of all, deciding what the endocrine system should be doing with those levels. And so then the endocrine system is producing some chemicals to deal with that which eventually get past the blood brain barrier. And those are, as you can hear and as you son, you will be able to see, but everybody will be able to hear, that’s changing the way my mind is working right now. But because I’m charismatic, I focused on that. I’m not changing those gestures. I’m not changing that. I’ve made a decision. I’ve made it bigger and I’m keeping it tidy. It is influencing all of you into a state around me that might not be that conducive to you listening much longer that you have in front of you, voted for by my peers, the number one expert in my field in the world. My guess is that information doesn’t really do anything for you because you’re copying my behaviors to get theory of mind. And though it’s charismatic, it doesn’t have a value that you want at the moment. So I’m just going to shift my hands immediately up to chest tight and you’re going to notice just how quickly you start to mirror me and how quickly that state of mind changes for me and changes for you. And you’ll probably be able to work out, yeah, this is much better. An hour of this is probably more tolerable than the hour of marking what we call the grotesque plane. So I’ve just given you three there, which is the truth plane, the passion plane, the grotesque plane. There’s also closure and disclosure, thoughts, imagination, and also the ecstatic as well. All I’m going to do now is stick my hands right above my head as I do this. And you’ll have noticed that this has gone way beyond passion now into what we call the ecstatic, from the Greek ecstasys, to literally be outside of yourself, to rupture your soul, to rise up outside of your body. And so look, if we’re going to be together for, say, just like another hour of this, do you think this is going to be tolerate you? Like, can you stand this? Can you go with this ecstatic person talking to you? I’ve seen Sonya, your face now has changed completely into this kind of wide eyed smile. As you look at yourself, you think to yourself, who is this charismatic, almost priest of behavior in front of you? But will you be able to tolerate this for another hour? My chance is probably no, and passion, just notice as I move down to passion there, this is passion and it’s tolerable I moved down to truth plane down here. Very factual, very calm, very assertive. Let me just put my hands now down into the grotesque plane that’s there hanging down by my side. Again, I just go up to passion again, I want you to notice just how quickly I can change my behavior and change your perception of me. Anyway, I hope you like that demonstration, everybody.

Sonya: Yeah. I think that’s a good thing for people to take into this week is noticing where your hands are and noticing how that impacts how you sound or what your energy might be like and then trying to manipulate that in some ways. I don’t know if that’s the wrong word to use, manipulate, moving your hands somewhere different to see how that shifts the energy and how that changes the energy of the people around you, too.

Mark: Yeah, manipulate is a good word. It’s got a bad rap. I don’t know quite why, but it’s got a bad rap. Originally, the word manipulate comes from Manny hands to move with your hands. Another reason why it’s so painful for our mothers to give birth to us is we are going to be able to use our hands dexterously. And that takes a massive neocortex, motor neocortex, in order to move your hands like we move our hands. Sonya, if you had been doing fine needle work while cycling and I still can’t work out why you don’t want to do the both together, it would be another challenge for you. It would be tricky because you’re going to have to use fine motor neurons in order to do that fine needle work at the same time as using the other motor neurons which are moving those big muscle groups at the same time. Really hard to do and really hard to get blood to those big muscle groups and to the motor cortex at the same time to do fine needle work, which is why most people can’t do embroidery at the gymnasium. Get yourself on the leg press, move those muscles to failure and see how good of sewer you are. You are going to give up quickly because you don’t have the brain capacity.

Sonya: Your mom might.

Mark: My mom probably could, yeah. Probably with skill. But you shouldn’t have the blood capacity for that. The neocortex is really big. I can’t even remember where I was going on that…

Sonya: It was about the word manipulate.

Mark: Oh yeah. Manipulate…the hands. So the reason we have this big brain is because we’re going to be able to move our fingers. And part of that same part of the brain deals with language as well. So manipulation is about being able to move the world. We move the world with our fingers and our hands on the whole or we move it with our words. And so we manipulate with our hands and we manipulate with our words. I can manipulate the world…I can manipulate the world for you by going, hey, that group over there, I got frozen out. I got frozen out of that group. So that group took you to minus zero degrees, did they? Because I just manipulated the world there by telling you that something is something that it is not. I told you that being pushed out of that group, I was frozen and I clearly wasn’t. I told you that I was. And that’s what we call metaphor. And the reason it’s so painful for our mums to give birth is that the brain is big enough that it can create things like metaphors. Monkeys don’t do it, apes don’t do it, chimpanzees don’t do it, ants don’t do it. All the social insects do not have metaphors. Chimpanzees do not have metaphors. Whales do not have metaphors. They don’t call anything else than what it actually is. And even then they can’t displace it. They can’t put it at a different point in time. I can say, hey, back then I was totally frozen out. Wow, you took a metaphor and you displaced it in time as well. What a manipulation. Well, that’s what we do. We are manipulators. The Egyptians, they’re god of language and thought was depicted as a given because it was the closest thing that the Egyptians had in terms of the dexterousness of the hands. And so the Egyptians knew that we were as we were because of this dexterous nature, not only of the hands, but because of the hands in language, that we could draw pictures on things with our hands and create a world that wasn’t actually there and leave language on the walls. That would mean that forward in time, you as a person that had left the language on the walls could make a difference to the time in front of you. After you were dead, you could make a difference like you write a book and after you’re dead, you can still make a difference. People can still commune with you and your ideas. So manipulation is a great thing.

Sonya: There’s so much that we could continue talking about. I feel like we barely scratched the surface of what we could talk about. So where can people find your work? And I mean, there’s literally hundreds of hours people could spend learning more and more about themselves in the world and other people.

Mark: Yes. So you will find me at Truthplane – or LinkedIn with me. I’m Mark Bowden. Find me on LinkedIn. Link in with me. I’ll link in with you. I put lots of video on there. Same kind of thing, me talking, and then people can see you like it. Join in. If it’s brilliant and you like it, join in.

Sonya: Great. Well, Mark, thanks so much for your time and it was really fun to share your energy and share your space and even learn about Hawaiian shirts. And I really appreciate you and I appreciate the work that you’re doing.

Mark: Thanks, Sonya. Thanks for having me. Thanks for having me in your home.

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