Well. unless we sit at the tables like corpses in an advanced state of rigor mortis, with dead pan faces and the stiffness of statues, then body language becomes unavoidable. Therefore, as ethical and honest bridge players, we all have to make an effort to control it, but unfortunately it is a task that many of us fail.
Clearly, there are two big reasons why body language has to be controlled.
Firstly, there are all sorts of facial and body mannerisms, which can convey to an astute partner, well skilled in reading " tells ", that you are encountering a certain type of problem. This can be whether ( or not ) to bid, which bid is the lesser of two evils, which card makes a safe opening lead, or what suit needs to be played next. " Tells " of course add up to unauthorised information, and clearly puts pressure on partner to do the right thing. But this could require him to do something that he really doesn't want to do. Classic examples of these naughty tells include :
- lots of puffing and blowing
- huddles and lengthy hesitations
- finger positioning and movements
- squirming and fidgeting
- smiles, nods of approval or head shaking and scowls
- instant, lightening quick play of a card
- hand hovering over the bidding box
- light or heavy placement of bidding cards on the table
However, body language also has another purpose beyond a deliberate or subconscious attempt to pass information over to partner. The aim here is to convey another type of message, usually with regards to one's agitated state of mind, negative thoughts, feelings and emotions. Facial mannerisms and body movements are carefully selected to show one's contempt, hatred, anger and despair over partner's inept play. Body language here is adopted with the aim of punishing and reprimanding partner in a silent....but far more effective way that words ever could. Classic examples here include :
- slumped body, dropping of head, or head in hands
- shoulder shrugs
- teeth/hand clenching
- arm flailing
- frozen look with open-mouth
- black look with bared teeth
- rolling of eyes
Yet, many players will defend the use of body language claiming ( quite rightly ) that it enriches the game, just from its entertainment value alone. Then there is the drama and theatrics it generates, helping to bring the game to life. Yet the reality at the tables is that body language is at the centre of most cheating allegations, as well as being instrumental in driving many people away from the game.
Now I don't want to see bridge players operating like pre-programmed androids with fixed facial expessions and identical body movements. But at the same time, I don't want to become a victim of any untoward body language. A delicate balance needs to be struck. Therefore, players need to adopt and apply the principle of preparedness, to bid and play the cards in even tempo, and to learn how to enjoy the game and to laugh at their misfortunes.