Do you watch a person’s eyes as they review the document you just presented? You should.
A persons eye movement can be a good indicator of their real reaction. How about feet? Do you look at a person’s feet? Probably not, though they are also good indicators. Does the person you’re negotiating with have their feet tightly wrapped around the chair legs or pulled back under the chair and crossed? If so, that’s a bad sign and could indicate that your negotiation with this person is going to fail.
A quick review of Amazon.com reveals thousands of books on body language and non-verbal communication. Everyone knows about body language, though few truly understand it. One who definitely does is Carol Kinsey Goman. Her latest book, The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help – or Hurt – How You Lead, is an interesting but detailed text on how to read and interpret body language. Although she mentions more commonly known non-verbal actions like crossed arms and facial expressions, she goes beyond those standard definitions, reminding readers to not judge so quickly. Each individual is different and to truly understand the meaning of body language it is essential to also understand the person. The context of a particular non-verbal sign is essential and as Goman points out, each person has a baseline of normal behavior. Without knowledge of that baseline, it is much harder to know if their body language is normal, or contains a deeper meaning.
Like everything, non-verbal communication comes from the brain. There are three major areas in the human brain and each is responsible for a specific part of our actions and reactions in everyday life. Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or fMRI has made it possible to see what the brain is actually doing as a person performs tasks, creating a map of what the various parts of the brain are doing at a specific time. When combined with observation of the person’s body, researchers gain a clear, accurate look at what specific body movements actually mean.
Of course culture and social norms also affect body language and those differences are more important in today’s world than ever before. Goman dedicates a whole section of the book to differences in non-verbal cues in different countries and regions. For a leader who travels internationally, or who has a large number of workers from other countries, the guide will be invaluable.
The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help – or Hurt – How You Lead is one of those books that is essential to leadership development and should be on every leader’s shelf. Keep this one close and study it in detail.