A good actor exaggerates his gestures so that they reach across the footlights and connect with the audience. From clear enunciation and raised voice to emphasis just a little stronger than you would find in real life, she or he ensures that you don’t miss a trick. Those wishing to communicate well should watch good actors. Communicating is what they do.

When we meet someone there are several stages to weigh them up. First impression is the most important. Before we have time to rationalise our feelings a gut instinct tells us whether the person we are meeting is trustworthy. This is strongest the first time we meet someone. It occurs every time we re-meet that person but to a weaker extent. Our second meeting is coloured by our first and so on. Most people underestimate the value of that first impression.

That is because first impressions are not infallible. We do make mistakes even at this time of heightened sensitivity. We make even worse mistakes when we start to convince ourselves of a pre-determined view. A friend gave a big project to a distant relative he had never met because the person recommending the distant relative had proved reliable in the past. He did not do the normal due diligence associated with such a job and got his fingers burnt. He relied on second-hand signals to ensure his work would be well done.

All the signals we get after that first impression are second-hand. They go through a filter of rationalisation based on our general pre-disposition either to trust or to be suspicious, either to research or to take the lazy way out. They are coloured by prejudices of all sorts and by expectations. That is why the most important aspect of negotiation is expectation. Watch as the new British Prime Minister handles expectations for Brexit. The apparent fumbling may be exactly right.

The eyes are the great seducer as every mature boy and girl knows. They can be easily manipulated by most people. They are valuable in all encounters, not just sexual ones. But they are generally very misleading. Used ruthlessly by salespeople and con artists they are powerful against the unwary. Savvy people don’t get taken in by them. The mouth on the other hand is the most honest of facial features. You can disguise your eyes for a long time but your mouth only for a few seconds. The mouth reveals – to a remarkable extent – a combination of inherent attitude and temporary mood.

Facial features, especially the ones that can be manipulated, are useful if you are selling. Buyers should concentrate on body language to decide the honesty and trustworthiness of those selling to them. From pressed flesh of the politician’s handshake to an imperceptible glance at the watch, or, for the truly subtle, at the other person’s watch, body language is a fine mixture of art and involuntary reaction. Time spent learning the code is invaluable.

Don’t want to be an actor? You have no choice, my friend. We are all actors on a stage.
Just want to be yourself? I’d advise against it – it will likely land you in prison. We are all learning how to behave from start of life to its end. Good communication is good acting.

And good acting communicates good behaviour.

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