Practical Applications for Nonverbal Intelligence and the State of Comfort and Attentiveness

By David Schneer

3-Minute Read

Meet McDuff. He’s a 7-year-old West Highland Terrier who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. McDuff is typically a cool character who loves to beg for snacks and binge on YouTube.

But there’s one thing that really makes this Westie wild. That’s right. A squirrel. And of course, other dogs. See below. Notice the attentiveness at the iPad. Eyes focused. Head slightly tilted.

That’s the look you want when you are talking with someone. (After he tried to smash the follow button, we had to limit his screen time.)

And notice his attention when he sees a squirrel. He’s upright and attentive. Every fiber of his body is screaming “SQUIRREL!”

The Comfort-Discomfort Paradigm

It’s all about comfort. The Comfort-Discomfort Paradigm states that when someone is comfortable, they exhibit gravity-defying behavior (GDB) (Navarro 2008, 62-64). Your child hits a home run, you jump up and raise your hands in the air (GDB). You are attentive. But when they whiff, gravity takes over and you begin to slouch (non-GDB). All this behavior is automatic and controlled by the Limbic system.

If you are thinking that McDuff is atypically aware of technology because he lives in Silicon Valley, you are right. So, we tested this idea out further west.

Meet Coco (on the left) and Harper (on the right). They live outside of Boulder, Colorado. These two canine couch potatoes wouldn’t know a walk if it bit them. But only one thing will get them off the couch.

That’s right. A squirrel. Apparently, Colorado has squirrels.  Who knew?  Coco and Harper know for sure.

While the squirrel is unawares, it has Harper and Coco’s total attention. That’s the kind of attentiveness you want when you are communicating with another human being, or dog for that matter. Is their body facing you? Is their head upright and tilted? Are their feet pointing toward you?

These all are positive signs, although if someone is barking at you, then that’s never good.

If you want to understand how it looks when someone is showing you some attention, just take your dog to the park. As soon as a squirrel shows up, they will show you.

Most Communication is Nonverbal. Are You Fluent?


Navarro, Joe, and Marvin Karlins. Essay. In What Every BODY Is Saying: an Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2015. http://amzn.to/2vIazwl