Crossing And Changing Planes
The plane we occupy and space can affect an interaction in two ways, you can cross planes and you can change planes.
The space between ourselves and communication partners or objects forms one type of plane relationship and the way our bodies move within in our own immediate sphere forms another.
To define our usage of the word Plane and to describe the first relationship I want you to imagine ten people shoulder to shoulder on a line,
Now, turn your figures so that they are all lined up front to back.
In the first example, shoulder to shoulder, each figure occupies its own physical space, but all of the figures are standing on the same plane,
And the second example, front to back, your figures stand on a line, but on ten separate planes.
Take a figure on the shoulder to shoulder line and have that figure take one step forward, leaving the other nine figures one step back, this is called a plane change. Moving forward or backward on a line.
Now, take the two figures on the far end of each side of the line and move them one step back, your figure should now be occupying three different planes.
Which you can measure now by how close they are in relationship to you.
To describe the second type of relationship let’s shrink this down to the space within your immediate sphere.
Standing or sitting with your back straight, your head over your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips.
I want you to imagine a line running from the top of your skull through your torso and straight down to the floor beneath you,
Now, without taking a step or moving in your seat I want you to lean forward, so that your head and torso fully cross to the other side of that line, this is called crossing planes.
Leaning forward or back with your body shifting across a plane without occupying it fully.
Crossing a plane can be as simple as a half step forward or a half step back or as small as tilting your chin up or dropping your chin down or forward.
Each time our body interacts with plane we convey information and meaning,
When you stand up from your desk and walk to the window you are changing planes.
When a politician leans forward over a lectern to shake his stern finger they’re crossing from one plane into another and then back again within their immediate sphere.
When changing planes in a forward direction we can communicate certain information about our attitudes and our emotions.
Depending on the context of a speech or a conversation a step forward towards your partner or your audience can convey aggression or passionate support for a statement or an idea.
Keep in mind that any forward plane change is an essence of closing of the physical gap between a speaker and a listener, there are many reasons to shorten that distance and the closing of that gap can be perceived in a number of ways.
We increase proximity to other people in order to create more intimacy to create more access to form a bond or creating an effective sharing space,
But as you’ve certainly experienced such a plane change from another person can also feel threatening or invasive depending on the circumstance or the relationship.
In those situations where you have felt discomfort I want you to picture your reflexive reaction, the body instinctively steps or leans back and away of experiences that doesn’t want to connect with.
Think back to our previous episode on line focus, you will recall that we protect our emotional center, the source of our gut feeling and visceral response, by shielding it from impact or shifting or turning our line focus away from an undesired stimulus.
Think of a reactive plane change in a similar way.
When is the last time you heard an engaging story or were deeply involved in the outcome of a sporting event or performance?
What was your body doing as it observed what was taking place?
You may think of leaning over your desk in a lecture, sitting on the edge of your seat during overtime or a scary movie or leaning your head toward a conversation,
Although you can hear perfectly well without doing so.
These are reactive demonstrations of interest
Walk down to your local watering hole or neighborhood restaurant to see a rich demonstration of plane use and all its complicated glory.
In the role of observer you’ll likely find it a simple task to determine which groups and pairs of individuals are interested or uninterested by one another by observing their plane and line focus orientations.
When one group approaches another, do all the members of the approached group turn their bodies in acknowledgement?
Or Do they engage in brief conversation over their shoulder or in profile? Do the couple at the far table lean toward one another or away? Or are they seated next to each other in the booth or across the table?
You will quickly determine from nonverbal cues up in interaction between strangers at the bars is going well or not.
It’s a person’s plane that will tell you if they’re fully engaged or if they’re plotting their escape,
But sometimes these entenations can be more complex.
What happens when a person changes plane in a physical orientation other than full front?
In most circumstances, plane change will be tight emotion to where the line focus is directed, such as stepping back while turning away in one fluid motion, and vice versa, stepping forward and turning towards the person,
But to make your use of plane strategic you must consciously separate the two in order to create a nuance result.
Let’s discuss a few possible scenarios:
Let’s say your goal is to express your interest and your commitment, but to do so in a way that feels trustworthy and non threatening, Our combination of line focus and plane can vay someone that is both excited and engaged while at the same time appears approachable and informal.
In this instance you will want to keep your line focus at a quarter-turn, so it’s not to over project your emotion on to your listener while crossing forward in plane in order to convey your interest and engagement.
What if you anticipated a difficult conversation or an argument and while listening you wish to convey that you are capable of respectfully handling and descending view while simultaneously showing those around that dissent does not affect your self confidence.
Imagine a competing proposal during a conference or board meeting, leaning slightly back or taking a half step away signifies both that you disagree and find the content displeasing and doing so while keeping your line focus full front will demonstrate presence, respect and emotional strength towards opposition.
In this situation, if you were leaning back slightly or taking a half step away and turn your line focus away as well you will be conveying a completely different message.
Perhaps you wish to show a friend or coworker that you were available to a request, but have limited time at your disposal, you were in a hurry.
When interrupted, you can keep line focus full front to the task at hand to demonstrate that you’re occupied while leaning back from the plane of your work
And turning your eye focus towards the speaking to show that you can separate yourself from the span of the interaction,
But in a moment you will have to turn your attention back to your work.
This use of line focus and plane in combination allow you to show acknowledgement by disengaging from your work on a level of the plane,
But unavailability by not providing the speaker with full line focus.
As with anything strategy depends on context.
Next time we will explore stance and its relationship with plane and orientation.
That’s enough to think about for this episode,
Thanks for joining me for this installation of our introductory ten part series on developing a baseline for approaching communication strategically.
Here are a few things to keep in mind from what we’ve just discussed,
Plane is the physical space you occupy backward and forward on a line.
Changing planes with full steps forward or backward reveals a person’s emotional connection or thought process about what is going on in a communication.
Aggression or disgust, attention or lack of attention or the desire for intimacy, or the need for personal space.
Crossing planes can convey a similar set of information, but in a more settle scale by leaning forward or back; within your immediate sphere you reveal interest or lack of interest,
And can communicate approval or disapproval.
Crossing plane can scale from a large movement using your full body, a more restrained movement with just your torso or a very conservative movement with just a slight inclination of your head.
Crossing or changing plane takes place as a natural reaction,
But being conscious of what a plane means in a specific context you can use plain deliberately to communicate information or interpret information provided by others.
As with everything we have discussed this far,
Plane can be isolated in order to be understood,
But plane always works in tandem with other communicative elements in an interaction and is closely associated with line focus.