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Chamber Report

Body language in business can make or break you

  • Updated
Dunwoody Chamber’s opportunities

Chamber Report

Do you drive yourself crazy thinking you won’t get the business if your elevator pitch or sales presentation isn’t perfect? Consider this: Though there’s no denying the power of the spoken word, according to Inc. magazine, 60 to 90 percent of our communication with other people is nonverbal.

Since people automatically size you up during the first five minutes after being introduced, prospects may be deciding whether or not to do business with you based almost solely on your body language. Jacquelyn Smith of the Business Insider says nonverbal cues and gestures can make or break a business relationship.

Poor nonverbal skills can cause you to come across as negative. While this may not be fair, according to Tonya Reiman, author of The Power of Body Language, it’s “how humans are programmed.”

In other words, it pays to be aware of your body language.

Experts agree that the key to successful business body language is to mirror the other person. If he crosses his legs, cross yours. If she cocks her head, cock yours. To avoiding feeling phony, think of mirroring as a subtle way of showing support and agreement. This really shouldn’t be too hard to do because in general, when you like someone, you mirror him or her unconsciously.

Below are 11 body language mistakes to avoid in business situations:

• Poor posture: No matter how much your back hurts, stand up straight with your stomach in, chest out, shoulders back and head up. Otherwise, people may think you’re uninterested or unhappy.

• Not being in sync: More than just mirroring body language, also mirror the other person’s tone and tempo of voice.

• Fidgeting and big hand movements: Powerful business people tend to use small, subtle gestures to make their points. Fidgeting with your hands, phone or hair signals insecurity and weakness.

• No eye contact: Lack of eye contact can make others wonder what you’re hiding. Looking a person in the eye makes you more persuasive by seeming honest and assured.

• Bad handshake: First, wipe your hand dry if you have sweaty palms or have been holding a cold drink. Then be sure to grip the person’s entire hand, not just their fingers. Be firm but not threatening and maintain eye contact.

• Mismatching verbal and nonverbal messages: For example, If you say, “That sounds great,” while rolling your eyes and crossing your arms, you look passive aggressive. Experts say it’s the kiss of death.

• Failing to smile: Smiling denotes confidence, openness, warmth and energy. When someone smiles back, you’ve made a connection. Caveat: Nonstop smiling comes across as insincere!

• Eye rolling: This is so negative that according to Reiman, “rolling your eyes after a spouse has spoken is a strong predictor of divorce.”

• Keeping your cell phone in view: This is almost too obvious to mention. Put it away and have it on silent – nothing is more important than your client.

• Crossing your arms defensively: To look honest and agreeable, show your hands.

The good news is that according to Inc., the best way to communicate is a combination of oral and visual. People remember only 20 percent of a purely visual communication but 80 percent of one that’s a combination of the two.

That means there’s still a place in business for people who still communicate verbally.

Carol Niemi is an award-winning creative director who works with growing companies to define and build their brand. Reach her at carol@carolsniemi.com.