Reading body language

Learn how to decode non-verbal clues and use them to your advantage

Reading body language

EXPERTS say that around 90 per cent of communication is non-verbal. Whether you are negotiating a deal or pay package, being able to read your client's or hiring manager's body language can help you secure a better deal.

The office is a hotbed of mixed messages and innuendoes. Apart from the usual work experience and skills, you need to be an expert at interpreting and decoding body language.

In most situations, you rely on those around you to complete projects and help you advance your career.

Being conscious of the spoken and unspoken messages you send and receive from colleagues is vital to nurturing these relationships and ultimately, gaining their cooperation and assistance.

First impressions count

Before you even begin speaking, a prospective client or employer will immediately judge you on your dressing, demeanour and posture.

A firm and open handshake and eye contact suggest professionalism and confidence while a limp handshake or downcast eyes indicate a lack of interest, which may put off the other party.

Your posture is indicative of your personality. An upright and purposeful walk suggests someone who is in control. Someone who ambles and slouches looks indecisive and unprofessional.

Reading body language is an essential tool at the negotiation table too. If you are in an environment where information is being withheld, additional intelligence will help your cause.

The eyes say it all

Your eyes are one of the most emotive tools. During a negotiation, if your opponent diverts his eyes away from yours, it generally means he is uncomfortable with the course of the conversation.

People divert their eyes for a reason: they are recalling some information or searching for the right word, or they are telling a lie. It is a moment of vulnerability that can be taken advantage of.

A glance can alter the entire tone and direction of a conversation. Another tool in power relations is to "out-stare" your adversary. This requires a lot of discipline. Maintaining your stare shows you have a stronger resolve, helping you win the negotiation.

Shining eyes indicate enthusiasm and warmth towards the subject. If someone is smiling but his eyes are not, you may be looking at a fake smile. A genuine smile causes the skin around the eyes to crinkle.

Nod away

To engage someone or show that you agree with what he is saying or to encourage him to continue, nod your head and smile.

When the speaker sees you doing this, he becomes more confident and comfortable conveying his message.

This is useful in interviews or negotiations as it makes the other party more relaxed and possibly, less alert. He may let his guard down and even divulge additional information that will help consolidate your position.

Tell-tale signs

People's bodies instinctively give away their true feelings. The best litigators look for key signs and use them to sway the negotiation in their favour.

For example, closed body language, such as when someone folds his arms, may indicate that he is uncomfortable and defensive. Covering his mouth or face with his hand or rubbing his nose suggests that he is unsure of himself or is lying.

Sitting with your hands behind your head and leaning back in your chair suggests that you are overconfident. Gesturing with palms facing up shows sincerity and a desire to be forthright.

People are more inclined to watch what you do even as they listen to what you say in the workplace. To get your message across, make sure your body language is appropriate. Do not let your actions give you away.

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