Putting the Best Foot Forward as an Entrepreneur
When talking about interactions with other people and making positive impressions on people body language MUST be considered. There is so much research available about body language and what it means that anyone looking for better outcomes in their relationships should devote some time to learning about the subject.
In a study published by the British journal of social and clinical psychology in 1970 Michael Argyle and other researchers hypothesized the following about non-verbal communication:
That whereas spoken language is normally used for communicating information about events external to the speakers, non-verbal codes are used to establish and maintain interpersonal relationships. It is considered more polite or nicer to communicate attitudes towards others non-verbally rather than verbally, for instance in order to avoid embarrassing situations.
Argyle (1988) concluded there are five primary functions of nonverbal bodily behavior in human communication:
- Express emotions
- Express interpersonal attitudes
- To accompany speech in managing the cues of interaction between speakers and listeners
- Self-presentation of one’s personality
- Rituals (greetings)
It is widely acknowledged that 60-70% of meaning is derived from non-verbal cues. If someone is angry with you all it usually takes is a look to know where they are coming from. There are, however, less obvious signals that you would do well to pick up on.
You meet someone for the first time and shake hands. How did he or she shake your hand? While the pressure of the grip is important perhaps more important is the positioning of their hand.
In his book, "The Secret Language of Success" David Lewis writes there are three hand positions during a handshake that can give you valuable information about the other person.
Do they offer their hand with the palm facing up? Lewis suggests this person is essentially submitting to you. By allowing your hand to be placed on top of theirs he or she is allowing you to take the lead. Conversely, if someone is trying to shake your hand with their palm facing down(forcing yours to face up)they are trying to dominate you! Or, if someone offers their hand with the palm facing sideways this person is coming at you with a mindset of equality or, at least, respect. Lewis suggests ways to combat the dominating maneuver like rotating your hand(and his) to a more equal position.
Do you make eye contact? Nothing says confidence like eye contact. If you are trying to win funding for your new venture or to make a sale looking down or away is about the worst thing you can do.
In an article for Associated Content Jan Castagnaro writes:
"When you maintain eye contact, you present an air of confidence in yourself and what you are communicating. People who are listening to what you are saying will take you more seriously, and will take what you say as important. If you lose eye contact or focus on everything else but the person you are speaking to, you may not be taken seriously and the truth in your points may be lost.
Failing to maintain eye contact during a conversation can send mixed signals to the person you are speaking with. It is often construed as a tell-tale-sign that you might not be forthcoming or truthful in what you are saying---liars tend to not keep eye contact. If the lack of eye contact is not construed as a lie the person may be trying to conceal, it is often perceived as lack of interest or an indication of a short attention span."
In western societies eye contact with strangers or superiors is much more common than in China or Japan, for example, where eye contact is perceived as rude. Know your environment and who you're dealing with.
It is that situational awareness that can also be helpful when meeting prospective investors or clients. Are you taking charge when you should?
As a broadcast journalist for more than 12 years I have found that more often than not people look to me for an opinion or an insight. By virtue of my profession my opinion seems to matter more. Perhaps it is the human need to establish and recognize hierarchies that drive these situations. Even if I don't have much to say on the matter or am feeling withdrawn I still weigh-in in some fashion. Not saying anything or showing a lack of engagement is counterproductive to my image. I speak for a living and know that people look for my input.
As you move forward with your endeavors understanding body language and what it means for you and your success should be given a priority. Something as important as non-verbal communication should be thoroughly understood and practiced. Risking failure or setback because of a "negative feeling" you left with somebody must be avoided. Instead, leaving someone feeling glad they met you for reasons they might not even be able to explain could mean a breakthrough success for your enterprise.