Body Language

I’m a fairly solitary person.  My acquaintances are few; my circle of friends can be counted on both hands, but with a few fingers left over.  There are people out there who can’t conceive of going anywhere without an entourage, while I have been known to dine alone or go to a movie solo.  I am also, however, a fairly friendly person – when I feel comfortable around people, I’m more open and talkative.  I used to be VERY friendly with others, but have adopted an attitude of self-protection and self-preservation; I have always had to stand up for myself, nobody has ever defended me from anything or anyone.

One reason for this, I’d say the main reason, is due to where I grew up during my formative years.  My parents moved to Alaska when I was three years of age, and moved frequently until my older brothers and I reached primary-school age.  One brother is three years my senior and the other is two years older, but we were all still a year apart grade-wise: when my oldest brother was a senior in high school, the other was a junior and I was a sophomore.  The town we all settled in was quite small, with a population of roughly 3,000 people, and it is fairly isolated as it is located on an island in the Southeastern Alaska ‘panhandle’, the Alexander Archipelago.

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My family is semi-‘multicultural’, so living in a small town with small-minded people was an unpleasant experience, to say the least.  I myself couldn’t understand why kids in this town treated me differently than kids in other towns had previously.  We had resided in three other Alaskan townships before settling in the southeastern part, and those places had populations of at least 15,000 so I wasn’t seen as an oddity in them.  Not so with this place!

I had to learn, very quickly, that what people didn’t say was spoken much louder than anything they actually verbalized.  I learned to read their nonverbal cues, commonly called ‘body language’.  Fake smiles and ‘blocking-out’ behaviors were the first cues I learned to identify.  Smiles that only stretch the corners of the mouth but don’t comprise the entire face are one example of the fake ones; another example is when one is smiling in what seems to be an animated, genuine expression of mirth or humour, but their eyes give them away – the mirth is not reflected there.  ‘Blocking out’ is fairly common and obvious to observe, once you know what to look for.  The way one places themselves in relation to you, whether one-on-one or in a crowd, can make their attitude towards you very clear.

This topic came up because I’d noticed a distinct change in attitude towards me, from a couple of my co-workers, who I’d thought shared a good rapport with me.  Initially they were friendly; we talked about a lot of different things: music, TV shows, family members, hobbies they have outside of work – just the general, miscellaneous stuff that people talk about at work that isn’t necessarily work-related.  For more than a year, things seemed to be smooth.  Lately though, people have been acting strangely: turning their heads away from me when they walk into the office in the morning; using the body bulk of others to hide behind, making it difficult for me to make eye contact with them or have a conversation; or only speaking to me via email, while granting others the courtesy of ‘face-time’.  Basically, keeping me at arms-length whilst allowing other people to be themselves!

I have worked for this company for almost 3 years now.  I find it interesting that few of my co-workers have tried to get to know me as a person at ALL.  Other people, who were hired well after me and have barely reached their one-year, ‘company’ anniversary, have been welcomed with open arms – playing on the softball team, being taken out to lunch with ‘the clique’, going to the gym, and generally included in all of the fun.  Me?  I’m treated like the red-headed stepchild.  I may as well be something foul that they stepped in on the sidewalk, and wish to scrape from their collective shoes!  It’s mystifying…

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