Body Language


For better or worse, your body language can influence your success. In business situations, it is critical that you present yourself professionally at all times to attract, befriend and retain quality business associates and partners. Understanding how to use body language effectively is the secret to inspiring confidence, conveying authority, and building relationships with business clients and colleagues.

You don’t get a second chance to make a first rate first impression. The outcome of your encounter starts the moment someone looks at you and observes your aura. Actually, you create it, and that makes you responsible for what it says about you, positively or negatively. Your aura speaks about you before you even get to speak. As your body language can communicate 60-70% of the message in each social situation, you may want to know what is effective and what is not.

1) Posture

People instantly notice how you carry and present yourself. Do you walk and stand with confidence and authority? As in the army, this means stomach in, chest out, shoulders back and head tilted slightly up. Avoid slouching your shoulders, bulging your stomach, or tilting your head to one side. All these postures can influence people to think that your lack confidence or competence or both. Some people may be turned off without you even being conscious of it. Get instant respect by standing tall and taking up your space. Plant your feet about six or seven inches apart with one foot slightly in front of the other. Standing like a short fat candle will help you to feel and convey being grounded and centred.

When you observe a nervous presenter, you will notice they try to hide in the open. Their shoulders rise towards their ears and their head tends to be a bit lower. Say you are in a sales meeting and you ask someone what their projected sales are. If they answer with hesitation or shrug their shoulders, they may lack confidence and could be trying to mask their figures. Picking up these kinds of unconscious physical cues is a skill that anyone can learn and apply in business situations.

So when you’re speaking to your audience, hold your chin high and don’t tilt your head to one side. Use open hand gestures to emphasise, but you can also point your fingers upwards, with the fingertips from one hand pushing up against the fingertips of the other hand. This is “steepling”, which is something many political and business leaders do to convey confidence and authority. The list includes Barack Obama, Tony Blair, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs and Donald Trump.

2) Handshakes

The next critical part you need to bring to a social situation is a firm handshake. Those few moments you shake hands can strengthen or weaken a relationship. Whether you are male or female, always give a firm handshake to convey confidence and authority. Hold the person’s hand firmly and shake web-to-web, two or three times while maintaining eye contact. Understanding the following handshakes will facilitate your relationship-building. Remember that each handshake tells a story about us and gives clues about our personality:

Bone Crusher The person extends his hand to you, connects and purposely puts his hand on top. He’s telling you he wants to be in control. By the way, a bone crusher can be female as well.

Sandwich This handshake is only for people you know well. When you sandwich another person’s hands or touch their elbow, you are invading their personal space. By the way, be aware that this handshake is also known as the politician’s handshake.

Limp Fingers Commonly women extend their fingers rather than their whole hand. This leads to men giving women a lighter handshake to avoid crushing the lady’s fingers. Women can solve this by always extending the whole hand horizontally without cupping, even if the grip is light.

Wet Fish Your hands may be wet for two reasons: You are nervous or you have been holding a cold drink in your hands. It can be uncomfortable for the receiver. Just wipe your hands on a napkin, handkerchief or tissue first.

3) Eye Contact

Looking someone in the eye as you talk displays your confidence and shows your interest. Also, listening is the most important relationship-building skill, and eye contact plays a large part in communicating our attention to others. Start making eye contact as soon as you engage someone in conversation. However, you may begin even earlier if you want to attract someone’s attention. Continue and then be sure to maintain direct eye contact as you are leaving. It will leave a positive and powerful lasting impression. Bill Clinton is very good at this.

When you meet someone for the first time, look him or her right in the eyes. It’s a well known fact that when we look at someone we find attractive, our pupils dilate. It’s a phenomenon the other person instinctively picks up. What you should do when you meet someone is look them in the eyes, then say to yourself in your mind, “Wow, it’s so great to meet you!” What will happen is that you’ll instinctively smile and the other person will pick up your positive aura.

4) Smiles

Smiles create and sustain interest, concern, and empathy. Normally, women smile to please and men smile when they are pleased. However be careful of smiling too much as this could mean insincerity to some people. Studies have shown that people who smile too often are seen as having less status and less power than those who smile just occasionally. Do not try to force a smile if you don’t feel good at the moment. Just pause a moment to remember a positive experience or what you are grateful for in your life and the smile will come naturally.

Smiling is important because making clients, customers or colleagues feel comfortable is a sure way to win them over. The key to making people feel comfortable is noticing when they’re not. You may be able to notice that people begin to show signs of discomfort by furrowing their forehead and crinkling their nose upwards. If someone squints, rubs or covers their eyes, that’s a sign of discomfort. If they bite or compress their lips, or touch their neck, that’s another clue.

But the biggest clue of all starts when they interlace their fingers, with the fingers of one hand between the fingers of the other. If they then rub their hands it’s a sure sign they are not comfortable. If you notice any of these signs, it may mean there’s an issue that needs to be addressed, and you should immediately start to identify the problem.

On the other hand, notice how they react when you ask them a question, when they think about that question and when they answer the question. If they have difficulty in all three of those situations, you may want to investigate more, because truthful people don’t need to try so hard. Signs of obvious discomfort, such as neck touching, lip biting, squinting, slips of tongue or speech errors may mean they are not being honest or sincere with you. Men and women lie differently and for different reasons.

All this is conveyed generally and is not meant to be a judgment upon anyone of either gender. So if you are lucky enough to be given a chance to master body language and deception detection, you may want to learn to be more forgiving and accepting. A lot of people are in denial, and have trouble telling the truth to themselves, much less hearing it from others. Nothing beats the application of patient wisdom in coaching and counseling people. To do so is wise, to do it the other way, is otherwise.

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