Line Focus and Physical Orientation
I have a client who is a charismatic, large framed man.
Think six-foot-four around 200 pounds.
His business requires that he build and maintain relationships with all different types of people.
public presentation- he has a commanding presence.
But he is also able to excel on the individual level, Person-to-person, face-to-face.
He is able to turn that imposing physical presence into one that is soft, warm, and most importantly non-threatening.
And he can shift to control room again in an instant.
Picking up from our previous episode, our introduction to Line Focus, we will be expanding and exploring the ways that line Focus can be used and directed here in this episode: Line Focus and Physical Orientation.
Let’s look at the orientation of the body in space.
We’re going to borrow some vocabulary and concepts from the theatre arts to help us describe and picture how the body is oriented while it is communicating.
As we lay this out I would like you to keep in mind that this orientation can be in relation to other people, too furniture, or even to the open space around us.
Begin by imagining a large circle on the floor of an empty room.
Now draw one line down the middle of the circle sectioning it in half.
Draw another line intersecting the first line so that you can split the circle into 4 equal parts.
Now two diagonal lines cutting across the circle again to form another two points.
You can imagine a pie that has been cut into 8 pieces.
On the point of the circle closest to you, facing you directly, I want you to place a figure.
This figure, standing directly in front of you and facing you square on, represents what is called the Full-Front position.
Moving one degree to the left and to the right of Full-Front place a figure on each of those two points.
These figures should be angled just slightly away from facing you directly into either direction to the right or to the left of Full-Front.
These are the Quarter-Turn positions.
Now move on to the sides of our circle to what would be the East and West points of a compass and place a figure at each of these points.
From where you stand as the viewer, you should only be able to see the profile of these figures.
This is referred to as the Half-Position or sometimes as the Profile-Position.
Now to the next points along a circle.
The figures you should place here should be facing out and away from you in mirror opposite of the Quarter-Turn positions we had earlier.
This is called Three-Quarter-Turn.
Lastly, in the back of the circle, and mirror opposite to our Full-Front position, place a figure that is turned completely away from you with the back of their shoulders turned square to the front of your own.
This is called the Full-Back position.
Let’s examine what these positions mean when we use them to talk about Line Focus.
The Full-Front figure is giving you complete Line Focus.
If you recall the imaginary box we drew around the torso in the previous episode, you will notice that box on your Full-Front figure is pointed directly at you.
This orientation is one that is most found in formal settings, in confrontations, or in situations that demand full attention.
You can think about a classroom where the teacher and student are normally set up to face Full-Front to one another.
You can think of an employer-employee meeting with two people positioned directly across from one another at a desk.
Or you can think about sitting in a cinema or a theater with your seat facing Full Front to the stage or the screen, allowing a direct exchange between your Emotional Center and the action taking place.
The Quarter-Turn figures are softer, and not quite as direct with their Line Focus.
You have their attention, but that attention is not confrontational or formal.
This light offset of the Emotional Center in the Quarter-Turn figure allows you to exchange information without forcing an immediate response.
This orientation is found often in social interactions and casual presentation, or between people who are familiar or intimate with one another.
You may think of the formation created by people interacting in a bar or at a party, the stance taken by a storyteller, or the shape made by friends talking in a group to ensure that each person’s input and attention is included.
The Half, or Profile figure on the side of the circle has their line Focus directed away from you at 90 degrees.
In this orientation, the only way that they can give you their full attention is by turning their head to look at you, giving you their eye focus.
But their Line Focus, and the majority of their attention, is directed off towards something else, and their Emotional Center is inaccessible.
From this position a conversation can be carried out but a true interaction will require one or more of the parties to shift their focus to the other to bring about a Quarter-Turn or Full-Front position.
You may think of approaching two people that are in a conversation with one another.
If those two persons choose to include you in their interaction they shift their orientations one Quarter-Turn to share the three ways.
If they don’t shift, and don’t physically offer you their attention, they communicate to you they do not intend to open the conversation.
Three-Quarter and Full-Back are positions that communicate disengagement and are not positions that strive to make a connection with the Emotional Center of others.
When three-quarters of your body is turned away and almost all of the line focus is now directed someplace else there is a denial of attention with Line Focus and the message is clear that the attention of the communicator is elsewhere.
You can imagine when someone is in a hurry and turns to go while still speaking, many times though eye contact is maintained, their body turns away to a Three-Quarter-Turn – not completely Full-Back – to prevent being perceived as rude as the conversation winds down over their shoulder.
Seasoned teachers attempt to stay engaged with students when turning away to write on a whiteboard by turning into a Three-Quarter-Turn while still maintaining some eye contact so that the students get the message that there is still some attention from the teacher.
Another way to picture this position is to observe that the Three-Quarter-Turn can also be a non-verbal rejection of a communication or person, a physical response that turns the Emotional Center away, and most of the attention away from whatever is happening.
Imagine a person in a difficult conversation or intense interaction, the Three-Quarter-Turn is an obvious response to the communication and can send a more powerful message of disengagement than words.
Full-Back is a complete denial of Line Focus.
It indicates that there is not any engagement.
Let’s look at a natural use of the Full-Back position.
The Full-Back position is appropriate for a presenter who is turning to focus on the presentation screen.
The audience has the assumption that the focus directed away from them toward the screen has a purpose and there’s not a reaction of disengagement.
Interestingly, in a presentation situation, a brief Full-Back position can create anticipation of what will be communicated when a speaker turns back into the Full-Front or Three-Quarter position to speak.
This is called pointing up.
You can think of coming out of a fullback position to communicate something important in a more accessible orientation like Full-Front or Quarter-Turn as physical punctuation.
Using Full-Back effectively can be difficult, and it’s likely that you have witnessed it being used poorly on many occasions.
You may have even heard people say things like, “never turn your back to the audience.”
For the most part, they’re right.
Now that you have some terminology to describe what you see, you can begin to notice these basic positions in your in-person communications as you go about your day.
It may not seem obvious, but as you observe others you will see them convey certain moods and feelings with the body.
You will also begin to notice your own inclination of orienting Line Focus when you communicate.
My big imposing client shifts his orientation to present in Full-Front and build relationships and convey warmth in Quarter-Turns.
He even moves towards profile, relaxing the impact of his Emotional Center, when he senses his charismatic personality is too much.
There are additional elements that make up the composition of an interaction and we’ll talk about two of those next time.
To recap here are a few things to keep in mind from what we’ve just discussed.
There are five basic physical orientations to remember.
Full-Front, projecting Line Focus directly; Quarter-Turn, with your Line Focus angled slightly off your subject; Profile, with your Line Focus angled 90 degrees from your subject; and Three-Quarter-Turn and Full-Back, turning away, both of which are positions which deny Line Focus.
You can use these orientations to understand the way that focus and attention are being directed and received by participants in a given interaction and you can deliberately shift into a different orientation to adjust your emotional force and limit vulnerability depending on what and how you want to communicate.