The power of body language in business
Everything says something. The clothes you wear, the expression on your face, the colour of the leaves outside. Communication is happening around us, effortlessly, all the time. A shake of the head to convey no or disappointment, a smile or nod shows support and says keep going. We all know that making a good first impression is crucial, whether it be on the job site, in the boardroom or at the neighbor's potluck. Just like a bad haircut, a first opinion can be hard to forget.
Body language can play a big role in those initial impressions, even so far as to make or break a deal before all the cards are on the table. How you carry yourself when doing business is often as important as what you say. Research indicates that 60 to 90 percent of our communication with others is nonverbal, which means the body language we use is extremely important. When it comes to determining whether we’ll like someone, a recent study suggested that 93% of the decision comes down to non-verbal cues, while spoken words accounted for a mere 7%. It’s good news for those of us that naturally have a warm face, and food for thought if you’re a serial arm-crosser. Why? Because within the first few minutes of meeting someone, we’re making snap decisions about the other person’s intentions and credibility. Assessing non-verbal cues to decide whether forming a relationship will help with our own business objectives. Most importantly, we’re trying to decide if working with them will be a breeze, or a nightmare just waiting to happen.
So how can you make sure that you hold and present yourself in such a way as to convey your business’ credibility? Body language is often something that’s just second nature to us, and we rarely even think about it. We’ve put together our top 10 body language tips to help you nail your next meeting:
- A firm handshake: This goes without saying as it is probably one of the most important body language gestures as it sets the tone for the entire conversation.
- Eye contact: Maintaining good eye contact tells them you’re interested and engaged in what they are saying, conveys confidence and helps build trust. There’s a balance though – too much eye contact can also come across as creepy!
- Facial expressions: Your facial expressions say a lot about you - and people watch for your reaction when it comes to things like tough business negotiations. Smile naturally, keep your chin up and eyes level.
- Active listening: People love to talk, so listen and look interested in what they are saying. They are more likely to want to do business with you if you show you are genuinely interested and engaged.
- Mirroring behavior: Subtly reflecting the positive aspects of the other person's facial expressions or behavior is a great way to build rapport because it reflects both interest and enthusiasm in what is being said.
- Good posture: A straight back and relaxed shoulders help exude confidence.
- Align your body with the person you're talking to: This shows you're engaged and interested in what they have to say.
- Positive arms and legs: Keep your feet on the floor and arms by your side rather than crossed. This shows you're relaxed, and research has even found that you’re likely to retain more information.
- Lean in slightly (but not too much!): This says you’re focused and listening.
- Hand gestures: These provide interest and animation to your audience. There’s also evidence to suggest hand gesturing while speaking improves your thinking processes.
Your body language is a powerful communication tool that can not only change how people see you but also have a bearing on your success - either positively or negatively. The bottom line is: never underestimate the power of body language, how it can contribute to the way people perceive you and, ultimately, do business with you.