Oxytocin and the Power Of Touch In Building Connection

Most people have heard that touch and eye contact are incredibly important during social, professional or romantic interactions because they fuel connection and bonding. But what most people don’t know, is why. The answer lies in a powerful hormone and neurotransmitter which can positively change human behaviour–oxytocin.

In this post, you’ll find out what oxytocin is, why it’s important and how to use it to your advantage when trying to build connection, or for personal wellbeing.

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First Impressions: Your split second Opportunity for Success

First Impressions are Incredibly Important

In most cases, they are the make or break moment in your opportunity for successful interaction and ongoing relationship, be it at work or play. Many studies show that first impressions are formed within seconds of seeing somebody (before we even speak), and these impressions are lasting. That said, sometimes we hear, or smell someone before we see them.

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Spies and Lies: Skripal Novichok poisoning–suspect’s body language uncovered.

What do you think of when you picture a spy?

Perhaps I’ve been watching too many James Bond movies. Somehow, I think I’ve romanticised my vision of the persona of a spy. I’m feeling a little surprised–my idealised vision has broken.

I just viewed a BBC video snippet of the interview with the two suspects in the Skripal Novichok poisoning. I thought spies would be skilled at concealing emotion. It seems I was wrong.

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Body Language of Kim Jong-un and Trump. What are they really saying?

With the big meet this week between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, I wanted to share some observations on snippets of video footage. 

While there are hundreds of nonverbal signals throughout the footage, mentioning them all would be like analysing every spoken word. Instead, I've selected a handful of noteworthy signals. Let's start with the initial greeting and progress to potential 'red flag' moments!

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Video Interview: Universal facial expressions of emotion.

Recently, I had the pleasure of working with Filmmaker, Courtney Waller, from Courtney Waller Productions. Courtney was interviewing me for the second time.

This time we were talking about the topic of my TED-Ed animation–universal facial expressions of emotion. We dig deep into the topic and touch on several areas including:

  • The history of emotion–Duchenne electrocuting his subjects to simulate expression.

  • 'Display rules'–cultural expression of emotion.

  • Animal and human expression.

  • The effects of botox on expression and our experience of emotion, and the potential for treating depression and OCD with botox. 

  • How we can trigger emotions.

  • Macro-expressions and micro-expressions.

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Tourette Syndrome: My involuntary nonverbal response to a sudden verbal tic.

Yesterday, I worked with a local government organisation, who, put simply, deal with a lot of crisis situations. Due to the nature of their work, we talked a fair bit about the emotion of fear– what happens in the body and brain when we experience fear? How do we express fear nonverbally? How do we recognise it in others?

Shortly after leaving the building, as I walked to the local train station, I looked ahead and saw a clumsy looking male. Youngish, perhaps in his twenties and very large in stature. I continued walking and passed an odd couple who were sitting on a grassy verge. Odd because they looked out of place. I admit I was a little wary of them and the way they looked at me. As I passed them I heard a short, loud, aggressive yelling up-ahead. I quickly looked up, but nothing looked wrong. The clumsy guy was still walking in my direction and the family behind him left the pavement to get into their car. There appeared to be no altercation. I was a slightly irked by missing the outburst, because I didn't know whether there was a threat ahead, or not. I was clearly distracted by the odd couple. 

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Seasons Greetings and a BIG Thank You!

A big thank you to all of your support and requests this year. We wouldn't be here without you!

We've been working hard (playing Santa), to fulfil your requests. Although some things are still work in progress, today we launched our SHOP! As a thank you, we currently have everything on sale, with huge discounts– until the end of January. Hopefully, some of the sessions will be able to help fulfil some of your New Year resolutions. There are some freebies too! Be sure to check it out.

For me, it's been an emotional roller coaster of a year- not a good year, with the loss of my mum. But I'm determined to get 2018 off to a great start- watch this space.

In the name of seasonal festivities, I've made you a cheesy animation to say Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year...

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Emotion Spotting: Expressions and Microexpressions

Are you missing an important channel of communication?

Most of us listen to spoken words as we interact with others, but not many people pay conscious attention to what remains unspoken. Words can, and do, convey lots of complex thoughts, theories and feelings, but they are usually filtered and adapted to create a certain impression, giving you, the listener, the 'intended' message. There are lots of reasons for this– to be more amicable, to maintain relationships, to deceive, to conceal emotions, to make others feel better– to name a few. So it's not all bad. Imagine if everybody spoke their thoughts– Ouch! In many situations, however, you could benefit from knowing more and having a good understanding of how the person you interact with really feels, whether it's potential deception in a negotiation or marriage, or when you just want a family member to be more open with you.

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What are Universal Expressions?

Scientists have found that the muscles in our face can produce 30 independent movements– 12 in the upper face, and 18 in the lower face. Working together in various combinations, these muscle movements are capable of creating thousands of expressions. However, most scientists agree that out of all of these expressions, only seven are 'universal'– innate within all of us, regardless of culture. They are...

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Sharing some good news: I'm working on a TED-Ed animation!

Yippee, I got the go ahead to share my good news with you! I've been working on a script for a TED-Ed animation and it's finally coming to fruition. The TED-Ed team have brought in the director, animator and narrator/actor to work their magic and bring it to life. This is a huge thrill for me, since I've been a TED obsessive for years. My TED-Ed lesson animation is about emotional expression– universal expressions, so over the next few weeks, I'll be posting some supporting information on the subject on my blog. 

If you aren't already familiar with TED-Ed animations, here's one by Peter Mende-Siedlecki, I think you may find it interesting- it's about first impressions, which are incredibly important for setting us up for successful interactions. It's less than 5 minutes long. 

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Loss of a Loved One: Observed Nonverbal Behaviours and Emotion

I've been quiet on my blog for a while now because I lost my beautiful mother in May. I've wanted to share with you some observations during my experience of loss– of emotion and nonverbal expression– I'm finally ready to write about it. I'm not sharing my experience of loss as such, but what I want to do here is mention some behaviours that felt noteworthy, illustrating some of the nonverbal cues that I usually write about. 

It was sudden and unexpected, so much so, that I didn't get a chance to say goodbye. Living on the other side of the world, I hadn't seen my mum for over two years. I was 'greeted' at the airport by my sister, who reluctantly stepped forth from behind her partner, his body temporarily and unknowingly shielding her from what she had to do. They were waiting right at the very back of the crowd, distancing themselves from the reality of what she was about to disclose.

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Lloyd Rayney: Truth or Lies? Are his Words and Behaviours Aligned?

Last week a client asked me if I'd ever blogged about Lloyd Rayney, a prominent Perth Barrister, who in 2010 was charged with the murder of his wife (2007). He was found 'not guilty' in 2012. I'm not too familiar with the case as I didn't pay much attention to it at the time; back then I lived in the UK and later, on the other side of Australia, in Sydney. From what little I had heard, since moving to Perth a year ago, I assumed Lloyd Rayney was guilty. This was largely based on public consensus in Perth, though I don't directly recall any conversations about the case, so most likely I've been swayed by the media.

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Why you felt Professor Kelly's discomfort, as his children interrupted his BBC interview.

I'm sure many of you saw South Korea expert Professor Robert Kelly's reaction to the unexpected interruption by his children, live on air, as he was interviewed by the BBC. I'm also sure that you sensed the discomfort he experienced as it happened. But do you know why? Do you know exactly what you saw in Professor Kelly's nonverbal cues that caused you to sense his discomfort?

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What happens to our body when we feel an emotion?

When we experience emotions we feel physical sensations within our body. Have you ever stopped in the moment of an emotion, to evaluate what you are feeling? And where that feeling is? In an emotion, our brain triggers physiological changes within our body. These changes alter our autonomic processes (processes we don't consciously control), such as heart rate, breathing, sweating and blink rate. In turn these physiological changes create physical feelings, or sensations, within our body. We associate these physical feelings with the emotion. Researchers at Aalto University have created visual bodily maps of emotions, based on self reported bodily sensations, experienced when an emotion was triggered. The results were gathered from 701 participants from around the world. 

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What the Media Missed in the Karen Ristevski Case; The Single Nonverbal Cue that Points Towards the Truth

I check the news every morning to see if there's anything interesting to write about. I'm usually looking for nonverbal cues that have specific meaning, usually those that contradict the spoken word and point towards deception. These cues are the most reliable and give us insight into the reality of the situation; the truth. My mission is to educate you. To give you so many examples of these cues that you start to notice them in the people around you. So that you are better able to understand the true feelings of others, which allows you to formulate a more appropriate response, ultimately improving your interactions and relationships.

One of the news topics I'm always on the lookout for, is the case of Karen Ristevski, who disappeared from her home in Melbourne, Australia, earlier this year. Today's news brought this case to the headlines once again, after little mention of it for several months. The reason I've been so interested in this case, is down to a single nonverbal cue, displayed by Borce Ristevski, Karen's husband, back in July. Ever since then, I've been waiting to hear the outcome of this case, because to me, it's glaringly obvious that Borce is hiding the truth. And it's all down to one single nonverbal cue.

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