The Un­spo­ken Word

The Im­por­tance of Body Lan­guage in the Busi­ness World

Indwe - - Con­tents - Text: Gi­lan Gork Im­ages © Gi­lan Gork & iS­tock­

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 visit­lan­ for more in­for­ma­tion.

gi­lan gork says that be­ing able to ac­cu­rately read body lan­guage

is an in­valu­able tool for both busi­ness and per­sonal in­ter­ac­tions

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