Talking Body: Blanca Cobb Speaks at Salem College

By Regina Pearson

    Blanca Cobb is a body language expert and a North Carolina native. Last Monday, she spoke at Salem, touching on her knowledge of Americans’ body language. She started her presentation with a clip of herself on The TODAY Show speaking about John Travolta’s behavior during the 2015 Oscars. Cobb demonstrated ways to get out of potentially awkward situations revolving around body language.

    She defined body language, with some input from the audience, as any non-verbal communication. This not only applies to how your body is positioned, but also how you speak and how your facial expressions look, all three of which are instinctive and unconscious reactions that make up 65 to 95 percent of our communication at any given time. This is why, in platonic situations, we spend most of the time looking at our conversation partner’s face. If we start to look at our companion’s body, our non-verbal communication can be construed as turning sexual. Cobb went on to present a series of pictures of people and asked the audience to identify the person’s emotions and intentions, proving her point that it takes only seven seconds to form a judgement of someone, based solely on their body positioning and how they’re speaking.

    Her main point of the evening was the different body language used by men and women. Cobb stated that differences may not be a natural, but something that both genders are socialized into. A difference she focused on was distance; men prefer to keep a distance, whereas women stay nearer to each other—and their default facial expressions—women smile more, while men are more comfortable showing aggression. An interesting fact Cobb pointed out is that women are largely thought to be better observers because they are looked at more by both men and women.

    After her presentation ended, she took questions from the audience. Her first response was to a student wondering how to tell if people were lying. While Cobb didn’t speak at length about this, her answer was astute, discrediting the notion that people lie when they look away from you. Lying causes deviations from someone’s baseline behavior, which can be determined by speaking to them for any length of time. Lying cannot be simply determined on someone’s eye contact, or lack thereof; baseline behavior, and deviance from it, is completely subjective action.

    The next topic was about how to perform well during a job interview. Cobb mentioned that one-third of bosses make the decision to hire you or pass on you in the first 90 seconds of knowing you. Her tips included to pose like Super Woman, hands on your hips and feet at least shoulder width apart, for two minutes before any event you are nervous to attend. This is said to increase your testosterone and decrease your cortisol, making you feel more confident. On handshakes, she suggests keeping your arm near a 90 degree angle and always stand when shaking hands, making eye contact and never shake hands with yours on top, especially with a superior. To decrease fidgeting, Cobb says to wiggle your toes, but only if you are wearing closed-toe shoes. Finally, saying you need to think about a question is always something employers appreciate and it will decrease the long pauses and the hemming and hawing that accompanies indecision.

    Blanca Cobb is currently looking for interns who are interested in her work.

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