Do the kindly Brontosaurus: The prehistoric pose that can get you what you want

Writer Jessica Winter has set the internet abuzz with her suggestion that a prehistoric pose is the ultimate persuasive power. Here, she explains her case – while body language expert Dr Lillian Glass reveals that the humility of the pose makes people receptive

Jessica Winter
Saturday 17 August 2013 02:01

Readers deserve to know about a foolproof method of body language persuasion for securing a seat on a packed flight – and for that matter, for convincing authority figures of all stripes to give us things that aren’t ours. This simple technique has an anodyne name that belies its hypnotic, even occult powers. It is known as the Kindly Brontosaurus.

A practitioner, nay, an artist, of the Kindly Brontosaurus method would approach the airport gate attendant as follows. You state your name and request. You make a clear and concise case. And then, after they inform you that your chances of making it on to this flight are on par with the possibility that a dinosaur will spontaneously reanimate and teach himself to fly an aeroplane, you nod empathically, say something like “Well, I’m sure we can find a way to work this out,” and step just to the side of their desk.

Here is where the Kindly Brontosaurus rears amiably into the frame. You must stand quietly and lean forward slightly, hands loosely clasped in a faintly prayerful arrangement. You will be in the gate attendant’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 attendant’s face at all times.

Assemble your features in an understanding, even beatific expression. Do not speak unless asked a question. Whenever the gate attendant says anything, whether to you or other would-be passengers, you must nod empathically.

Continue as above until the gate attendant gives you your seat number. The Kindly Brontosaurus always gets a seat number.

I once gave up my seat on a miserably oversold JFK-to-Heathrow flight for cash and airmiles, had second thoughts, and convinced a gate attendant to put me back on the flight, after the gate had closed. (It was just before Christmas, too.) This is the power of the Kindly Brontosaurus.

The Kindly Brontosaurus also once shepherded me past a power-crazed downtown Manhattan bouncer, a feat that was all the more remarkable considering I didn’t have a ticket. The Kindly Brontosaurus once coaxed a formidable guard at the Hermitage in St Petersburg to allow a friend and me into a closed area of the museum.

The Kindly Brontosaurus once politely ushered me past a queue of about 1,000 people to get into a sardine-packed celebrity reading at the Union Square Barnes and Noble. The Kindly Brontosaurus once persuaded a former boss of mine to completely change course on a project, at some inconvenience to said boss.

A colleague once termed the move the “Powerful Supplicant”, and said it would work best whilst wearing a monk’s hood. My friend coined the superior “Kindly Brontosaurus” terminology after she participated in the Hermitage incident; she in turn got the term from another friend, who used it to describe a 6ft 5in colleague’s comportment as he leaned over a bassinet to look at her baby.

Science-minded readers may object to this nomenclature, as the brontosaurus never existed; the correct term for our gentle giant is apatosaurus. But I think this bit of palaeontological imprecision only enhances its mythological, unicorn-like aura. The brontosaurus is a fabled beast with secret superpowers, blinking his doe-like eyes at the gate attendant.

Why does it work? Dr Lillian Glass, resident body language expert on Dancing With the Stars, said: “The body language of the Kindly Brontosaurus is respectful and nonthreatening. There’s a humility, so you allow the other person to feel empowered. Since you’ve made them feel like king of the jungle, they’re more receptive to you.”

She adds that the Kindly Brontosaurus can apply not just in customer service contexts such as in a restaurant but with parents, spouses, children, and “toxic employees”.

So lean in, apprentice brontosauri! Your advocate stands poised to ease you patiently through life, lumbering gracefully beside you, ready to nudge open any closing door with an intuitive flick of the tail.

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