The importance of body languageArticle added by Lloyd Lofton on June 30, 2014
Lloyd Lofton

Lloyd Lofton

Conyers , GA

Joined: March 21, 2011

Have you been with a prospect or client and had a hunch about what they are thinking or how the meeting is going? Have you had that gut feeling that your prospect or client may not be telling you what is really going on with them?

What we really may mean by having a hunch is that the client's body language doesn't seem to match their words. Maybe they are sitting back in their chair with their chin down, arms crossed on their chest. They may even have their legs crossed.

Maybe that hunch indicates that you need to take a different approach. Many non-verbal communications are basic; when people are happy they smile. When they are sad or angry, they frown or scowl. When they agree, they nod their head in affirmation. Shaking their head from side to side may mean they don’t agree or feel negatively about what was just said.

There are some gestures that are generally interpreted in the same ways:

Thumbs up – Often associated with three different meanings:
  • I want a ride (hitchhiking)

  • I agree or think the topic is OK

  • A sharp jerk up of the thumb could be an insult
V sign – Often seen in sports to signify a win or victory, popularized after WWII. Unless of course you’re in a bar, where you would likely receive two mugs of beer.

Habitual behavior – Have you ever been looking for an address while you driving with others in the car? As you come close to the address you’re looking for, you turn down the radio so you can see the address better. Or, have you had someone walk into the room, tell you something surprising, and you then reach for your glasses, put them on, and then ask the person to repeat themselves so you can hear better?
What are some of the principles we can follow to ensure we are interpreting the right message from people’s non-verbal communication and that we are transmitting the correct message with our own body language?

1. Clusters – Scratching of the head could mean the person doesn’t understand, but it could also indicate dandruff, sweating, forgetfulness or lying. So look for other gestures to be sure you are reading the person’s body language correctly. Do their gestures match their words, voice inflection and the context of what is going on?

2. Hand to face – What a person does with their hands is often a tell-tell sign of what they are really feeling. The index finger pointing at their cheek while another finger covers their mouth with their thumb supporting their chin could have one meaning; however when combined with their legs also being crossed, it likely indicates that they don’t like what you are saying or they disagree.

3. Congruence – Do their words and gestures match? Like the person who is saying how happy they are with their relationship while they are slipping their wedding ring on and off. On the other hand, a person sitting with their legs crossed and their arms crossed over their chest would not look defensive if they were sitting at a bus stop on a cold day rather than sitting across from you at a kitchen table.

4. Hand shake – Some say that when you shake hands with someone who turns your hand so theirs is on top, it means they want to assume the dominant position in the relationship. The reverse of the dominant handshake is to offer your hand in the palm up position, indicating you’re going to allow the other person to feel that they are in command of the situation.

It may be worth your while to pay attention to the little things when communicating with someone. Consider the message you are conveying with your body language, as well as the message you receive from the other person’s body language. Are your words and body language congruent with the message you want your prospect or client to receive?
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