Just the other day a sales person told me she would do whatever it took to make me happy and that really ticked me off! Why would that be? Shouldn’t I be thrilled that she was offering to do whatever it took to make me happy? No, because the words didn’t match her body language. As she was telling me she would do whatever it took to make me happy, she had her hands on her hips, her legs spread apart and was looking down at me. It really came off as, “you really are being a pain lady so what does it take to get rid of you?” This salesperson will probably not realize why she lost a customer. Always remember that a person will listen more to your body language than to your words spoken!
You see, over 65%-90% of every conversation is interpreted through body language. We react more to what we think a person meant than to the words that are said. So you need to think about whether your body language matches the words you are saying. If a person tells you “you are doing a great job” with a big smile on their face and a relaxed body, you will probably believe them. On the other hand if a person says “you are doing a great job” and their teeth are gritted, they have a half smile and a stiff body , you will be confused as to what they really meant after they walk away. Most likely you will feel that you are actually not working up to par, but you will not be sure why.
Body language is one of the best communication tools we have, yet so few of us ever learn how to read it. Actually only about 4% of the population understands how to read body language. Think about the last messages you received from others that ticked you off. Was it really the words, tone of voice or the body language? By changing our voice tone on certain words or by adjusting our body language we can give a whole different meaning to what we said. Take the statement “I did not tell her to not come to the party.” If you say, “I did not tell her to not come to the party” it insinuates that someone else told her not to come. If you say, “I did not tell her to not come to the party” insinuates that you may have suggested she not come, but you didn’t tell her not to come. If you say, “I did not tell her to not come to the party” insinuates that you told someone else not to come to the party. If you say, “I did not tell her to not come to the party” insinuates that you told her not to come to another event. So you can see that many different interpretations can come with the emphasis placed on the word.
As managers, it is imperative that you look at the body language you use and make sure it is congruent with your message. If you shift your eyes and look away a lot your people will not trust the message being given. If you raise your voice in a question while giving out quotas, it will sound as though you don’t believe they are achievable. I once worked with a manager that had a terrible morale problem in the office. It turns out this manager asked his people what they wanted from him. They requested that he drop in their offices every once in a while and that they schedule regular meetings with him. He was doing both things but the morale got even worse. When I came in to study the situation I found that his body language is what was causing all the problems. It was very domineering! When he dropped in to people’s offices, he would take up the whole doorway or walk right in and up to their desk and look them in the eye—even if they were on the phone! This was very unnerving to people and definitely sent the message that their space was his space. At the meetings he would sit with his hands behind his head, cross his legs, lean back and look at the ceiling. This gave the impression that he knew all the answers and frustrated his people. Just by changing these few body signs he was able to change morale.
If you are in customer service you need to think about the message you are giving customers. Do you really try to do everything possible or is your voice telling the other person to please move on so you can help the next customer? A client of mine has a plaque in his office that says, “the phone is not an interruption in your work it is the reason you are here.” I think that says it all. Do you make the other person feel welcome and warm to voice complaints. To be perceived positively with body language I recommend you make eye contact, smile, nod occasionally during their conversation, lean slightly in to them and tilt your head to one side as you are listening. Shifting eyes, making eye contact less than 50% of the time, shifting your weight from hip to hip, sighing, and fidgeting are all signs the person will interpret as that you don’t care about what they are saying. Remember that a person doesn’t care if you have all the answers, all they want to know is that you would do whatever you could do to help them out.
So, reflect now on the messages you send every day to your employees, your coworkers and your friends? Do you stand with your shoulders back, walk with a lilt, make eye contact and smile? If you do, you will be seen as more forceful and energetic. More of a leader. If you walk with your shoulders slumped, head down, speak in a flat tone, and/or fidget a lot, you will be seen as a person that can’t make up their mind, is more negative or that needs a lot of guidance. Remember how you are perceived is up to you. Ask a friend what body signs you do that give away your thoughts and feelings and then work to change those body signs. You will be surprised at how much you say without saying a word!
Anne Warfield, www.impressionmanagement.com
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