executive presence coach, trainer and speaker

Calander Feb 20, 2013

Cary Grant’s Cool Body Language


Your excellent body language speaks volumes about your Executive Presence.

Watching Cary Grant running in dirt and hiding in corn fields just does not seem right. The movie North by Northwest, an Alfred Hitchcock thriller, finds our hero in a situation that he finds hard to understand and deals with the circumstances as best he can. Please do watch the entire, excellent, movie.

This small segment demonstrates how our innate body language is, well, a strong part of us just being human. It demonstrates how, when we are presented with uncomfortable situations we automatically go into Freeze, Flight, Fight actions.

Cary is in the middle of nowhere waiting to meet someone he does not know and has no idea why he is there. In our careers, we experience similar professional situations where behaviors or actions are rather unexpected or uncomfortable. Our body language comes to our recuse.

The first few seconds shows him curious about the crop duster, his body is relaxed. As the plane comes closer you can see his body change, shoulders rise up, facial expressions change, his entire body becomes alert to something that is not good. We do the same thing, naturally going into a Freeze mode.

The Freeze mode is body language that can protect by helping us appear invisible. We try to become smaller, not make eye contact, remain quiet therefore not drawing attention to our self and are left alone. Movement attracts attention.

It quickly becomes clear that the intent is to attack him. In turn he tries to outrun and hide in clear view. The plane keeps circling for another try. This is our body language turning to the Flight mode. Get out of the way. Run from the situation. Take cover. Protect our self. In an office setting we may leave the room, back away from the situation and remain quiet.

Cary makes an attempt to gain help from a passing car but no rescue happens and he again is on the run. He runs into a corn field and is well hidden only to be pursued again.

There is a following scene where our hero stops an oil tanker, the plane crashes into the tanker allowing his escape to safety. That could be seen as the Fight rather than Flight reaction. In our office setting the Fight action is shouting, behavior that is rude, refusing to listen or interact.

Through it all, without a word spoken, our hero remains calm, cool and collected. Standing up from the dirt, his grey suit looks great, his shirt remains tucked in, his tie is straight and his hair is in place. This is great movie making.

Watch the video a few times to realize our natural body language. Understanding nuances of yours and other people’s body language is an ongoing, exciting experience worth the time to study and perfect.

Jean O’Brien advances careers with excellent body language and Executive Presence.

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