At some point early in our lives we become aware that people don’t always mean what they say and that sometimes it is necessary to study their body language to discover what they are really thinking. If you become an astute reader it can open a lot of doors for you …
As everything is not always what is seems you need to learn how to understand what is really happening… you can do this by matching what you see and hear in the environment in which it it is happening and drawing most likely conclusions. However, for most people their conclusions are based on what they think they are seeing.
There was an experiment carried out by a well known body language psychologist who, in the lobby of a hotel, strategically placed a mirror and large plants. Then as each person entered the lobby they thought another person was coming in at the same time. Each person coming in observed the ‘new guest’ for about 5 or 6 seconds and then continued on inside. When questioned about the other ‘guest’ 85% of men denied recognising them whilst 30% of women said the other guest looked familiar. Does that mean women spend more time looking in the mirror. Sorry guys no it means that women are overall more perceptive than men.
Before talking pictures, the stars of the silent silver screen were extremely skilled in body language skills, as apart from the occasional written message flashed on screen between the action shots it was down to the actor to communicate facially and bodily. When talking pictures arrived only the actors with a good mix of verbal and nonverbal skills continued their career.
A Professor Albert Mehrabian pioneered understanding in communications in the 1960’s and his research (viewed at its most basic level) showed that in understanding verbal communication, 7% comes from the actual words spoken, 38% from the way it is spoken (like tone of voice) and 55% comes from nonverbal body language. This view was supported by other experts like Ray Birdwhistell (an American anthropologist).
It is generally accepted that when people negotiate over the telephone that the one expressing the strongest argument wins, however, this is not true when the negotiations are done face to face and this is because decisions tend to be based less on what we hear than what we see.
If reading body language means this much then it will pay us to dig a little deeper. We can do this by – Reading gestures in clusters ie., the whole body. That a person just be might be scratching the back of their neck because they have an itch – and not because you are irritating them. Next you need to look for consistency or harmony – are the persons words conflicting with their body language? Finally only read gestures in context; if you are sitting opposite someone in the dentist waiting room and his arms are crossed and he is looking at the exit sign it doesn’t mean he has taken an instant dislike to you.
Used well, reading and understanding body language effectively could do wonders for your sales and negotiation skills.