A Raised Eyebrow

Hanno is General Director at a Dutch Ministry. The people he works with listen to him, take notes when he speaks, try to catch his attention – because they know who he is. But with his thick glasses, jackets that seem to not quite fit, and buck teeth, his appearance is not impressive. People who don’t know him yet often mistake him for the devoted specialist he once was. Not that it bothers Hanno. He has never paid much attention to his looks, but he does realize that people become embarrassed when they discover who he is.

Hanno consults me because he wants to figure out which impression he leaves behind. I ask the actor to demonstrate his posture as precisely as possible. A man with slightly hunched shoulders comes in discretely, quickly looks around to find a seat, and sits down without further ado. He is not in a rush or tense, and does not look around the room until he is completely ready to start. He is there, but totally unnoticed. Hanno laughs and says he has no trouble recognizing himself. Then he sighs that he would never hire a man like that for a position of authority. He wonders how he ever managed to get there himself.

We practice how he can enter a room blatantly, upright, an open stance, taking in the whole room. How he can take his time to observe everything, notice people, take advantage of contact options that present themselves. We explore ways he can occupy space at a table without saying anything. He senses that he attracts the spotlights by this conduct. It makes him shy, he feels it is a bit overdone.

Hanno is intelligent and exceptionally erudite, he likes complex projects and enjoys using simple questions to challenge his people to achieve surprisingly good results. He tends to see the speeches he delivers and the ceremonial events he attends in the course of his job as necessary evils.

Within a couple of weeks, he develops a style of his own. He turns out to be able to make his presence felt by a small hand gesture, raising one eyebrow or clearing his throat. He looks around without restraint, nothing seems to escape his attention. And he looks at people with affection, he is not afraid to keep eye contact. When the actor imitates this active presence, Hanno sees the power of it.

When I’m at the Ministry a few weeks later, I drop in on him. He says he doesn’t always have the energy to be powerfully present the first time he meets people, but he’s less apprehensive entering new groups. It surprises him that he now registers more information about people, the surroundings, and the atmosphere there. Nowadays his work does not just start when the talking begins, it starts the moment he comes into a room.