Did you know that body language accounts for over 90% of a conversation! It’s true, body language can be used to help conduct an interview, give a presentation or make that important sale: a conversation stretches so much further than speech. Body language is the reason why selling face-to-face has a huge advantage over selling by phone.
Body language plays a huge role in intuition as it gives us messages about the other person that we can interpret at an intuitive level. We are always communicating verbally and non-verbally and whether we know that person or not, we each give each other signs with out bodies.
Usually when we communicate with or see people, we only
respond to what is being said, heard or generally seen. There is so much more
involved and most of us don’t even realise it, it's our body language and it
can express a thousand words in a simple movement or look.
Our body language will give others an impression of ourselves or show our emotions. You're probably using it right now to read this article.
Our body language is an important aspect of running a successful business, since we cannot always say what we really feel. This means we have to act positively in negative situations (and vice-versa). You can also identify other people's body language and know what they really mean: whatever they might be saying!
You may immediately think of this as standing tall and up right as much as possible. In fact, it is the natural alignment of your head and body without the use of tension and 'locking'. Everyone has a different posture and it usually develops through habit over the years. This could be slumping your shoulders forward or hanging your head; in fact, anything that has come to feel natural to you.
Your posture may show how you approach a situation. For example, if you stand with your shoulders forward, arms folded and lean to one side, it will look as if you aren't ready for or interested in the task in question. If you stand with strong shoulders back, head up, and arms out by the side with closed fists, you’ll look as if you are ready for anything, no matter how much stress is involved. Looking at a person’s feet when they are sitting down will also tell you who is an extrovert (out-going) and who is an introvert (withdrawn). Extrovert - toes pointing out, introvert - toes pointing in.
Those who stand always look more powerful to those people who are sitting down. This is because they are taking up more space. So if you feel comfortable standing, use it to look as though you have a higher status then those around you. When you move around, the more space you take up can make others feel threatened by your presence. This is because those around you may feel that their presence in the area is less significant, in such case, they may move around using as little space as possible.
If you are sitting, you can still give an image of power. If standing isn't appropriate, use more space by stretching your legs out or have your arms at the side of the chair. When you are on the phone and you need to be assertive, standing up will project your urgency and will give your voice more depth.
Look out for customers that use hand-to-face movements, such as holding their chin or scratching their face. This can usually show that they are thinking of making a purchase but they have a concern, for example, "can I afford it" or "what if I pick the wrong size", etc. This could be a cue for you to move in before they leave and inform them that they can 'buy on credit if preferred' or that they can 'exchange the product if it isn’t suitable', etc. It’s a fact that many customers don’t ask questions to solve their queries, consequently they leave feeling unsure and this is why it is so important to recognise this common form of body language.
Doing one thing may mean another, and these are things that we should look out for, as they can easily give things away about both you and the observer/s. A simple touch of the nose could mean that you/they aren't being truthful. A lot of us move our heads when we are talking to get approval from others. If you want to look powerful or in control, then you should keep your head movements to a minimum.
How much you show your abdomen is a way of showing how confident, secure or trusting you are. The less you cover up your abdomen with folding arms, crossed legs, raised hands, etc, the more appropriate the qualities may be. Folding your arms may look as if you are trying to defend yourself and will look like a sign of weakness to the other person/s.
If you talk to someone who originally has folded arms, crossed legs and who is perhaps turned away slightly, you may think that they are uninterested and perhaps detached from your conversation. If they start to unfold their arms, uncross their legs, etc, it may be a sign that they are interested in what you are saying or are more accepting of your issue.
Another posture that we use quite frequently is 'mirroring'. You may not know it, but we are attracted to those people who are similar to ourselves. A case may be where you are with an employee to discuss an issue and you both take a similar sitting/standing position. The discussion goes well, but if you had adopted a different position, it might not have gone as well as it did. This gesture is often taken on by sales people who sit in a similar position to their customer.
A more common gesture is perhaps the one that is most annoying. It is known as 'displacement activity' and is used to get rid of physical tension in the body. Examples of this may include nail-biting, playing with hair, chewing gum, and teeth grinding.
Grooming gestures are those things we do to reassure ourselves. This may involve you perfecting your hair or fiddling with your clothes. We normally do this when we are around people we don't know, and so we groom ourselves to make us look and feel more presentable, and so lift our confidence.
Finally, our hands are used to emphasise what we say, from pointing and saying "over there", to waving someone away and saying "go away". Hands that are made into a pyramid shape (fingers and thumbs on both hands touching, with palms wide apart) mean power. If someone sitting across a desk from you talks to you with the pyramid gesture pointing to you, this will either be your boss, or your future boss!
A simple smile can make others feel more at ease, where a frown can make people see that you are aggressive or unsure of something. We use facial expressions to make our points in the right context. For example, your message wouldn’t be taken seriously if you were saying how angry you are with a huge smile
When someone talks to you, do they look directly at you, or do they look away? Maintaining eye contact when talking (or listening), to someone, gives the impression that you/they are confident and honest. Making little eye contact infers that the other person doesn't like you, is nervous or shy, or perhaps believes they are higher in status and thinks that eye contact isn't necessary. Also, look out for it if you believe that someone isn't being truthful, as most people can't keep eye contact when they are bending the truth.
However, someone looking at you non-stop is stressful and in these situations you should throw your hands around a bit more, or point to brochures and objects to distract them. Staring is basically seen as an aggressive stance and can be interpreted as being unbalanced.
If talking to people outdoors, avoid wearing sunglasses as this can be very uncomfortable for the other person and can give an image of trying to hide your identity (a shifty salesman, for example). In addition, try to blink as little as possible, as this can make it difficult for the other person to understand you (due to being distracted). Blinking less often also exudes an air of confidence.
Body language appears in many forms, as you have read above. Different people have their own ability to recognise body language and they will recognise it in different meanings to other people. So, when you use body language, one person may see it differently to the other.
When we don't know someone, we usually use their body language as our initial impression of them. In most cases, the impressions we make are wrong, as a positive form of body language may mean something negative. For example, someone who moves around a lot may be seen as energetic and efficient, and in some cases, this may be correct, but it can also mean that they are uncomfortable and nervous.
Use body language to make you appear more confident, powerful, trusting, etc depending on what the situation may require from you. If you give off negative signs, then it could make all the difference in your achieving your goal. (e.g. a successful presentation, proposing an idea in a meeting, discussing a task with an employee, etc).
Also, try to recognise other people's body language; by doing this could mean that they are/aren't interested, or that they feel threatened by your presence, in which case you can change your body language to make them feel more at ease.
If you ever get the opportunity to have a presentation given by you video taped, you may see things you would never have believed!
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