Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Use Body Language to Improve Networking (Part 1)

Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann
Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann

Networking and communication is HUGE, not just for those looking to be self-earners, but for EVERYONE. We wouldn’t have gotten as far as a species without them. Where would you be in life without them? Thing is,as we’ve grown smarter, we rely on words more heavily to build relationships. However, body language is an essential skill to reinforcing communication and building bonds. I’m a huge believer in this because I’ve been fairly successful at it in my personal and professional life.

I have really bad ADD. As such, I can potentially end up daydreaming as someone is talking to me.

You can imagine how that can adversely impact conversation.

Though I’m far better at keeping my ADD in check nowadays, I’ve developed a few ways of masking the fact that I stop paying attention at some point. It’s all about body language and being able to communicate as such. The thing is, unlike words alone, communicating via body language is difficult to fake. Great liars can combine false words with convincing body language. If there was body language alone or words alone, the lie would be less convincing.

But this isn’t about lying. Your body language should reflect the true intentions of your words. You don’t want to deceive here. If you do, that just shows your lack of confidence in the real you and what you have to offer as a person or business. The goal here is to bond and build trust. Do so responsibly.

On to the fun stuff.

  1. When first meeting a person, start off strong. You are somebody. You are just as much of a somebody as anyone else, despite what others think about your income, nationality, weight, gender, etc. Act as such. Stand tall, speak clearly, chin up, maintain eye contact. You are not trying to be domineering here. You simply want to show you have no fear of anything in the situation. You are equal to the person or people to whom you are speaking. You need to believe this. Get any notions out of your head about being less or greater than any other person. You’re not. Acting in this fashion will garner a mutual respect.
  2. Test mimicry. A key sign people are on the same wavelength is mimicry. I kid you not. Have you ever spoken to someone and you find yourself matching one of their behaviors? Maybe they’re following your lead. It could be as simple as scratching your nose or tapping your foot. Test this out by specifically performing a subtle action every so often. This is a great way to test if  the person to which you’re speaking is willing to follow you.
  3. The dance of mimicry. As with anything, there is a balance to the delicate dance that is mimicry. First of all, make no mistake about it, mimicry is all about who the alpha is. Who is the leader and who is the follower? Someone may not mimic you at all while others are all too willing to oblige. Building a meaningful relationship should not be founded on either of those extremes. You want a dance partner, someone who will match you. This fosters willingness to network rather than networking out of pity or fear. Or maybe not networking at all. But this still needs to be genuine. If not, people may become aware of you and themselves, subsequently impeding body language communication. So dance away! Let yourself be both the subject of mimicry as well as the mimicker. Do some purposely and others less so. Observe how you are in relationships and practice incorporating more or less mimicry for a more balanced means of communication. Do this enough and you will naturally be more balanced when communicating or networking with anyone.
  4. Other body cues. There are other ways to gauge a person and open them up to non-verbal communication. Some methods are tried-and-true while others are less so. Here are some quick tips to take with you.
  • Crossed arms may be a sign of defensiveness or insecurity. Stand or sit in a more relaxed way in order to bring their guard down. You can reinforce this by using self depricating humor (not too much though as to give the impression of being weak).
  •  Use open movements when possible. Hand something to someone with your palms up. If you speak with you hands, use less pointing motions and more movements where your hands point to the sides. Notice how doing this compels you to keep your palms up.
  • Separate nervous habits from general tendencies. General tendencies are often done regardless of the situation. Nervous habits, on the other hand, are generally in response to something. If the person is already in a nervous or submissive role, watch their reactions to what you say and do. You should alter your “dance” in order to discourage nervous habits.

I’m not about to kill you with information here. This is all about learning theory and the basic concept behind body language communication from my point of view. It’s super simple and, like any language, must be practiced in order to reach proficiency. Observe yourself as well. Does your body language match your words and intentions? What are your tendencies. Body language communication means knowing yourself just as much as you know others. Take away any biases because they’ll only color your ability to communicate.

Anyway, I think next time I’ll speak about different personalities and how body language should be tweaked accordingly. Stay tuned for more!

Previously: Lessons from a New Self-Earner: The Power of Persistence (and the Things that Inhibit It)

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