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What Is Your Body Telling Others?

Previously we looked at how eye contact, or lack thereof, could tell us a lot about people and in some cases whether we thought they were being truthful or not. However, the same would apply to us as others make decisions concerning what they determine from what we are saying or doing. So, the eyes are not the only things that can be telling since all of one’s body actions can consciously or unconsciously reflect things about our own personalities. Then perhaps we should look at just how much we give away from the various movement of our bodies.

In our industry It is natural for us to want to be able to “read” the people we do business with and on the other hand, we all want to appear to be at our best when we meet with others. This is a natural desire whether the meeting was happening in a casual setting or in a formal or business situation. Just keep in mind that there is any number of things that can be “telling.”

Many people believe that it is only their facial expressions, such as eye movements or smiles, that may give away what they are thinking. But in addition to what those mostly unconscious reactions are telling folks, it is important to be aware that even the smallest gesture from your head down to your toes can let others know how you feel about what is going on around you. If you know what to look for you can get to know a lot about the people with whom you do business while at the same time perhaps learning to not be so obvious to them.

While the weather can at times be responsible for that “bad hair day” so can stress. Showing up to work or appointments without having groomed one’s hair or with uncontrolled “bed hair” tells a story in and of itself. Did the day not start off well, do you not want to be where you are or was it a long night and you are just not feeling well? Some, especially women, tend to pull or flip their hair away from the face which may indicate they are confident in their appearance and would like to be noticed. Others, also mostly women, may twist or twirl their hair while listening or speaking to others which could mean they are nervous or maybe even bored.

People will naturally look at each other’s faces while conversing since that is where it is easier to determine whether one is being truthful or not. So, watch out for those “microexpressions” that result from the usually unconscious movements of the tiny muscles around the eyes and mouth that tend to reflect how one is feeling about something and in some cases may even serve to contradict completely what one is saying. More about this later.

As far as posture is concerned I am sure your mother, like all mothers, was always correcting your posture, telling you to stop slouching and stand up straight! With your head held high and shoulders back you are likely to appear confident and in control of yourself. However, depending upon your intent, slouching a little could elicit some sympathy from others. On the other hand, however, consistent slouching, in addition to being bad for one’s health, will lead others to believe that you don’t feel very good about yourself. And, it has been said that you will point your body toward your interest, so if your chest is facing away during a meeting, you may either disagree with what is being said or are just not interested!

What to do with one’s arms! We know from childhood that if our parent’s arms were folded across their chest when they were looking at us that we were surely in trouble. If you do not want to be perceived as angry then do not cross your arms and if you do not want to appear arrogant then do not place your hands on your hips with arms akimbo. When you let your hands fidget or let your fingers start drumming you may be communicating anxiety, impatience, or boredom. Also, be careful how you use your hands as you gesture. Always try to find a relaxed and comfortable position when resting your hands (as opposed to constantly moving or wringing them) and if you want to convey a spirit of collaboration with someone then use a palms-up gesture.

And then there are the legs and their position while standing, walking or sitting, which is usually interpreted differently depending upon whether it is a man or a woman. Yes, they are different! The typical “man spread” when sitting usually comes across as one who sees himself as being in charge or as the boss. When wearing a skirt, women have obvious reasons for wanting to pay attention to the way they sit, and should the skirt be too short it can be awkward or discomfiting for them. Crossing one’s legs are generally considered a sign of confidence while ankle locks (wrapping one foot around the back of the other) can be read as signalling concern about what might happen. Note: 88% of people in a dentist’s chair lock their ankles!

If your posture is positioned properly then your stride should allow you to move from place to place with purposeful steps that exude confidence as you go. However, slouching could give the impression that you are either not sure of where you are going or that you perhaps fear what you might face when you get there. You have also probably encountered those who must constantly be moving their feet and legs while sitting. They too seem to be nervous or impatient just like the aforementioned finger drummers.   

But let’s go back to those little facial quirks that may give away to others what we might have in our minds. Any truly successful poker player will tell you that they have been able to watch for the little unconscious body movements and facial expressions of their opponents in the game so they “know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.” By observing little things like how a player changes his posture or his usual betting patterns, or when he varies how much or how little, how slowly or how rapidly he speaks, that too can be a giveaway. Perhaps he will twitch his nose, touch his face or play with his watch or ring. To the player who knows and closely observes the other players, these gestures may tell him which player holds either a strong or a weak hand.

What is important for us to recognize though is that many of the “tells” that the experts watch for in poker are like those “tells” that the high producers in our industry have learned to recognize in others and have put to use when negotiating with customers and clients. So, to be successful, we as real estate professionals need to learn which signs we should be watching for in others and learn to control how much our bodies “tell” others about ourselves or our plan.


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