Too many people underestimate the value of body language in business. This is a big mistake. First impressions absolutely matter, and by being mindful of the right body language, you can make the right gestures and movements that will help you get any meeting or interview off to a positive start.
Although verbal communication helps to get things done in the world of work, you should not forget the importance of nonverbal communication and the way body language can help lay the foundation for you to deliver a specific message or statement of intent.
Whenever you meet potential customers or employers for the first time, it can be all too easy to focus firmly on what’s coming out of your mouth. It’s not uncommon to use all your mental energy to concentrate on adequately conveying your words, but what’s also really important is to think simultaneously about what your body is doing.
If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur looking to learn from some of the masters of body language, look no further than professional poker players and top-level sports stars. These guys have a tremendous will to win and relish in the mental game that poker and professional sports can bring; look no further than some of the best players in the world.
Let’s look at some of the simple, yet highly effective body language techniques you can adopt to build immediate rapport with individuals and groups of people without even having to open your mouth:
- Focus on your posture
Before you sit down to talk business or your future career with an individual or group of people, the first thing they will recognize is the way you carry yourself. Your posture is very important in terms of demonstrating confidence. Make sure you stand up straight–no slouching!–with your shoulders back and chest out. A forthright, positive posture will also put you in the right frame of mind when it comes to what you say.
- All smiles
Your facial expression can also help to set the tone of any business meeting. If you’re looking to make a counterpart or colleague feel at ease and establish an immediate rapport, it’s always a good idea to smile, gain the respect of your peers, and create that positive environment for discussion.
- Another useful body language tip is to mirror your counterpart’s facial expressions. If they are laid-back and jovial, behave likewise and you’ll feel able to relax and enjoy your meeting. At the other end of the spectrum, if they are serious and want to focus on the matter at hand, it’s never a good idea to behave jovially with all smiles and be silly in such a serious environment–it takes time to understand where your boundaries are!
- The value of eye contact
Once you’ve perfected your posture and a welcoming smile, it’s then important to keep a keen eye on what your counterparts or colleagues are saying verbally. Always look a fellow professional in the eye when you talk to him or her as this suggests you’re giving them your full attention and that you care.
- Business is global–consider regional traditions
If you work within an industry that requires you to regularly venture overseas, it’s highly recommended that you brush up on the role body language plays in business traditions around the globe. For instance, you may not be aware that while regular eye contact is viewed positively in North America and Canada, further east into the Middle East, eye contact is only viewed as a symbol of sincerity and trust between those of the same gender.
Initial greetings and handshakes also differ by region. Business meetings in Italy tend to begin with a kiss on the cheek, while in Asia, Japanese meetings will begin with a bow to one another–a sign of mutual respect.
As with any other skill in business, body language is incredibly important. And although it is something that you’re unlikely to master overnight, with time and experience, you’ll be able to use this skill to your advantage. In doing so, you’ll also be a much better judge of any professional situation and be well-placed to make better decisions on how to act in the boardroom.