One of the areas in business that can sometimes be ignored is that of the area of ‘body language’. The area of ‘non-verbal’ communication can make all the difference between making that sale or walking away empty-handed. Ultimately it can also mean the difference between running a highly successful business or a mediocre business.
That said the subject of body language is also very misunderstood with a quote that ‘non-verbal communications and or body language’ account for 93% of our communication (you may have heard that when we present ourselves 7% of our communication is ‘what’ we say, 38% of communication is ‘how’ we say it and 55% of communication is our body language – thus the 93% ‘non-verbal’ side of communication).
This commonly quoted statistic is a distortion based around Albert Mehrabian’s research theory which focused on communications with a strong emotional content (further details can easily be found via a quick internet search). That said both our own and others body language in the business arena carries a massive amount of information to either support or detract from what we are saying to our prospective clients (or our own team members for that matter). It is safe to say that body language represents a significant proportion of how we communicate. So here are some simple pointers for you to consider with body language within your own business.
For the purposes of this article (and the work I do with business sales and presentation training in this area), body language also encompasses vocal tone and pitch:
One of the reasons for including vocal tone and pitch in body language is because this will ultimately be taken into account to shape the perception of the message being delivered.
Body language is especially crucial when we meet someone (i.e. maybe a new prospective client) for the first time.
We tend to form our opinions of someone when we first meet in just a few seconds: this initial assessment is therefore based much more on what we feel and see when meeting the other person than on what they say. In fact, we do tend to form very strong views about someone we’ve never met before they’ve spoken a single word!
Consequently body language is very influential in forming impressions on first meeting someone. Hence the importance of being aware how important this may be in a business situation as this happens on both sides: your impression of them and their impression of you.
So to summarise:
· When we meet someone for the first time our conscious and unconscious reading of their body language will form the basis of our initial impression of them.
· In turn, when someone meets us for the first time their conscious and unconscious reading of our body language will form the basis of their initial impression of us.
· This ‘two-way’ language happens continuously throughout communication between people – mostly at an sub-conscious level
It may make sense to consider then that those people who are most consciously aware of body language skills will tend to have an advantage over those people who are not (they will process their awareness more subconsciously). Therefore the more you can learn about the subject of body language – the more you will shift your own awareness from your sub-conscious to your conscious.
Although we don’t have the space within this article to cover this in greater depth, the subject of body language is far, far more than simple body positioning and movements linked to verbal signals.
Body Language Includes:
· Our facial expressions
· How close we position ourselves to other people (proxemics), and how this changes from person to person (plus how we are related to that person)
· How our bodies are positioned
· Touch: How we touch others and ourselves (ever noticed that some people are very ‘touchy / feely’ whilst others would recoil in horror if they were touched?)
· Eyes: How they move and blink rate will tells us an immense amount of information if we’re aware of what it could mean. Also try looking away at a certain point of making a sale and you’re pretty guaranteed to walk away empty-handed!
· Object Interaction: i.e. how we hold and ‘connect’ with various objects such as cigarettes and pens (ever seen someone rapidly clicking a pen without them realising it?)
· Breathing, Heart Rate and Perspiration: Although less noticeable (if you’re not ‘aware’ of the indicators – this can also give valuable information as to the true feelings of the other person.
· Voice: Tone, pitch, volume and pace – when included with the above additionally helps give a clearer understanding of the message being conveyed
How we interpret body language is mostly instinctive, however we can gain a significant advantage both personally and professionally by improving our conscious awareness of the signals that we normally receive mostly sub-consciously. These may be signals that we may transmit to others and also those signals that others transmit to us.