Your Body. Your language

Your Body. Your language

Communication | Judette Coward-Puglisi

December 16, 2010

I was happy to receive a newsletter this week from executive coach Dr. Carol Gorman months after I contributed some insights to a chapter in her new book: The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language can Help -or Hurt How you Lead.

Gorman says that when she begins to talk about body language some leaders think the topic may be interesting but never critical to their success that is until they finish her course. That’s when they realise that “not only has science validated the impact of body language,” but that there are concrete ways nonverbal skills can help them develop positive business relationships, influence and motivate others, present their ideas, and authentically project a personal brand of charisma.

At the end of the course she writes: “They learn that body language is not only “interesting, but also imminently practical!”

How does Gorman define body language?

She calls it the management of time, space, appearance, posture, gesture, touch, smell, facial expression, eye contact, and vocal prosody. Saying that the latest research in neuroscience and psychology proves that body language is crucial to leadership effectiveness, she states that “it is easy to determine how it impacts a leader’s ability to negotiate, manage change, build trust, project charisma, and promote collaboration.”

For example, Gorman cites research by the MIT Media Lab which shows how subtle nonverbal cues provide powerful signals about what’s really going on in a business interaction. Whether you win or lose a negotiation is strongly influenced by unconscious factors such as the way your body postures match the other person, the level of physical activity as you talk, and the degree to which you set the tone — literally — of the conversation.

Based on data from devices (called Sociometers) that monitor and analyze patterns of unconscious nonverbal signals passing between people, researchers with no knowledge of a conversation’s content can predict the outcome of a negotiation, the presentation of a business plan, or a job interview in two minutes — with over 80% accuracy.Â

Gorman also states that the first seven seconds of meeting someone is the most crucial since that is the time it takes to make major decisions a person— assessing credibility, friendliness, trustworthiness, confidence, power, status, and competence . “In business, these first impressions are crucial. Once someone mentally labels you as “likeable” or “un-likeable,” “powerful” or “submissive,” everything else you do will be viewed through that filter.

As a leader looking to make a positive first impression, you’d better know how to instantly project the nonverbal signals of warmth, candor, credibility, and confidence.  The fact is people are always evaluating your body language unconsciously.Â