(By Peter Economy)
“Always remember to greet others with a firm handshake–but not too firm. A firm handshake is probably one of the most important body language moves, because it sets the tone for the entire conversation. Who wants to shake hands and then have a conversation with a wet noodle?“
Research shows that 60 to 90 percent of our communication with others is nonverbal, which means the body language we use is extremely important.
In addition, it’s especially important to make a good first impression. Why? Because within the first few minutes of meeting someone, we are already making decisions about what the other person’s intentions are, and whether or not the person is credible and someone we want to do business with.
Therefore, the way you present yourself–especially the way you communicate nonverbally in those first few crucial minutes after meeting someone new–could make or break what could potentially be a very important business relationship.
Here are 18 ways you can use your body language to communicate your credibility and intentions in a way that will set you up for success every time.
1. Begin with your posture–back straight but not rigid, and shoulders relaxed so you don’t look too uptight.
2. Align your body with the person you’re talking to–this shows you’re engaged.
3. Keep your legs apart a bit instead of crossed–this demonstrates that you’re relaxed, and research shows that you retain more information when you keep your legs uncrossed.
4. Lean in a bit–this shows focus and that you really are listening.
5. Mirror the body language you are observing, showing you are in agreement and that you like–or are sincerely trying to like–the person you are with.
Positive arms and hands
6. Keep your arms relaxed at your sides, showing you are open to what someone else is communicating, and as with your legs, keep your arms uncrossed in order to absorb more of what’s going on.
7. Use your hands to gesture when you speak–this improves your credibility with the listener. In addition, there is evidence that gesturing with your hands while speaking improves your thinking processes.
8. Always remember to greet others with a firm handshake–but not too firm. A firm handshake is probably one of the most important body language moves, because it sets the tone for the entire conversation. Who wants to shake hands and then have a conversation with a wet noodle?
9. Be aware of different cultural greetings and closures prior to your meeting.
10. With appropriate nods and genuine smiles, you are showing the speaker that you understand, agree, and are listening to his or her opinions.
11. Laughter is always a great way to lighten the mood when used appropriately, and once again, it shows you’re listening.
12. Keep good eye contact by looking the person in the eye when he or she is communicating. Keep eye contact going when you speak, because this shows you are interested in the conversation. Watch your eye contact, though–if you don’t take breaks to contemplate your next answer, your eye contact could be viewed as staring (translation: aggressive or creepy).
13. Beware of blinking too much. Rapid blinking could communicate that you are feeling uncomfortable with the current conversation.
14. Mirror the other person’s facial expressions, because once again, this demonstrates that you are in agreement and like–or are making an effort to like–the other person.
15. Monitor your voice. Keep it low, and don’t end every sentence as if it’s a question. Take a deep breath and speak slowly and clearly.
The little extras
16. During your meeting, take notes. This will demonstrate that you are engaged and care about what the other person is saying, but remember to make eye contact regularly so the speaker knows you’re still with him or her.
17. Watch the body language of others, as they may be communicating to you through their body language that they would like to conclude the meeting. People are much more likely to engage you in future conversations if you observe and act on their body language cues.
18. End the meeting with a firm handshake and eye contact, showing you enjoyed your time and hope to meet again.
While Peter Economy has spent the better part of two decades of his life slugging it out mano a mano in the management trenches, he is also the best-selling author of Managing for Dummies amongst other books. Sign up here to always stay up to date with Peter’s latest Inc.com columns, and visit him anytime at petereconomy.com.
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