Blocking Behavior

Practical Applications for Nonverbal Intelligence and the Indicators of Some Forms of Blocking.

By David M. Schneer, Ph.D./CEO

3-Minute Read

One of the greatest body language myths is that crossed arms mean a person is “blocked”. Crossed arms can be an indication of blocking—in the right situations and context—but most often it is a form of pacification. It just feels good to cross your arms. Especially when we are in public. Next time you are in a venue and the lights go dim, look around, chances are you’ll see people with crossed arms. So, you need to be careful in discerning this type of behavior. Let’s take a closer look at another form of blocking.

Answer me this. Let’s say you just gave a sales pitch for your company to two different clients. Which of these two prospects do you think would be most open to your proposal?  The man on the left, the woman on the right, or neither?

So, if you said the man on the left was most open to your idea, you’d be wrong. And if you chose the woman on the right, you’d also be wrong. If you said, neither you’d be right. Why? These positions are highly reliable indicators of being in an argumentative state, ready to debate, or disagree.

For example, the man on the left is so firmly blocked that he is grasping his crossed leg with both hands. That’s blocking.

And the woman on the right, she’s blocked too. Let’s break it down. First, she is leaning away, her right arm is draped over her right thigh, she’s also leaning back, and her left arm is crossing her midsection. She’s quite blocked too.

A Telltale Sign of Inner Conflict

Sudden blocking positions are often very visible in person, and sometimes on video. When you observe it, do not ignore it. At Merrill Research, we see participants block in qualitative studies when they are struggling to grasp a new product concept, for example, or if they dislike it. And when we see this behavior, it is always an opportunity to probe and learn more.

So, what can you do if you see this type of behavior? If it’s an in-person meeting, suggest to the subject some sort of break, such as refreshments, or suggest taking a walk. This will get them up and out of their blocking positions. Another tip is to follow up with a question asking the person if they have any concerns or if there is any confusion. Dig deep enough, and you will find out that there is.

Contact us today to see how we can help you or your organization become proficient at finding out what people are really thinking when they communicate with you. 

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