What is the New Definition of a Hero? Who do we need to save us?

We have changed how we define a hero.  We use to talk about a hero being a strong, brave person who swoops in to save the day or a leader of men who fights the bad guy but now we are looking for a different kind of person. A person who seems just as rare and magical as Superman, in his red cape, flying through the sky. We are looking for an honest person, a credible human being, a person of integrity and a person we can call our True North.

I say this hero is rare because in my programs and book, SNAP, I ask people to think of someone in their life that embodies these characteristics and some people can’t think of one person with integrity they have known in their lives. It seems we are living in a time when so many people are screaming out lies we think everyone is dishonest.

In the exercise in my program, I ask everyone to remember an honest person from their lives and recall how they felt or feel in their presence. I ask them to do this so that they recognize when they are with someone new they can do a sense recall and see if the new person they meet makes them feel the same way, safe and good. We need to recognize a hero’s energy, the way a hero speaks and moves. A person of integrity is fully present with you, they make contact with you, and they lean forward and truly listen. We need our hero and we need to know what safe and good feels like. Then we can draw the good guys into our lives and we can model their goodness.

We also need to know what it feels like to be with a good guy or gal to protect ourselves. If we know how good it feels to be with a person of goodness and integrity then when we are with the opposite, (someone that makes us feel stressed, uncomfortable, wary and less than,) we know this is not how we are supposed to feel.  Just like the good guys contrast with the bad guys in super hero movies, we need heroes in our lives so we can recognize the bad guys.

 Last night I watched a special on PBS about Mr. Rodgers. A journalist, Tim Madigan, wrote a book about his friendship with that extraordinary hero. He said Mr. Rodgers made him feel safe and accepted. Sounds like a hero to me. I think we have a new hero for our time.  A hero who is confident, with no hidden agendas, with new super powers, speaking softly and honestly, someone who wants to be in the moment listening to our fears and dreams and wearing a soft red sweater not a red cape.

The full exercise and the definition and behaviors of a True North Hero from my book, “SNAP Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma.” follow.  

Your True North

How do we know what credibility is and whether the person we’re meeting is credible? How can we know he’s credible within seconds of meeting him?

I do an interesting exercise with my audiences. I say, “I’d like you to think about person in your life who you think is the most credible person you know. There is something about them makes you feel absolutely safe in their presence. You can believe them. What is it about them makes you feel that way? What kind of behavior do they demonstrate? What do they say? Are there things they do with their hands, their body that makes you tell yourself ‘This person has integrity”?

As they share stories and describe this honest true person in their lives, whether it is their first boss, their mother, their high school teacher I notice  their voices grow warm and pause with wonder , their bodies unfold as they describe them. I call this person your “True North.”

Take a moment now to think of a person who is a True North in your life. Someone you trust to be honest, who is authentic and true think how you feel in their presence.  If you have someone like this in your life, you can recognize what it’s like to be in the presence of someone who truly demonstrates credibility.  If you have a “True North,” You can compare each person you meet for the first time against this person and see if it feels as comfortable and trusting.

“True North” is a benchmark. Once you know it, you should be able calibrate within split seconds that “this feels good” or “something is just not right there.” When somebody has that credibility factor in first impressions, it typically feels very safe and comfortable to be with them. There’s an authenticity you don’t get with most people.

The Definition of Credibility is Universal

Some people think credibility is something you learn about a person over time but it’s not true. When somebody is their authentic self, exactly who they are with no façade, you have a visceral feeling in their presence. This is who they are. Call them credible, authentic or real, you believe them from their facial expressions to their actions. And here’s something even more interesting: If somebody is credible, they’re credible to everybody. Other people see them the same way you do. It is consistent.

It really comes down to evolution. We are hard-wired to pick up on credibility. The first impression in the basic survival instinct asks, “Can I trust this person?  Can I feel safe in their presence? Are they going to pull a knife out? No, I can believe what I’m seeing as the real thing.” Credibility is vital and primary.

Long before I realized that there were four first impression factors, I used to ask my audiences and my class participants, “What is the first thing you notice when you meet somebody?” They would partner with each other and share their answers. Remarkably, class after class, year after year, would share the same answers: trustworthy, credible, authentic, honest, integrity. All of these traits make up credibility. These were the first things they noticed. Years later, I found the research that says the
first thing we look for is credibility. I didn’t need the research to tell me.

When somebody is “True North,” you know they’re going to be this way every single time. When you find somebody who is credible, you don’t have to go through the “fight or flight” response. Your body can say, “Okay, I’m safe.”

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert.
For more body language insights go to her website at www.PattiWood.net.
Check out Patti's website for her new book "SNAP, Making the Most of First
Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" at www.snapfirstimpressions.com.
check out Patti's YouTube channel at http://youtube.com/user/bodylanguageexpert.