Episode 3: Line Focus and The Emotional Center
You walk into your colleagues office mid-morning to ask a question.
The door is standing open- good sign.
You tap lightly as you poke your head into the room to announce your presence.
“Do you have a minute?”
From the desk along the far wall of the room facing sideways to the door, they turn their head up from the computer screen to look at you.
“Sure come in, what’s up” they say… without turning their body fully to face you.
Their words said, “Sure, come in” – and you do- but somehow you feel your colleague is not truly available for what you need.
How do you know this? and what’s going on?
In this episode: Line Focus and the Emotional Center.
When we communicate with one another face-to-face only a portion of what we express is delivered verbally.
There are other systems at work helping you give and receive important information about an interaction.
Even if you aren’t aware of it, your body is constantly giving attention, receiving attention, and drawing attention from a powerfully communicative part of your body.
I want you to picture your body’s torso.
Draw one line straight across your hips and then another line straight across from shoulder point to shoulder point.
Now connect those horizontal lines with vertical lines from each shoulder down to each hip to form an imaginary box that encompasses your torso area.
Inside that box put a little bullseye about 3 inches below your belly button.
That zone is the most powerful giver and receiver of attention during in-person interactions.
The trunk of the body controls what is called line Focus.
Now picture an arrow beginning in the middle of that box and extending out into the space in front of you.
When you turn your body, that arrow, straight in front of you, representing the direction of your Line Focus, turns with it.
Attention travels both directions on that line.
It is with this part of the body that we are giving attention, receiving attention, and drawing attention in our communication.
Let’s go back to where we drew that Bullseye in our box just beneath the belly button.
This zone is integral to many traditions of physical practice and is referred to by many names.
You may have heard it referred to as the sacral chakra, or the source of chi, or perhaps as the source of the “gut feeling.”
We will be referring to this area as our “Emotional Center.”
Let’s take a look at some common scenarios in which our “Emotional Center” is clearly engaged.
Think of a time when you have narrowly avoided a car accident, you’ve been startled while watching a scary movie, or you’ve been taken by surprise hearing in balloon pop.
You feel an Impulse reaction first there in your gut, the Emotional Center- and a split-second afterwards your brain catches up with an assessment of what’s happened.
Whether you are conscious of it or not, this small area of the body plays a significant role in receiving information, often perceiving sensations and communicating a raw response before we are able to intellectually process what’s happening.
Now, let’s apply our Emotional Center to our communication by exploring its relationship to Line Focus.
We all naturally shift and direct our Line Focus based on how we’re feeling.
Think of the natural inclination to turn your body and your Line Focus towards your friends or people whose presence you enjoy.
When a friend joins us at a table it goes without thinking that we turn the trunk of our body toward them to recognize them and give them our attention.
We call this “giving Line Focus.”
We also have a natural inclination to turn our body away from an unwelcome interaction.
By turning the trunk of our body slightly away from someone we indicate that our attention is unavailable.
Think of your reaction to an unwelcome approached by a stranger, or when you feel hurt, or don’t want to be noticed by someone.
When we turn away from a person or thing and we do not give our full attention we call that “denying Line Focus.”
Line Focus affects all participate in a given communication.
When you turn away from someone, you indicate both that you are not giving full attention and that you are not receiving the full attention of your communication partner or audience.
Line focus is always a two-way street and affects the attention that comes in and the attention that goes out.
When we are giving someone our Line Focus we provide our full attention but we need to remember that the same time we are also fully exposing our Emotional Center.
Depending on the situation this can be very powerful or it can leave us feeling vulnerable.
Sometimes we want to turn our Line Focus slightly away from an interaction but still maintain our eye contact – this allows us to minimize potential impact to our Emotional Center and it can also soften our energy and the impact we have on others.
We have all had the experience when we are speaking of with someone who is very dynamic, or a high-energy personality, and we begin to feel a little overwhelmed by their presence.
We may feel as though they are “in our face” or dominating the interaction.
What is often taking place is that they are projecting all of their communication from their Emotional Center and their constant use of direct Line Focus becomes overbearing.
When you feel the urge to turn away from someone in this type of situation what the body is unconsciously doing is breaking the connection between your Emotional Center and the line Focus being projected by the other individual.
You may have also have the experience in which upon turning away from another person you find that they move or shift to get in front of you in order to reestablish the broken connection.
We call that “countering” – beginning to see how this works?
So far our examples had been of how this functions unconsciously – let’s talk about how to make decisions which use this information deliberately in our communications.
Here are everyday situations where we can choose to manage our Line Focus to influence our interactions.
Remember our opening scene?
When you approach your colleague and they’re in their office and they say “come in,” but do not turn their body towards you to give you their full attention?
It’s the lack of Line Focus that sends the more powerful message, indicating their unavailability despite what their eyes or their words but maybe saying.
In our example, you are the one receiving the mixed signal.
Now, let’s place ourselves in the role of the colleague behind the desk.
If you truly do not have time for a conversation, you can see from what we’ve just discussed that it is important to deliberately pair your words with positive Line Focus. If your words say “come in” your body should too.
This gives your communication clarity.
However, if you do not have the time or are unavailable for a quick talk, find a way to match your denial of Line Focus with words that underline that.
You may have said “come in” out of a desire to be polite, but if you say one thing and your body says another then courtesy will not be the message that your colleague leaves the interaction with.
Being conscious of how you direct your Line Focus will help avoid simple miscommunication.
If you are a person who likes to keep to yourself in crowds, or in situations where you are among strangers, or at times you’re just not interested in interacting with people you don’t know, you may have found that by turning both your Line Focus and your eye focus away from the path of others we signal our unavailability to those around us.
Next time you are out and about observe this behavior in others end in yourself.
I’m sure there have been occasions when you have found yourself a little overwhelmed or exhausted by someone’s energy or attention.
And maybe you’ve also found that at times it’s your energy that others may find overbearing.
An easy way to soften your presence and create a less confrontational atmosphere is to maintain your eye focus while turning your Line Focus and your Emotional Center just slightly away from the person or people you’re speaking too.
I work with many clients who have shy or introverted personalities.
If you are this type of individual it can be uncomfortable when you are required to enter into communications in a workplace or social setting that are more public than you would prefer.
When these discomforts stem from feeling that your personal space is being compromised in some way, or you don’t want to feel like you are drawing and absorbing everyone’s focus, you can take steps to guard your Emotional Center with a shift in your Line Focus.
By standing at a slight angle the Emotional Center is not fully exposed.
You can establish a strong personal platform and at the same time protect yourself with a stance that minimizes the brunt of the attention that is being beamed your way
That’s enough to think about for this episode.
Thanks for joining me for this installation of our introductory series on developing a baseline for approaching communication strategically.
To recap, here are a few things to keep in mind from what we’ve just discussed.
your body conveys a great deal of information when you interact with other people through Line Focus.
Your Line Focus influences how you draw, give, and receive attention.
Your Emotional Center, just below your belly button, plays a large role in receiving information and creating a raw response.
We can take steps to protect or engage our Emotional Center by making conscious decisions about where and how to direct our Line Focus.
In a conversation more clarity can be achieved by making sure that you match the tone of your Line Focus with what your words are saying.
There are many ways to use Line Focus strategically, but in order to discuss them we are we are going to need to deepen our shared vocabulary.
Shift your Line Focus, she says. Shift your Line Focus! But shift it how? That’s next time on “WTF do I do with my hands?” : Line Focus and Physical Orientation