Having worked over twenty years in the marketing industry as an account manager, I knew that sometimes those great artists and writers wore their egos on their sleeves. When a client made changes to their creative or worse yet, just didn’t like the idea, I had to take great tact and choose my words carefully. After all, we were in the communications industry and problems could always be discussed, worked out, mulled over, right? I had just hung up the phone after a call with a difficult client who tore the copy to shreds. As the impending deadline hung in the wings, I drew a big breath and walked to the copywriter’s office.
I tapped on the open door and put on a smile of contrition. While the copywriter’s fingers were nimbly working over the keyboard, she briefly glanced up and returned to her typing. I cleared my throat, offered an apology and waited until she finally looked at me. Her jaw clenched, her hooded eyes were staring a hole through me as she began nervously tapping her foot on the floor. When I began describing changes, my copywriter friend’s jaw dropped as she grabbed her pen and began fidgeting with it while her foot tapped faster. She hadn’t said a word, not even uttered a noise, but I got her message loud and clear. I was not welcome. She was not glad to see me or my revisions. I felt like sinking into the floor.
Body language speaks louder than words. When it comes to determining our perception of someone’s likability, body language accounts for 93 percent of communication, while words account for the remaining 7 percent. First impressions are made in a flash, and once decided, very seldom change. Your success in business literally hangs on your shoulders.
Becoming more aware of your body language and how you’re nonverbally communicating is essential in business. Much has been written on this science but we’ll break it down into three manageable areas: posture, personal space and eye contact.
If your mother ever told you to stand up straight, she knew what she was talking about. Beyond the benefits physically, standing tall with shoulders back indicates confidence, trustworthiness and credibility. Slouching and slumping demonstrates weakness, insecurity and laziness.
One of the fastest ways to build an immediate connection with someone is by making direct eye contact. Good eye contact shows you’re interested and confident. It immediately builds trust and approachability. Remember never to roll your eyes when someone is speaking. It’s a sign of contempt, frustration and exasperation.
Remember the 4-foot rule. People are comfortable being at least four feet away from your body. In business, contacts may feel threatened and nervous if you move in too close. At the same time, we are all humans and sometimes a welcome hug at work is exactly what we need. Just ask first before handing out hugs. 🙂
These are just the basics. Brush up and be bold. You may never get a second chance to make the best first impression.