3 Tips to Improve Body Language

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From the time we’re born, comfort and discomfort is shown through non-verbal cues. Body language is communicated at the speed of light and is what comes out before words are even formed, explains the former FBI agent and expert on body language, Joe Navarro. Body language is our first and primary language by which we communicate. In fact, it is estimated that over 80 percent of interaction is done through non-verbal communication, according to Navarro’s website.

For over four decades, Navarro has been studying non-verbal behavior. Twenty-five of those years were spent lending his expertise to the FBI to help catch spies. Navarro is now recognized as one of the world’s foremost authorities on non-verbal communication. He has been featured in The Washington Post, Psychology Today and has written a number of his own books, including the international best-seller What Every Body is Saying and The Dictionary of Body Language.

Although it may seem more glamorous to use body language as a way to catch bad guys, it’s actually very important for how we present ourselves in everyday life.

“From Beijing to Boston, these are things that matter,” Navarro says. “If I’m a business owner, how everyone presents themselves—that’s costing me money.”  

From 25 feet away—before you can even be heard—the customer is already picking up on cues. In order to make sure that customer comes back, it’s essential you pay attention to the non-verbal messages that are being sent.

Focus your attention.   

From the time we are born, we reward each other by looking into each other’s eyes, Navarro says.

“Anytime we fail to make eye contact, we feel like we’re being ignored,” he says.

It happens all too often. When a customer walks in, the person that they need to speak with keeps his or her eyes on the computer, Navarro says. This communicates that they’re too busy, which won’t make the customer feel good—a memory that they’ll hold on to.

Navarro says that negative memories stay with a person an average of 15 years. So, anytime you communicate to a customer that you’re “too busy,” remember, that’s a feeling that they’ll have about you for over a decade.

If you are busy or on the phone, Navarro says to look up and very briefly say, “I’ll be right with you.” It takes 1.5 seconds, he says, and it makes all the difference in the world.

Bonus tip: If you’re looking to really step up your game, arch your eyebrows when you make eye contact— something Navarro refers to as an “eyebrow flash.”

Demonstrate active listening.

When you’re interacting with someone, try tilting your head slightly to the side.

“If my head is tilted, my neck is exposed, which means that I’m interested in what you have to say and I’m listening,” Navarro says.

This small gesture shows that someone is actively listening.

Bonus tip: When you’re listening to what a customer has to say, avoid looking at your phone for any reason.

“Young and old alike will interrupt a conversation just to look at their device—and that’s terrible,” Navarro says.

If you have to use your phone for a good reason, to show the customer a visual, for example, he says to ask for the customer’s permission.

Mind your stance.

Most of the interaction in fixed operations is done while standing. It’s important to face the customer with your entire body, Navarro says.

A common mistake people make is that they have their body totally facing the exit with only their face turned toward the customer.

“Subconsciously, that says the person doesn’t want to be anywhere near you,” Navarro says.

Bonus tip: Contrary to what many may think, Navarro says there’s absolutely nothing wrong with crossing your arms.  This is a self-soothing technique. Navarro says the real importance is in what you’re doing with your face.  

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