Friday, April 3, 2009

When was the last time you greeted someone without a handshake?

Maybe it was when you were out for a walk yesterday. Maybe it was on our way to work this morning. Maybe it was while thanking the person behind the counter who carefully prepared your latte. Regardless of who it was - it happened.

Nodding is a major part of what we do - and we don't even give it enough thought.

Right now you are most likely asking yourself "Why in the world would this guy write about a gesture as simple as a nod?

Good question.

But...not really.

See, day in and day out, we do things - tiny, little, seemingly insignificant, miniscule things - that actually do affect people in ways we never see.

The nod is one of them.

Think about it - the nod represents countless sentiments and emotions. It is most universally known as an affirmation. The physical gesture representing three simple letters, "yes". It never even crosses our mind - but the nod is the most basic motion we make with the most vital part of our bodies - our noodle. It houses our most important component, and serves as the home base of our senses and is the focal point for some of the best things we do in a day - hearing one of our favourite songs, smelling one of our favourite smells and even kissing one of our favourite people. So, nodding may just be one of the most underrated actions we perform.

But, when we do nod, it has the ability to serve as a catalyst for a wide-range of emotions in the person receiving the gesture. The two most fundamental nods are the Up-First and the Down-Then-Up. The Up-First is a subtle movement...almost as if to say, I recognize the person/situation I am nodding at - but it may not be worthy of any great exertion of effort. The Down-Then-Up is a full-fledged gesture that is an overt understanding of the person/situation that calls for it. Each of these sends out varying signals - one more positive than the other.

For one of the most classic examples of Up-First and Down-Then-Up nodding, check out this clip of the final scene in The Karate Kid. Mr. Miyagi (arguable the hardest "mentor" character in film history) gives us a taste of both. Fast forward to 3:50 to see the Up-First Nod. Daniel has just finished getting his ass handed to him and it's time to make a move. The proud, righteous, self-respecting Miyags won't back down from anyone and he goes Up-First to let the Cobras know he won't back down - but he's a bit nervous. Then, at 4:10, Miyags gives us the Down-Then-Up because he knows the Crane Kick is in full effect. This is a confident, definitive affirmation that the Cobra is about to get beat by the skinniest white-boy in history. Check it out:

The point here is that the Up-First can be a confrontational, disrespectful, sometimes even boastful and arrogant nod. Now, in Miyags case, he had to stand up for his pupil - so it was called for - but that does not change the tone. When he goes for the Down-Then-Up, it's a definitively confident gesture that shows faith, support, affirmation and belief.

To further my point, use the following as a litmus test:

Next time you are out somewhere and you get introduced to someone see how they react. Someone who really doesn't give a rip to meet you and/or remember you, will give you an Up-First and probably not extend their hand. Oppositely, someone who is engaging and is interested to meet you, will give you the Down-Then-Up and even extend their hand and be grateful to meet a new acquaintance.

You do not even know it, but you have definitely found yourself in a position where you subconsciously had to choose between the two. Maybe you saw someone you are not all that fond of - you definitely gave the Up-First. You're still a wicked person, don't worry, we're all guilty of it. On the contrary, think about the last time you ran into a neighbour or an acquaintance of had good service, you inevitably gave that person the Down-Then-Up and, without even knowing it, made them feel good in the process.

Like anything in life, once you know, you can't not know.

So, think about how you use your nods. We make the gesture all the time - but don't realize the impact on others.

Give it some thought, Down-Then-Up and maybe even add a smile.

Works wonders.