Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The guy nod

The other day I was walking Autumn and Lucy down a street in Buffalo. I had her in the baby carriage and Lucy on her leash. I like to take the girls out of the house and leave Rhona some time to sleep, shower, or simply be without both of them for a bit.

So there I am, walking down the street when I pass this guy. It's at this point that I give and receive something I am basically powerless to prevent. I make eye contact and nod my head once, often furrowing my brow a little at the same time. This is the guy nod (my added variation is the furrowed brow). It's always a nod accompanied by a smirk, a frown, a furrowed brow, or simply a knowing look. When I give it, I get it back. When I get one, I send it back without even knowing why.

In the natural world, ie, in the scary place called the wild, before humans planted seeds in the ground, laid down roads and began voting republican, homo sapiens survived because we hung out in groups. We're pack animals. Consider the yawn and my theory about why it's contagious: because we hunted in packs and thus depended on every member of the team for survival, one yawn meant weakness in the pack. Thus, we've evolved to yawn when we see a yawn to ensure we all don't go out and hunt. Admittedly, we're passed the point of needing yawns, but evolution moves a lot slower than civilization.

But back to the guy nod. As pack animals, we need to acknowledge the other animals around us. Especially the guy ones.

The guy nod is a throwback to times when we didn't have language. If you're a guy, think about how much is communicated in the guy nod, and its accompanying frown, smirk or look. It's the equivalent of: I recognize you, and I recognize what you are doing. In the cases where I get a guy nod when walking Autumn and Lucy, then an additional paternal recognition might be found in the nod as well.

That's a lot of stuff communicated in a gesture. Fact is, we could speculate on what else might be communicated, at different times, with a guy nod. But the important thing is, it's virtually impossible, if you're a guy, to not do a guy nod. And that's the really interesting thing. We can choose to say hello, shake hands, flip the bird and make gestures. However, if a guy nods to us, we're basically powerless. We have to nod back.

As a copywriter, the guy nod means something more to me, and this might be a leap, but I'll make it. If you don't want to come along for the leap, go play a game. The guy nod is throwback proof that certain communications are inherent in our DNA. Also inherent in our DNA is also the notion that we're a social, pack animal. As any marketer knows, we humans can be moved by invitations to belong. Deep down, we want and need someone to exchange guy nods.

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