In these trying times, we think we all could use some tips on how to get what you need without getting riled – or making other people riled. Jessica Winter, writing for Slate a few years ago, coined a term that’s unforgettable. Her post, titled The Kindly Brontosaurus: The amazing, prehistoric posture that will get you whatever you want, whenever you want it, gives her readers a foolproof method for getting service without making service providers angry at you.
Her article was targeted at fliers who needed to get the last standby seat on a crowded flight, based on another Slate travel article from Amy Webb. Gate agents, Webb said, would prefer not to deal with you. They want you to state your case and sit down – preferably out of their range of sight. But you’ll never get what you need through compliance, she writes. “Stand next to the gate agent, even if they ask you to sit down,” she writes. “Be polite but firm.”
Amy Webb tells you what to do. Jessica Winter picks up from there on how to do it. She calls the perfect pose “The Kindly Brontosaurus” and describes it like this:
“You must stand quietly and lean forward slightly, hands loosely clasped in a faintly prayerful arrangement. You will be in the gate agent’s peripheral vision—close enough that he can’t escape your presence, not so close that you’re crowding him—but you must keep your eyes fixed placidly on the agent’s face at all times. Assemble your features in an understanding, even beatific expression. Do not speak unless asked a question. Whenever the gate agent says anything, whether to you or other would-be passengers, you must nod empathically. Continue as above until the gate agent gives you your seat number. The Kindly Brontosaurus always gets a seat number.”
Winter claims this pose has gotten her a seat on a sold-out flight – at Christmas – a seat at an oversold celebrity event, and a change of mind from her boss. Powerful stuff.
It’s worth noting that the Kindly Brontosaurus posture is the inverse of how most people trying to get their way look. Your typical exasperated customer is aggressive, displaying angry body language, impatient, jerky gestures, and a fierce expression, complete with angrily clamped lips. You may recognize that pose from your own ancient, less evolved, history. You may also recognize that anger seldom wins the day with an overwhelmed customer service agent who is paid by the hour.
The Kindly Brontosaurus posture works because it’s humble, according to Dr. Lillian Glass, body language expert and author. She says that, contrary to what most people think, giving power to the other person makes them more inclined to want to help you. That’s been our experience, as well; when you try to assert that you’re in control, the other person is more likely to dig in and resist.
Adam Sicinski, founder of IQ Matrix, writes in his blog that power from exerting dominance “is fleeting, while [power from humility] is subtle but lasting.” Sicinski defines the power of humility as “showing respect and courtesy to others … and being gracious in victory as well as in defeat. It’s about being assertive but not aggressive, about showing self-confidence but never at the expense of others; and …giving to others what they would essentially like to give to themselves.”
Next time you need help from someone, try being a little less T-Rex and a lot more Brontosaurus.