THE modern business world is definitely changing. Where once business chiefs led from the front to enforce their point of view, today's best organisations involve a more consultative style of leadership.

This evolution has meant a different emphasis on the types of skills needed at each level of a business.

The ability to build and leverage relationships is now paramount - and that has sent many of the world's top companies and executives clambering for effective training on human interaction.

It's a need that Mr Allan Pease understands well. Known internationally as "Mr Body Language", the best-selling author and motivational speaker has plenty of advice and tips for workers of all corporate levels hoping to advance their relationship skills.

He shows how people can open themselves up to communication, extending the impression that they are friendly, trustworthy and warm.

At the same time, Mr Pease highlights innocent habits - such as crossing arms - that can have the opposite effect on a potential business relationship.

"Human relations and corporate cultures are all about people," he says.

"If you get people to love you and like you, they're going to 'buy' what you're going to say and push you forward and push your cause.

"If they don't like you, they're going to prevent you from moving ahead."

That all sounds reasonable, but what does it have to do with body language?

Mr Pease, author of The Definitive Guide To Body Language and Why Men Don't Listen And Women Can't Read Maps, explains further: "Body language is the study of people's emotions. Whatever emotion you are likely to be feeling is going to be reflected, usually in a gesture, a posture, an expression or a movement.

"The art is to read that person's body signals, which show you how he is feeling - and then match them up with what he is saying. That allows you to piece together what's going on in his mind."

At the same time, an awareness of one's own body language can open up new opportunities and ensure relationships are given every chance they need to bloom.

"To be effective in a corporate environment, you need to put yourself across as non-threatening."

That is particularly true when meeting people for the first time.

"What that means is when you talk, you talk in an open position," Mr Pease advises. "You have your palms visible. When your palms are not visible, people tend not to trust you."

Other rules for open communication include standing or sitting with your body pointed towards the speaker, and maintaining eye contact and concentration throughout the conversation.

Open communicators should avoid crossing their arms, legs or ankles, and keep their hands from covering their mouth.

"By keeping themselves open, people feel good about each other, and you have a positive environment," says Mr Pease.

In addition, open communication demands that people appreciate and respect each other. "People must feel relevant," he adds.

"If you make a person feel comfortable, he will be open to hearing what you have to say and more likely to help you."

The ideas can even apply to office furniture, which can sometimes inadvertently block meaningful attempts at open communication.

"We know that when there's a physical barrier between people, the communication drops dramatically. People talk in shorter sentences, they give out less eye contact, are more likely to feel hostile and are less likely to cooperate," explains Mr Pease.

He advises companies to use round tables for meetings, or place square desks against walls or windows to ensure communication cannot be blocked.

"When people sit in the same chairs in a round configuration, people are more likely to cooperate and feel positive about being there.

"So you have to remove all barriers - anything that prevents people from feeling as though you're not accessible."

It sounds complicated, but Mr Pease assures his audiences that it is not.

Indeed, his special plenary session at this year's HR Summit in Singapore, entitled How To Be A People Magnet, will be based on tried and researched methods of communication, with plenty of audience participation and humour.

"You'll see and hear things that you've probably never thought about," he says.

"I'm going to teach you how to look at people in a way that perhaps you've never considered before.

"So when you walk away, you're going to be able to read people like a book and see what they are thinking about you and how you've presented your ideas."

Most importantly, he will demonstrate what it takes to be a real "people person" - the type of person who automatically attracts others to be around him and share their thoughts and ideas.

In today's relationship-based business environment, these are the people who will shine the brightest.