How to Read Body Language Signals to Avoid Mistakes and STOP Intimidation Tactics (part 1)


In a scientific study held at the University of Pennsylvania researchers were shocked to discover that body language was found to be significantly more responsible for the impression people form of you than the words you speak.

  • 55% of the impression people form of you is based on your gestures, postures and body movements.
  • 38% was based on the tone and tempo of your voice.
  • 7% was based on what you say.

What's most surprising is that the results showed that only 7% of the impression people form of you is based on what you actually say.

People who understand the importance of body language in business and social settings can approach almost any situation which they may find intimidating, and are able to take control and turn about the situation to their advantage.

This can be achieved simply by having a highly accurate perception of other peoples feelings and emotions and knowing how best to respond in each situation.

Since most people will suppress their opinions and feelings in an effort to avoid any awkwardness or embarrassment, knowing how to interpret someone's body language with a high degree of accuracy will give you a deeper understanding of the unconscious signals they send.

Peter Clayton, a leading business coach since 1994 and one of the most popular speakers on business development, provides an excellent introduction to body language in this video.

You will find many helpful tips on enhancing daily interaction in the workplace and in business, how to spot when someone is lying and avoiding mistakes in sales, negotiations and at interviews.

Video Transcript

Body language can be useful in a number of ways but two I'm going to concentrate on in this short module. Being able to read other peoples body language in business when you're selling, negotiating or interviewing is useful, but having a better understanding of your own body language will lead to helpful changes that will be extremely useful throughout your business life.

We'll look at what individual body language signals are in a moment but before we do that, lets talk about what body language actually is.

What someone is actually thinking
It's the visual display of what someone thinks and feels, what someone is actually thinking at that moment in time is what I refer to as short term signals. How someone is feeling or the mood they are in takes a lot longer, like confidence, enthusiasm, boredom or disappointment, these are all longer term signals.

Subtle signals
Short term or instant signals can sometimes be so subtle or small they can be difficult to see. However if the conversation is going slowly wrong, there will be a number of these small subtle signals that add up to a mood change, and this is longer term body language.

If you respond quick enough
If you spot subtle or small signals and respond quick enough, by changing tack and asking different questions you can recover the situation. However, if you miss a number of signals over a long period of time, it can cause problems and result in lost rapport and possibly lost business.

Talk and think speed
Another point worth mentioning, and helps explain it a little bit more as well, is the fact that we talk at about 100 words a minute. Yet we think at 800 words a minute, nearly 50,000 words an hour. Those words that we're thinking come out through the subconscious mind, through the body, and with a little bit of practice you can read them.

Variations from one individual to another
Body language can vary from one individual to another, however there are some elements that are common to all of us. So lets start by looking at the initial greeting, such as how far away we stand from someone, how we shake hands and of course eye contact.

How close do you stand?
How far away we stand from someone can be split into zones. There are three basic zones to consider. Zone 1 (standing a comfortable distance from each other), the polite or we've just met zone, which makes people feel comfortable and less threatened. Zone 2 (standing a little closer to each other), is everything is Ok and trust has been established.

And finally zone 3 (standing very closely to each other) is reserved for good friends or someone in business you've known and trusted for some time. If you stand too close too early to someone it can cause them to feel uncomfortable.

The handshake
The strength of a correct handshake is difficult to describe accurately, but it is important to get it right. Too soft and clammy will give a bad impression and a sign of weakness. Too hard and strong and it will give the impression of arrogance and over confidence. So, try to offer your hand 'slightly open' as this will show friendliness and trust.

(Slightly open handshake, the palm of the hand is almost in a vertical position and only very slightly is the palm tilted upwards. This contrasts a strong handshake were the grip is too firm and the palm of the hand is facing downwards at almost a 45 degree angle).

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