“I speak two languages, Body and English.”
Iconic actress Mae West once said this. The communication we can convey with one gaze, a hand gesture or a tilt of the head are more powerful than we even realize. “Body language is a very powerful tool. We had body language before we had speech, and apparently, 80% of what you understand in a conversation is read through the body, not the words,” said Deborah Bull, principal dancer with The Royal Ballet between 1992 and 2001 – now a writer, presenter and broadcaster and the Creative Director of the Royal Opera House. We can (for the most part) control what comes out of our mouths and we can control our non-verbal communication as well, but it takes some extra thought. Alan Guinn, the Managing Director of The Guinn Consultancy Group:
“Non-verbal communication is the strongest way we communicate in our work environment. As a matter of fact, things which are communicated non verbally are even more effective, in most cases, than direct, verbal communication. Remember the old saying, “Do as I say and Not as I do?” It could almost be changed to “Do what I show you— with what I do.” The ability to readily interpret body language is essential for communication. So much of what is communicated is not communicated with words.”
For business, control of communication through both speech and body is essential. Lisa McDonald, a former manager with McDonald Investments and Merrill Lynch, now runs her own career transition and management company, Career Polish, Inc. said whenever she gets a new client she insists their first interview be on the phone. “I don’t want them to see my body language because people have a tendency, if they are talking about their background, to change what they are saying because I may get a question and a look will come over my face that they think means I am questioning them and that hinders open communication. As famed choreographer Martha Graham said, “The body never lies.” Let’s take a look at some of the common areas where body language can be interpreted incorrectly in business, according to experts, and how we can use it to our advantage.