Body language helps us communicate whether or not we are aware of it. A recent university study on how people receive information had the following results:

– 55% of what we learn from others comes from their body language (mostly from the eyes)
– 38% of what we learn from others comes from their tone of voice.
– 7% of what we learn from others comes from the words they say.

What this means to you and me is that our body language communicates a lot of information whether or not we try to manage it. This makes the initial greeting critical to the beginning of a new relationship. While people expect a firm and professional handshake, studies show that we make up our minds about people in the first three to four seconds.

Essentially, we make a judgment based on physical characteristics such shape of the face, posture, eye contact, body type, voice, clothing, and smell. We quickly determine if the new person is friend, foe, or neutral. This mammalian reaction comes from thousands of years of learning to survive and thrive in a hostile world.

Beware that when you meet new customers or contacts that you are being sized up and categorized. To make the best first impression, a smiling face and direct eye contact helps get you off to a good start. A firm, uncomplicated handshake is best; avoid a weak hand shake or an overly aggressive grip. The goal is to be accepted not to dominate. Stand straight but relaxed.

Your voice should be steady and enthusiastic. A happy person has a higher pitch and fast pace, while a depressed or bored person speaks slowly in a monotone voice. An aggressive person can be loud with a deep voice (think growl).

Clothing matters. Have you ever noticed how a person who is dressed-up, even in older or out-of-style clothing, always commands more authority and respect? The impression you make and what you have to say is enhanced by your personal presentation. The goal is to fit in but not to draw extra attention, so beware of flashy or provocative clothing.

Finally, good grooming is essential. Body odor can be offensive in most cultures; also, beware of over doing it with perfume and cologne since this can also be offensive to some. Clean hands and well groomed nails are essential.

Your body language tells a story to others whether you mean to or not.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

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