Body Language, How is Yours
The scenario: You have an appointment with a major client. The potential need is there and the match is right for your product.
As you walk into to meet the client for the first time, you're not sure you really like or even trust this person. The conversation continues and for some reason you keep feeling something is not right. This client does not seem to be engaging with you, the trust issue is still coming back to you and the idea of the client lying or being other than forthright is on your mind.
The conversation ends with no real result; both parties seem to be cautious about proceeding.
What is happening here? What strange secret is at work that we do not understand?
The answer is Body Language, yes, some 70-80% of our communications is through Body Language, yet some 60% of Body Language is misread or misunderstood!
With so much at stake in our sales and leadership encounters how is your Body Language and what is it saying?
Here are some quick tips to keep in mind.
First, let's understand something about Body Language. Most Body Language is subtle, under the radar if you will of most people. This is not just about crossing arms or leaning back. This is about the subtle changes in our facial features, body movements and how our body reacts to emotion. (By the way, we all do, it is not in our control).
A part of our brain, the inner central part is very similar to our animal friends. All nerve endings go to this part of the brain first before going on to the cortex, or thinking - reasoning part of the brain. This means any inputs from our eyes, ears, taste or skin go to this animal brain first. This part of the brain is our Fight or Flight reaction. So something, startles you, the animal brain is in Fight - Flight and has you ready for either. The thinking cortex is out of the picture until you stop to analyze the situation.
The animal part of the brain we call "Liz", short for our lizard brain. This part has no ability to reason or think it only reacts. Thus, with all the inputs, coming to "Liz" first our body will react with minute body gestures or reactions we have little if any control over.
By the way, there is about a quarter of a second delay between "Liz" and the cortex. This is enough time for us to flitch, roll our nose or eyes, increase our pulse, blush or frown.
So what does this "Liz" have to do with our Body Language?
Everything, because "Liz" is reading these actions in others and determining if we need to fight or flight in this situation. The example in the beginning of the article has you feeling something is not right. Your "Liz" is reading something, even though you are not fully aware of it.
It might be a fake smile, a way the eyes look or perhaps a rolling of the nose we are not aware of.
Remember, we are all emotional people and no matter how we try, those emotions are always just below the surface trying to get out in some form or fashion. Body Language is the results of these emotions trying to get out and being expressed.
So what do I do?
Well first, we'll deal with some ideas on reading others Body Language.
- 1. Any body position in itself is not a fully accurate indicator. Crossed arms does not mean closed or not interested! Yes I know, every Body Language class or book in past has said so! People also thought the world was flat, we now know better.
- 2. The CHANGE in body position and posture is far more important than any given position. It's what the CHANGE in body position is telling you that is important. This CHANGE is the reaction (Liz) to the input they have been given. Did we go from a very open posture to a very closed? A very closed to a very open? Are they just stiff and needed to move? A very open to a slightly less open?
- 3. Congruence: This means does the body position and movement match the words and attitudes the other person is trying to portray. The salesperson is saying trust me, yet the fake smile, closed pupils and darting eyes do not agree! Your body action has to be insync with your words and attitudes or "Liz" will give you away! This is probably why you were feeling untrusting with the new client.
- 4. Approximately 60% of the Body Language read comes from the face. How the face is reacting will tell you what the rest of the body is trying to tell you. If the face tends to close down and frown a bit more with now closed arms, yes this person is closing us off or being defensive. If the face tends to lighten up or tend to smile, even though the arms are crossed, we have a more open person.
- 5. Context: What is the setting you are in? What the body is saying will be different in a boardroom, the CEO's office, the lunchroom or the beach. Consider the environment you are in and how people might be reacting to that environment. It will change how "Liz" sees threats and inputs thus how the body reacts.
- 1. Have an open type body stance. This means stand and sit tall (even if your short) with open arms, eyes wide open, a congruent smile and open posture. Face the people you are communicating with squarely.
- 2. Always have positive eye contact. This means look people in the eye when you're communicating with them. Down turned eyes, someone always looking past or away from others sends a very negative signal. Most times this is read as uninterested or untruthful from the other person's perspective. I would guess this is not the signal you want to send. In the Western culture, around 80% direct eye contact is acceptable; in Eastern, culture more around 60% is acceptable.
- 3. Mirror or follow the other person's body position initially. This gets you into sync with them and helps to build a trust. You are like them so they like you, or at least "Liz" does. Caution, do not directly imitate them, wrong input, rather have a similar type of body position. Once you're reading a positive feedback, you can reverse the rolls and see if they now follow you. If they do, you have them!
- 4. It has been shown that matching another person's breathing can have a dramatic effect! Get your breathing rhythm in sync with the other party, see what happens!
- 5. They throw something at you, which gets your emotions to show, anger, threats, embarrassment etc. Immediately take a deep breath with a slightly open mouth. This will help to slow the heart rate and controls the mouth muscles. With the mouth muscles occupied the emotional reaction will not show through the normal channels of the face. Blushing is generally a result of sudden blood flow and heart rate increase. A deep breath will help to minimize this for you. This also causes you to pause prior to reacting and that nano second gets the cortex involved, rather than just "Liz".
- 6. Keep your hands away from your face. Rubbing a nose or ears, touching the face is often times read as nervousness, lying, deception or other negative images. Simply never touch your face in an important conversation.
The real key is to be highly observant, how does the other person respond to your input or the environment. If your eyes and mind are open, you'll be amazed at what you can discover!