The Authoritative Sniff
I remember first noticing ‘the authoritative sniff’ about ten or eleven years ago. John Ragsdale and I were hanging out (actually, I think we were supposed to be working). Back then, the lines were very blurred between hanging out and working. Anyway, we noticed a colleague that would make a statement and then sniff a little sniff. It was always accompanied with a slight pucker of the lips.
The sniff always followed a statement with very technical jargon or a statement that was risky for the speaker. Risky in the sense that we might not approve of the statement. Over time, we begin to realize that the sniff somehow made him feel more comfortable with what he said. The sniff had absolutely nothing to do with allergies or the relocation of nasal fluids. In fact, it sounded if there was nothing in the nose at the time of the sniff.
It was the “authoritative sniff”.
The sniff was a sort of warm blanket for his exposed conversation. So, what did John and I do? We began to sniff also! It was amazing the effect that it had on ourselves. Over the years, I have found more authoritative sniffers! Each person has a slight variation on the tone and depth of sniff.
Not everyone does it, mind you. You can’t just strike up a conversation with someone in the mall and expect for them to sniff authoritatively. However, I am sure if you start listening you will start witnessing the sniff. OR it is possible that you are doing it and don’t even notice. I would love to sit down with a true psychologist and discuss with them why this happens. I wonder if it has been scientifically studied.
Is there a danger to it? Does it mean that there is something wrong with you if you like to drop a sniff here or there? That is a question that I am leaning toward ‘no’ on. Of course, I do not have a PhD. I will say that if the sniff makes you feel better, then go ahead…sniff proudly.