[Friday Learning] Believe It Or Not – your body reveals your thoughts

Friday August 09, 2013,

6 min Read

This article is about learning non-verbal communication. Effective body language helps in hiring interviews, sales presentations, and investor pitches. The right messaging can help add value in all forms of business engagements


Startup entrepreneurs communicate with a body language which is different and worth learning. Entrepreneurs who use their body language effectively can relay their emotions and meanings through expressions. The right body communication can help them increase the startup’s perceived value to investors. Smart entrepreneurs also use body movements to express non-verbal communication regularly to get business. Within their office they typically try to dominate by showing off as the team bully -- with gestures and postures. For example most of us can spot when someone is lying or nervous while engaged in a conversation. That person will be distracted, he will not make eye contact, but will be looking to the sides. Most of us also know that when shoulders are droopy, back slouchy, then it means lack of confidence. When, as young children, parents teach us to sit straight, it is all about helping gain confidence.

Entrepreneurs many times are clueless about how to control their body language. They unknowingly reveal a lot of information to other party with unspoken intention. Non-verbal communication is important in face-to-face meetings and engagements. For example, in a customer meeting, if the entrepreneur is sitting with his feet crossed at the ankles means he is at ease. These learnings are integral part of many management classes and leadership courses for entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs should pause and think with intelligence on all emotions that are communicated using body expressions. The standard emotions expressed in regular engagements are amusement, anger, approval, anxiety, contempt, disbelief, disgust, embarrassment, enthusiasm, excitement, fear, guilt, happiness, impatience, pride, relief, satisfaction, sadness, shame, and surprise. For example, appropriate gestures can make a point in a presentation or deliver a message emphatically. Postures can divulge boredom or even a passionate interest, and a proper touch can relay encouragement or caution.

Let’s explore some non-verbal communication signals with postures. When a customer is sitting with his arms crossed, it indicates that the person is on guard with reserved opinion. When this is coupled with crossed legs, then it’s not a positive signal of engagement. To open up that customer, make sure there are some actions like exchange of cards or getting a beverage to drink. Once they uncross the legs and arms, the body influences the attitude to lower resistance and open up. In office meeting, you can see the boss flaunting the power and authority. They will be typically sitting with arms crossed while the feet are shoulder width or wider apart showing toughness. If you see someone rubbing hands together while in a conversation, read that they are not happy with current situation and trying get comfortable. When investors rests their hands behind their head or around neck, they are listening to what is in conversation with an open mind, the same gesture can also be interpreted as laid-back attitude.

In events, while standing, you see a person with hands on hips, he is waiting eagerly, impatient or just simply tired. Disagreement over a point means raised eyebrows, while fingers rolling in hair over head is when there is a conflict of thoughts. If one wishes to engage effectively in face-to-face meetings, then it is of a paramount importance to learn how you can (and cannot) use your body to convey what you mean. A tapping foot, adjustment of body on a chair, false laughter, or change of feet positions will happen when someone is impatient, excited, nervous, scared, or intimidated. Most entrepreneurs will stand with both feet close to each other nearly touching like in attention or submissive mode. This can happen when one is awed by the person in front of you.

A confident entrepreneur will make prolonged eye contact in conversation and always be in a posture of strength. When one is in stress or nervous, she will typically take short breaths; while at ease, long breaths. When you see a smile or you smile in a conversation, it showcases that there is enjoyment in that discussion. Entrepreneurs should learn to do carpet-bombing of smile while in discussion with customer or investor, as it brings the best outcomes. When your team is worn out with performance fatigue, then a brief smile in the group will help all to continue a little longer to perform. Smile is contagious.

When there is an interest or sign of excitement, lips and throat become dry. One will tend to lick his lips gently and slip down the throat saliva with croaking. There is a research-based theory which says that if you see these four body actions happening together, during a conversation, then that person is a possible liar. The actions include rubbing of hands, touching the face, crossed-arms, and leaning away. When in negotiation to reach an agreement, send signals of nodding with open gestures and smile. Many entrepreneurs, due to their passion, are over-enthusiastic. Their animated gestures while presenting their idea may give fatigue to the investor. They should take a deep breath, reduce the gestures below the waist line, and pause for a moment to make their point. Being subtle, calm, and contained evokes a powerful personality. It also sometimes keeps the investor interested on guessing what next to expect.

When you want to showcase your aggression, your body movement is closely opposite to that of the other party with whom you are having heated verbal arguments. The opposite person will understand that now is a stand-off position and you have to be heard seriously. Weak handshake is considered feminine. Sales people are taught to give a firm handshake to show authority in the meeting. If you see one glancing at the clock, it means one wants to close the meeting discussion; this is sometimes considered as a disrespect as well. Fidgeting with smartphones and laptops during meetings means you are non-attentive to the discussion. Many times, the person with authority will abruptly get up from the seat signalling an end of the meeting. Silence with poker face is very important in decisive meetings to force the other party to speak out and make them answerable.

Entrepreneurs should review their own body language; see what non-verbal messages they are sending out. Mastering of non-verbal communication will improve control on business outcomes, industry image and help better management of team.

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