First impressions are very important. You can’t not communicate. Everything you do will create some kind of statement.
‘Good communication skills are cited as one of the most important factors leading to high performance teamwork and they are essential for good management and leadership. ‘
Liz Taylor – Business Psychologist, Wow at Work.
A well designed verbal statement is obviously important, but psychologists claim 93 per cent of human communication is by body language. Clothing is a key body language element and here at Clothes2order we help customers gain a non-verbal advantage by ‘looking the part’ in their business proceedings. Clothing makes a strong visual communication statement about how you see yourself and your business. A branded polo-shirt or promotional t-shirt will send the message that you are a serious professional.
So you have the business clothing sorted, but what about the other non verbal cues that form body language? How can you improve your body language to make sure you are coming across the right way to potential customers?
With the help of Liz Taylor, business psychologist at Wow at Work, here are some body language tips you can use in the workplace today:
1. Think hard about email
One form of work communication that can be especially troublesome is emailing. Emails contain little, if any, “non-verbal” information. When we are talking face-to-face we get over 90% of our information from things like tone of voice, gestures and facial expressions.
‘Because none of the usual signals are available in emails we need to be especially conscious of how we express ourselves to ensure clear, courteous and effective communication. If you feel an email exchange is going downhill pick up the phone or better still go and see the person for a face-to-face conversation. It will generally diffuse tension and gives you both an opportunity to clear up misunderstandings.’ Liz says.
2. To boost your confidence before an important sales pitch, replace your smart phone with a newspaper.
While you may be aware that body language is important during that important meeting or sales pitch, few realise how important all the actions you take up to this point are in creating a first impression. How do you look when you are sat in the reception area, are you hunched over checking your smartphone?
Research from Harvard Business School illustrated that holding your body in a ‘high power pose’ (back straight, standing tall, arms expanded into space) raises testosterone and lowers the stress hormone, cortisol. These hormones serve to increasing a feeling of power, confidence and calmness.
By contracting your body reading a phone, your body has the opposite chemical reaction. Nerves increase, as does agitation. Added to this the pose may make you look look defensive and lacking in confidence
Instead, adopt the ‘power pose’ by sitting up right, arms spread wide reading a newspaper.
3. Rearrange your office
Projecting an image of authority and status may be a key part of the non-verbal strategy you want to adopt to impress customers. Is this the image you want to communicate in dealings with staff?
Often the customer non verbal strategy is then transferred to an office setting even where a more collaborative culture would be the preffered setting. Think of meetings where the boss sits in a much higher chair. If you want to create an atmosphere of sharing ideas and partnership consider creating a conversation area where chairs of an equal size sit around a small table.
There are many forms of communication at work so it is difficult to generalise but communication tends to be at its best when we are relaxed and there are high levels of trust and mutual respect.
Liz says, ‘our body language provides subtle unconscious signals about how we really feel. If we are saying one thing and feeling something else our non-verbal communication can clash with the words we are using. This makes the message confusing to the receiver and can result in misunderstanding and suspicion.’
For effective communication, as a rule of thumb, try to be as honest as you can be about how you feel when you are talking to someone.
5. To establish an instant connection – shake hands.
Touching someone’s hand is one of the oldest and simplest social signals because it creates an instant human bond. In the workplace this handshaking tradition establishes a long lasting and personal impression.
Try using the power of touch more at exhibitions and trade shows. Researchers have found that that people adopting a handshake upon approach are viewed as more open and friendly.
For sales people, it is important to maintain complete palm-to-palm contact. If clients or customers don’t get this they are likely to suspect the salesperson is hiding something and will be less likely to purchase.
What does your body language say? Does it say you are professional, confident, and enthusiastic – or just the opposite? The worlds best business communicators have strong body language and the best bit is that it can be learned.
Take the time to improve your body language by:
– Paying special attention to how you come across in email. If you feel it is not going as planned, pick up the phone.
– Think about how you come across at all stages of an interaction. Try reading a newspaper while waiting for that important meeting rather than hunching over your smartphone.
– Make sure your office is communicating the right verbal cues to staff, not just customers.
– Be as honest as possible, your positive verbal cues will come out naturally.
– Always ensure you shake hands – use the power of touch at trade shows to ensure more people remember you.
So work on your body language. Pay as much attention to as the words you use and see your business success increase!
Thanks to Liz Taylor for contributing to this article.
Liz Taylor has worked in organisations for over 20 years and she is now a Business Psychologist. She runs Wow@Work to help people develop their their skills in communication, presenting, creative thinking, collaboration and networking. Her training combines real-world business experience with the latest insights and evidence from psychological research.