Something happens, you are taken by surprise. Whoops, oh no!

What should you do? Should you become still, leg it, or flex your muscles?

Exactly what happens to your body when a threat is perceived?

In the previous part I discussed how people demonstrate the freeze response when they are “made to feel” uncomfortable.

Obviously this differs from the way your body responds when it registers physical danger, but the identical principles do apply.

When in freeze mode an attempt to close down the body physically is made.
The head goes down and the shoulders get hunched up.
Eye contact is avoided, and movement is cut to the bare minimum.
“Now you see me, now you don’t!” is the device used as a person shrinks to make themselves look small, invisible if possible.

So, when taken by surprise a person will often initially freeze.
But what might they do next?

If by freezing the danger or threat remains present the limbic system will respond by sending a message to get you to run away from the danger.
The further away the better.
Escape at all costs is the aim.

Now running away from danger makes sense when you see a sabre-tooth tiger in the distance licking its lips and wondering what’s for lunch, but it is not entirely appropriate when you in a business meeting, and you find yourself being put on the spot!

The “flight” response provides the answer when you want to escape a worryingly tough position without having to scramble away.

Your body language knows precisely what to do when faced with such uncomfortable circumstances.

By the way, the response your physiology makes is nowhere near as startlingly obvious as quickly heading in the direction of the hills at a rate of knots, but the astute observer can easily spot the signals and respond accordingly.

In essence you want to distance yourself from something you would prefer not to consider.
“No thank you very much!” you think.

Here are some of the more common characteristics of the flight response seen in everyday situations:
People turn away and point their feet towards the nearest exit.
The eyes close more often, and a person may even rub them.
You may see someone place their hands in front of their face.
Also watch how the body leans away as an uncomfortable moment occurs.
All of these are distancing nonverbal behaviours that clearly indicate a person is uncomfortable.

Go ahead and test this.
Ask for something that is likely to make a person feel awkward and spot one of these signals.
Then apologise!

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