By Laurie Guest
It’s so important to factor in body language when it comes to making a first impression.
Before you open your mouth to speak, you have already delivered a message. The words you speak, intertwined with your body language, communicate whether you are approachable or unapproachable, and so much more.
My experience in learning body language started when I was about 19 years old and working in health care. I had a habit of folding my arms over my mid-section and leaning against door jams or registration desks with a hip out (and a little bit of attitude out, too).
I was standing like that one day when the doctor I was working with walked up, pointed to my folded arms, and said, “Knock off the attitude!”
I clearly remember responding, with complete attitude all over my face, “What attitude?”
She handed me a book on body language and told me it was mandatory reading, complete with a book report. I rolled my eyes and made that sound in my throat that says, “This is stupid.” She noted, “You will find those behaviors on page fifty-two.”
I took the book home against my will, and I can say today that it’s one of the five books that changed the course of my life.
After studying my own body language, I learned how to change several key things. First, I adopted an open stance when engaging with people. That means arms not crossed, but rather down at my sides or loosely bent at elbows with fingertips touching. Instead of leaning on things, which causes one hip to protrude out giving a cue of boredom, I trained myself to stand up straight with both feet firmly planted and weight equally distributed.
Most importantly, however, I concentrated on eye contact and smiling. Maintaining eye contact doesn’t mean staring at a person to the point of awkwardness! It means looking right at the person you are speaking to rather than over his/her shoulder or down at your feet. A smile doesn’t have to be so big your cheeks hurt. A slight upturn of the corners so that your mouth leaves the neutral position is enough. (Interestingly, a mouth in neutral position actually looks like attitude. A slight upturn makes all the difference.)
Once I made these subtle changes, I noticed my ability to connect with our customers and with my coworkers improved. Now as a speaker meeting hundreds of new people each month, I am amazed at how strong the signal can be from those who have not studied the consequences of bad body language.
Learning how to improve body language will impact your customer service. Concentrate on eye contact and smiling, the two keys to positive body language. Body language influences a customer’s perspective of your business from the first moment of contact. Keeping your posture open and welcoming, rather than bored or busy, makes an impact.
It’s also important to remember that not only should you think about the body language you share, but you also need to read the body language of the customer. For example, in retail, body language tells you to back off and give the customer some space. Take notice of this and follow up with the right words like, “Hey, let me give you some time to browse. Just wave at me if I can be of help.”
What about the opposite of that: the customer that needs our attention immediately? Think about the body language of restaurant guests when they’re in a rush. Picking up on that and leaving the check right after the plate is placed would be a great way to anticipate their needs. Say something like, “I thought you might be in a hurry, so here’s your check right away. I’ll swing back in a little bit to see if you’d like anything else.” A happy diner will likely be a repeat diner!
Being a pro at body language comes with being aware and paying attention to the tells. Small movements and gestures give you clues into what a person thinks. Regardless of your business, apply the principles of non-verbal cues. It will be an impactful contributing factor to your overall success.
Looking for your next healthcare speaker? Get in touch with us at the Capitol City Speakers Bureau today to make your healthcare event a success!