What you should know about using and reading body language in business.
Psychologists claim that the impact you make on others depends on what you say (7 percent), how you say it (38 percent), and your body language (55 percent). Since how you sound also conveys a message, 93 percent of emotion is communicated without words. The signals that you send nonverbally suggest attitude, understanding, empathy, and ethics.
Keep your arms unfolded, and focus your eyes on your client. Darting eyes suggest deceit. Looking left as you speak can suggest truth. Looking right when you speak may transmit dishonesty. Looking down when speaking conveys low self-esteem.
Watch for nonverbal signals that have several meanings. Crossed arms can indicate defensiveness, or simply a comfortable position. Touching the nose can suggest doubt in what the person is hearing. Or it could be a response to an itch or soreness from a recent cold. Likewise, an unbuttoned jacket can signify openness and cooperation. It could also be an overweight person trying to fit into an old jacket. The hitchhiking pose, arm extended with thumb pointed up, can give a negative message in other cultures.
Look for body language in clusters of signals with common meanings. Body language should match what a person is saying. It should also fit the context of the situation.
Adopt a handshake that is firm, yet not crushing. Domineering men often squeeze a woman's hand. If this happens to you, move your index and little finger in toward your palm. This negates his dominant act and keeps you in equal control.
Stand straight, with your weight balanced on each foot to look confident and relaxed. Stand or sit up straight; don't slouch. A slouch can suggest lack of interest or enthusiasm.
Show an open hand with your palm up to suggest honesty. Hands pushed into pockets convey secretiveness.
Unbuttoning a suit jacket signifies willingness to negotiate. Taking off a jacket is really powerful. And rolling your shirt sleeves up suggests that you're ready to get down to the final price.
By Robert C. Brenner, MSEE, MSSM, Director of pricing research at Brenner Information Group, www.brennerbooks.com