Deborah Bull, dancer with the Royal Ballet, presenter of the Royal Opera House and writer, said, “Body language comes before speech…80% of what you understand in conversation is read through the body, not the words.”  Bull, like Malcolm Gladwell, knows that it takes us just seven seconds, a blink of an eye, to make decisions about people by just observing them, not talking with them.

How can your body language give you a powerful edge during a negotiation or listing presentation?

  1.  Aim for small, controlled gestures with you arms, hands to communicate your self confidence.  Use open gestures with your arms and hands (palms up) to show you’ve nothing to hide.
  2. Crossed arms in front of your chest implies a physical barrier…they tell others that you’re not open to what they’re saying even if you’re smiling.  Crossed arms imply defensiveness and suspicion.  Even if it’s comfortable to cross your arms, wait until you negotiation/presentation is completely finished and you’re alone in your office or car.
  3. Try to have your facial expressions and words be consistent.  If you’re smiling while you’re rejecting an offer, the person making the offer will think you’re trying to deceive them and they won’t trust your words or face.
  4. Lean in and tilt your head towards the person with whom you’re communicating so they know they have your attention and focus.  Turning yourself away from that person translates into your lack of engagement, lack of interest, your lack of trust in them.
  5. Slouching is a sign of disrespect and boredom.  Put your posture into a power position…back straight, shoulders back, chin up.
  6. Eye contact can be tricky.  Avoiding eye contact often indicates a lack of confidence in yourself or a lack of interest in the other person.  Piercing eye contact can be interpreted as aggressive or domineering.  The optimum eye contact is sustained contact.  Sustained eye contact indicates confidence, intelligence, interest, etc.  The average person sustains eye contact for 7-10 seconds while they are talking…longer when they’re listening.  When you break eye contact, do it to the side, not down.
  7. Watching the clock while you’re talking with another person lets them know you can’t wait to leave and do or be with someone else.
  8. Exaggerated nodding only indicates anxiety…it does not communicate your approval of the other person or what they’re expressing.
  9. Fidgeting with your hands, your clothes, your hair, etc.  only indicates your distractedness and self consciousness.
  10. Authentic smiles suggest openness, trustworthiness, friendliness.  Scowls suggest upset or unhappiness.  Look at yourself in the mirror when you’re smiling or scowling…you’ll see.
  11. Handshakes tell the other person a lot about you.  Too weak?  Too strong?  Just right?  Whose hand would you want to shake?
  12. Respect other people’s personal space.  Too close and you’re making them uncomfortable…too far and you’re not connecting.  Again, use your own self as a barometer.  How close/far do you like to be with another person?