Don’t Be a Mind Reader

24 03 2010

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Last week I went to a lunch-time seminar held byWashington Women in PR called You Say More With Your Body Language Than You Think .  Janine Driver spoke to about 40 women about how to use body language to be successful — at work and at home. It was incredibly enlightening.  Check her out at www.lyintamer.com.  She gave us tips and explanations for how our actions can oppose our words and that hinders our message from being received….which is the whole point of PR.

The most important thing Janine said was “it doesn’t matter what body language truly means, it matters how it is perceived.” She couldn’t be more right. There are a million books and studies telling you that when someone scratches their nose, that means they are lying, etc. Whether that’s true or not, if the person on the other side thinks that’s what it means, then that is what they will think. The best way to combat this is to know how to make your words match how you are perceived.

A few tips from Janine on making a good impression:

  • Don’t tell us who you aren’t
  • Keep your hands to your side to remain open.
  • When first meeting someone, do not say anything negative in the first 5 minutes.

When in a meeting, making a first impression or simply trying to understand another person try to figure out what the other person’s ‘baseline’ is. Do they always tap their foot? If so, this doesn’t have to mean they are nervous or uninterested in what you’re saying. Do they always have their arms folded across their chest? If so, this doesn’t mean that they are angry or trying to push you away. The problem comes when their behavior changes. When their baseline changes, then you have to wonder why. Did they shift when you mentioned salary? This doesn’t have to mean they were uncomfortable with what you said so don’t be a mind reader. This is your opening to ask a question: “It seems to me that what I just said…”. This opens the conversation, shows you’re paying attention and gets you the information you need to proceed successfully in the conversation and relationship.

How Janine applies body language in the office:

  • Be observant. Know how what you look like affects how you are perceived. Does your audience need a bright, cheery and smiling or do they feel more comfortable with a more serious professional?
  • Move their body, move their minds. If you’re in sales, keep the client moving, keep their mind actively engaged.

Janine’s ideas and principles apply to more than just the office and securing your next client. These ideas fit right into our lives. I found myself in a disagreement with a family member over the weekend and as soon as I got defensive, I put my hand out palm down — a gesture that pushes the other person away. It definitely did not help my argument.  If we can think about these applications every day, they can help us get our message across more effectively — no matter what message it is.

Check out Janine’s book, You Say More than You Think – I can’t wait to finish it! You can also see an interview she did with CBS here.

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