My year has kicked off and I am flying again today. I am headed out of the Austin Bergstrom International Airport and made it through security a little before 5 AM. As I was passing through the body scanner to ensure that none of my medal parts were threatening, like the 7 month old who got pulled aside right in front of me and had its hands swabbed for bomb materials (seriously), there was a rather intimidating and unhappy gentleman standing on the other side of the machine. He had a mat with the footprints on it directly in front of him and was directing people to stand on the mat to wait to see if we passed the test to fly. If you stood on the mat, you would be about 3.5 inches from his nose with your own nose. I stepped on the mat and opened my facial expression and smiled a slightly crooked smile. He then leaned to his right and looked at the screen to see if I was a threat. He leaned back into my personal space and said, "Have a nice day," with the enthusiasm and happiness of a an angry animal, upset to lose its prey.
His tactic of forcing passengers to step inside of that bubble, outside of their comfort zone, and submit to having their personal space seriously invaded was no-doubt an intimidation tactic. I watched the next 5 travelers go through the same routine until my bag and jacket made it through the magic inspector belt. One young man (probably 25 years old) looked at him and asked, "You seriously want me that close to you?" The TSA agent pointed to the mat emphatically and non-verbally insisted that the young man submit to the discomfort. This agent was taking a situation where people are already a bit nervous and doing his very best to make it worse.
When people don't feel that their persona space is respected, that don't generally get nicer, they get more tense. When they are subjected to intimidation tactics, they begin to lose respect for the intimidator. In business, as well as in personal relationships, a person's negative power only exists as long as the other person is afraid of them. It isn't respect, it is fear. The bad thing about using negative communication is that it consistently leads to people, who would otherwise be very nice, looking for any passive aggressive way to regain some dignity that they can find.
My tip to you is to respect people's personal space in communicating with them. As a general rule, an entire arm's length is required in front of you and out to a 45 degree angle. To your side, the length of your arm from your shoulder to your elbow is customary. There is no real advantage to using intimidation tactics in communication, particularly when people are under stress. In the end, it accelerates negative behaviors on the part of the person being intimidated and diminishes their respect for the intimidator. Respect people's space. Watch their reactions and adjust accordingly.
To Your Success,
Jody is a writer, motivational speaker, consultant, and entrepreneur. He has been the keynote speaker at over 250 events around the world. Jody speaks more than 150 times per year at different programs, and he has given more than 10,000 speeches during his career.