Golden Visions & Associations
Thought of the Week
Your Success Thought for the Week of July 16, 2008

Unfold Your Arms

As much as we know about body language, it amazes me to see bright senior executives slouch in meetings, arms crossed, eyes rolling around the room. What clearer message can you send that you are bored, closed to what the presenter is sharing, or both?

On average, statistics show body language to constitute 55% of the message your listener receives from you. In business, I believe it is much higher.

In my experience, the following prevent us from superb, nonverbal, communication skills:

    •Comfort—For some, the more comfortable we are in any given situation, the less we focus on what is needed to succeed. We take ourselves, our surroundings, and our listeners for granted. We lose our polished edge.

    •Laziness—We’ve attained what we want—the job, the girl, the recognition. Why continue to put forth effort to be the best when we’ve already been recognized?

    •Lack of Knowledge—With the myriad of published materials on body language, it’s hard to imagine any of us being unaware, yet vivid evidence clearly exists.

    •Lack of Awareness—I once worked with a man who constantly jiggled change in his pockets during meetings which drove the rest of us nuts, yet no one had the courage to confront him. Had he been aware, he could have changed on a dime.

Here are specific suggestions from Sharon Voros’s The Road to CEO to improve your nonverbal communication beginning today:

    •Eye contact—The general rule is that the speaker in a conversation should find a way to break eye contact occasionally. The listener shows attention by providing encouragement with eye attention, head nodding, and occasional “un huhs” to send nonverbal messages about the depth of their understanding.

    •Handshake—Dead-fish handshakes demonstrate a lack of self-confidence. When executive recruiters look for someone to run a major business and the candidate offers only three inches of fingers, they know immediately that this is not a take-charge person. Always be the first to extend your hand, grip firmly and shake twice. Two-handed politician handshakes are a turnoff as well.

    •Comfort—High-level recruiters closely observe how comfortable a candidate appears in the interview. They are looking for relaxed alertness, controlled intensity, and a sense of ease in an unfamiliar setting demonstrating strength and confidence.

    •Poise—never show surprise or be startled by occurrences. Executives with real poise have either thought through or can absorb surprising situations quickly and respond with an acceptable answers after only a few seconds of thought.

Body language is tricky as we don’t observe ourselves in all situations. We may be polished in some arenas and uncomfortable in others, especially when emotions are involved.

Top-level executives are not above planning and rehearsing specific scenarios like preparing for an important presentation. And, they continually ask for feedback. Even if you are completely confident, you may be surprised at the feedback trusted allies provide.

My clients, for example, are often surprised with feedback that they showed disinterest in meetings through crossed arms, rolling eyes, frowns, watch viewing, pacing, fast talking, fidgety movements and doodling. What surprises await you this week? Be bold and secure enough to ask for feedback.

Enjoy your discoveries and have a grand week.


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