The Importance of Body Language in Business
“You can learn a lot by paying attention.” – Yogi Berra
We judge communication 7% by what we say, 20-30% by our tone and inflection, and 60% or more by our non-verbal body language.
At the Mendenhall School of Auctioneering in High Point, NC. I learned the importance of reading body language. If the audience is sitting with their arms folded, they will not be bidding.
The solution is to ask the audience to raise their hands to answer questions like ladies. Are you here with your husband? And then to ask those husbands to raise their hands if they love their wife? It leads to laughter, smiles, unfolded arms, and more bidding.
Years later, as a business broker, I was at the home of a business owner to list his business. After we finished signing the listing agreement, the owner was sitting on the edge of his chair, with crossed legs, and his right foot was moving up and down. I knew his body language was telling me something, but I didn’t know what.
On my way back to the office, I bought a book on body language, and it stunned me to learn that his gestures were telling me we are done, please leave.
From then on, I became a student of reading gestures and expressions and developed the skill of moving people from defensiveness to openness.
There is much to learn, and it’s all there for the eyes to see.
No one gesture tells all. What you look for are clusters of gestures.
I’ve been teaching body language for over three decades. My seminars include:
Eye contact – The eyes are the window of the soul.
Personal territories and zones. – Comfort levels differ from culture to culture and from cities to the farmlands.
Palm gestures – Open palms are a sign of honesty.
Hands steepling – A telltale sign that someone is confident about what they are saying or have made a decision.
Fingers – a pointed finger is the equivalent of a gun pointed at you
Hand to face gestures – A finger, touching the nose while speaking, is often a sign of the Pinocchio effect, which means the speaker is lying.
Arm barriers– Crossed arms may mean someone is cold, defensive, or if they are from India, it can be a sign of showing respect.
Leg barriers – Crossed legs for American men is a sign of competitiveness.
Mirroring the other person’s posture or gestures can create comfort and trust and lead to uncrossed legs and a cooperative mindset.
We can’t hide blushing, sweating, or twitches. Watch Bill Barr’s eyes when he lies, they twitch rapidly.
Cigars and cigarettes smokers – When a cigar smoker blows their smoke upward, they are comfortable; and confident.
In negotiations, I’ve learned cigarette smoker blowing smoke up are confident with the deal or their position, and if they are blowing in a downward direction, they do not.
It is fascinating to watch world poker championships and see how the professionals try to out psych one another with their body language.
My body language seminars are always interactive and fun, and we act out the gestures. In one class, I pointed out that after a love scene in the old movies, the actors often smoke a cigarette together and blow their smoke in an upward direction. It is a non-verbal sign of satisfaction and fulfillment.
Then I said if your partner is blowing their smoke downward after lovemaking, you may have a problem. Oh my God, shouted a woman in the class. The room burst into laughter for several minutes, and the embarrassed lady immediately started blushing.
Make today the day you become aware of your body language and the body language of others.