Most people would get uneasy about being spied, but this anecdote about an US diplomat proves you can live in a Peter Sellers movie every now and then:
William Harriman was a US diplomat well known for his phenomenal hard work and wits.
While being ambassador in Moscow in 1945, he was followed everywhere by the Soviet secret police. He was aware of this, and found their persistence amusing.
One weekend, he was invited to visit a British colleague at a country retreat. The area was only accessible only by means of all-terrain vehicles, so thinking about the guys constantly following him, he told them so they could be well prepared.
Of course, the Soviet police officers scoffed at the suggestion and they still followed him in a sedan, which soon became hopelessly bogged down in the harsh terrain. One of the operatives jumped out of the vehicle and began following Harriman’s jeep on foot.
The diplomat even asked his chauffeur to slow down so the operative didn’t miss them.
(I told you this was like a Peter Sellers movie!)
Not long after, and fearing the operative turning into a human lollipop, the jeep stopped and he asked the man to just come in, under the promise he wouldn’t tell anyone.
The officer accepted, and they rode together for the rest of the journey. I guess avoiding jokes about Stalin!
This reminds me of the art of watching people, not unlike a Soviet police officer. And I don’t mean following them to the point of stalking! but observing their behavior.
But Harriman’s attitude reflects the other side of the coin: when you’re being observed. And wether if you like it or not, when we are in public we’re being observed (and sometimes, judged).
You don’t need to be a celebrity to attract people’s attention, because this is something that normal people do. We’re gregarious, we are in a constant state of connection, and watching each other is a given.
But what if one of those ‘watchers’ has ill intentions? or at least, you doubt about what they want from you?
Well, here’s one tip: keep acting like you haven’t noticed that they’re watching you, or following your every move.
The fun part is when you start to confuse them with your behavior. I like this a lot, by the way. Act in a way that people don’t expect from me. That’s why I talk so much about specific interruptions, whether if they are verbal or nonverbal.
Acting like a fool is part of those strategies, as well. Or asking a confusing question, such as “Where did you get that orange tie?”, if they are wearing a green tie. Something to throw them off and see how they react.
It all boils down to your awareness of people minding your movements. And that’s how you stop toxic personalities before they put a foot inside your proverbial house… or your jeep 😉
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Much Love and Bliss,
The Body Language Guy.