Body language in business
It takes less than four minutes to make a first impression, which is when people decide 90 per cent of their opinion about you. Whether you’re operating from within the workplace or interacting with other successful business owners, it pays to become fluent in body language.
Allan Pease, AKA Mr Body Language, has mastered the unspoken communication tool since working in door-to-door sales as a teenager and says, whether you are trying to land a dream job, build morale with your workers or close that big deal, it’s equally important to think about your body language, as well as the message you’re delivering.
“The workplace is all about making the right first impression, creating a positive work environment and communicating effectively – a significant amount of that ‘communication’ is happening without saying a word,” he says.
“Body language strategies have the ability to help us improve many areas of our lives and this is especially true when it comes to our career. One of the most popular examples of how body language is important in business is the widely accepted idea that a firm handshake has positive connotations.”
Nail that first impression every time
When used correctly, palm power invests its user with a degree of authority and silent command. Palm-up is a nonthreatening gesture that’s been used since caveman times to show that the person is not holding any weapons. If you make a presentation and continually use the palm-down position, you’re more likely to suffer rejection from your audience.
The pointed finger is a symbolic club with which the speaker figuratively beats the listener into submission. If you are a habitual finger pointer, practice the palm-up and palm-down and you’ll find that a combination of these positions can create a more relaxed atmosphere and you’ll have a more positive effect on your audience.
Shaking hands is another relic from caveman days that has been modified over centuries. Similarly to the use of palm power, your handshake tells the other person:
Dominance: ‘This person is trying to dominate me. I’d better be cautious.’
Submission: ‘I can dominate this person. He/she will do what I want.’
Equality: ‘I like the person. We’ll get on well together.’
Left hand holding
This strategy may seem obvious at first, but few people pay it much attention. Practice holding folders, papers, brief cases and drinks in your left hand. We typically greet each other, open doors, move a chair or wave goodbye with our right hand. So if your right hand is free of objects you’ll avoid looking clumsy.
First impressions take place in under four minutes and it’s when people decide 90 per cent of their opinion about you.
Smiling is an appeasement gesture to show others that you are non-threatening. Our research shows the more frequently you smile, the closer others will stand to you, the more eye contact they will give you, the more likely they will be to touch you and the longer they want to stay with you. In other words, smiling is great for your business and personal life (and don’t be afraid to practice your smile in front of the mirror).
We each carry a bubble of space around our body known as personal space. Its width depends on population density and what culture the person is from. If you are standing close to someone and you notice them move back, they’re telling you this is the amount of space they need for comfort. Keep your distance and resist moving forward.
Dress for success
The secret to appropriate business dress is to ask yourself how your prospect expects you to be dressed. For you to appear credible, approachable, likeable, authoritative, knowledgeable and successful, how would you be dressed in their opinion?
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression. But if you practice these techniques you will become more successful at making a positive first impression every time,” says Allan.
Attract more customers
Some gestures are universal, the most widely recognised is the raising or ‘flashing’ of eyebrows, which is a useful tool in business, particularly hospitality, for attracting the attention of and retaining customers.
“For example, if you go to a coffee shop and there is a line of people in front of Allan Pease and his wife Barbara are internationally-renowned relationship authors, penning a total of 18 best-sellers and presenting sold-out seminars in up to 30 countries every year. Allan’s keynote addresses, books, videos and audio programs, are sought after by everyone from business executives and politicians, to media personalities, royalty and celebrities. Their much-anticipated new book, The Answer, will hit the shelves from November 2016. In The Answer, Allan and Barbara share their experiences with honesty and humour and show you how to make your life what you want it to be. you, you start debating whether to stay or go,” says Allan. “Shop owners know once you get past six deep, people are going to disappear and they’re going to lose business. One of the things we’ve found is the person serving customers or the person making the coffee, all they’ve got to do is get your eye contact and you’ll stay another seven minutes longer before you leave, because you know you’ve been recognised.”
Exude power, yet remain approachable
As people, mostly men, climb the corporate ladder, they show fewer gestures with each promotion and you’ll often notice they keep a straight face when shaking hands. Meanwhile, Allan says, people in less-important positions are not as guarded and are more likely to nod, flash (raise) their eyebrows and reveal their teeth (smile).
“By showing my teeth and giving you an eyebrow flash, you instantly feel comfortable and think, ‘this guy won’t threaten me, he’s not intimidating me, he recognises I’m here’. Whereas when someone meets you and shows no expression, they are intimidating,” says Allan.
“They’re only little signals but they’re enormously powerful because first impressions take place in under four minutes and it’s when people decide 90 per cent of their opinion about you. You haven’t said much in those four minutes, so they’re looking at you and making assessments as to whether you’re going to be friendly or aggressive.”
Allan Pease and his wife Barbara are internationally-renowned relationship authors, penning a total of 18 best-sellers and presenting sold-out seminars in up to 30 countries every year. Allan’s keynote addresses, books, videos and audio programs, are sought after by everyone from business executives and politicians, to media personalities, royalty and celebrities. Their much-anticipated new book, The Answer, will hit the shelves from November 2016. In The Answer, Allan and Barbara share their experiences with honesty and humour and show you how to make your life what you want it to be.
Four body language strategies to give you the edge:
Keep your fingers together
People who keep their fingers closed and their hands below their chin when they talk command the most attention. Using open fingers or having your hands held above the chin is perceived as less authoritative.
Keep your elbows out
Sitting with your elbows on the armrest of a chair is perceived as a position of power and conveys a strong, upright image. Humble, defeated individuals let their arms drop inside the arms of the chair and they keep their elbows close to their bodies to protect themselves. They are perceived as fearful or negative, so avoid sitting like this
Keep your distance
Respect the person’s personal space, which will be greatest in the opening minutes of a new meeting. If you move in too close, the person may respond by sitting back, leaning away or using gestures that reveal their irritation, such as drumming their fingers or clicking a pen. Sit closer to familiar people but further back from new ones. Sit closer to those of similar age and further back from significantly older or younger ones.
Mirror their body language
Mirroring the other person’s body language and speech patterns builds rapport quickly. In a new meeting with someone, mirror his sitting position, posture, body angle, gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice. Before long, they’ll start to feel that there’s something about you they like – they’ll describe you as easy to be with.
When presenting to couples, watch for who mirrors whom to uncover the decision-maker. If the woman makes the initial movements and the man copies, there is little point in asking him for a decision.
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