The Unspoken Word
The Importance of Body Language in the Business World
Gilan Gork – locally and internationally renowned mentalist, master of influence and best-selling author – outlines why applying the principles of non-verbal communication is extremely effective in business.
How is body language like a tin of paint? It may sound like an absurd question, but it really isn’t. In fact, over the past 20 years, I must have asked this question to literally thousands of students in dozens of different countries.
Here’s the answer: Paint is only useful when it’s applied to something. This is crucial. Anyone can flick through a book on body language. What’s far more useful is knowing how to apply the principles of non-verbal communication to real life. This is what I emphasise in my talks to sales professionals, executives and VIP guests all around the world.
Consider this example. You are pitching for a substantial, high-level contract. You have submitted your bid and are now meeting the client. He says: “Your bid was certainly competitive. But another company has submitted a comparable bid that’s significantly lower. If you could match their bid, or get close to it, we’d be happy to award you the contract.”
There are two possibilities here. The client may be telling the truth, in which case you’ll have to see if you can modify your bid – which could mean significantly reducing your price and your profit margin. Alternatively, this rival bid could be imaginary. The client might just be bluffing in an attempt to save some money.
Although I’ve simplified the details, this scenario is drawn from real life. As it happens, the salesman in this case was one of my former students. Here’s the crucial part: He was 90 % sure the client was bluffing, so he felt no need to lower his asking price. (I’ll tell you how he knew in just a moment.) He stuck to his guns and was able to close the deal without having to trim his margin.
This is just one example of how a working knowledge of body language, and how to apply it to real-life situations, can be tremendously useful. When you’re selling, you want to know as much as you can about what your customer is thinking and feeling – and knowing how to read subtle non-verbal signals can make all the difference.
One of the great joys of studying body language is the subtlety involved. For example, it’s rarely possible to make deductions based on a single action or gesture viewed in isolation. Context almost always matters, and we generally look for a coherent pattern of signals rather than judging them individually. We’re looking for the whole story, not just one part of it. As one of my students put it, we’re looking for the leopard, not just the spots!
Let’s get back to the story of the client bluffing about a fictitious “rival” bid. In this case, the salesman based his deduction on a pattern of “tells” (involuntary revelations) that collectively suggested an attempt to deceive. There were actually several signals involved, but the most significant one was this: The client had started to blink much more rapidly than usual just before he mentioned the (imaginary) rival bid. In most contexts, when corroborated by other indicators, this increased frequency of blinking (compared to an established base rate) is a fairly clear sign that someone isn’t being entirely honest. Microexpressions and other barely perceptible clues often give away what someone is thinking.
The material I teach on body language is based on over 20 years of practical study and experience. In this time, I’ve developed a highly systematic approach to both reading and influencing people. This isn’t just because I think influence is a fascinating subject – I had to develop this knowledge to survive professionally! This involves knowing not just how to read subconscious signals but also how these vary from one culture to another. These variations can be highly significant. A gesture that is seen as aggressive in one country can be peaceful in another.
Sharpening your observational skills, and developing your body language expertise, enables you to build rapport with just about anyone. It’s also a good way to develop greater command and presence in any meeting.
Don’t miss out on being entertained while learning about body language at Gilan Gork’s new show #Every Body Language, which will run at the Maslow in Sandton on 10th, 11th and 12th August 2017. Please visit www.gilangork.com for more information.
gilan gork says that being able to accurately read body language
is an invaluable tool for both business and personal interactions