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COMMUNICATION

To make a point, use the body language that support your words

Few managers realize that successful communication depends heavily on body language.

When people don’t get the response they expect, they need to understand that their bodies aren’t sending the messages they think they’re conveying.

Much of the message that gets picked up in a conversation comes from motions and gestures. And it works both ways. A manager has to know body language to get their message across and to understand the message another person is sending.

Breathing slow, breathing low

The element of body language that gets noticed most is breathing. To convey a calm and confident appearance, breathe slowly. Also breathe low, from the abdomen.

People who are nervous, frightened, or worried breathe rapidly. It comes from the prehistoric part of the brain that reacts to being chased by a predator. The voice gets high and squeaky. Little mannerisms become stiff and jerky. There are ums and ahs and you knows. The fast breather sounds angry and looks poised for confrontation.

Oddly enough, when one person is breathing rapidly, the other will mirror it.

Suppose the manager is meeting with a client who owes money. It’s quite likely the client is breathing fast out of nervousness. If the manager unwittingly mirrors that, the tone is set for a fight.

Moreover, the rapid breathing makes the manager look just as scared as the client.

Two tones of voice to use

Next is the tone of voice.

There are two voice tones or patterns. They are the credible pattern and the connection pattern, and both are necessary for successful communication.

The credible pattern is the “James Bond” voice. It carries a calm cadence. It’s flat with few inflections and the chin drops at the end like a period at the end of the sentence. The credible voice says, “I know what I’m talking about.”

Intensify the credibility with body language. When standing, put your weight on both feet. When sitting, center your weight and sit on the front half of the chair. Both positions say, “I’m in command.”

While the credible pattern is good for establishing authority, it’s not good for building rapport and making friends. That’s where the connection pattern comes in.

The connection voice is rhythmic. The tone flows up and down. The sentences end with both the voice and the chin going up as if asking a question. The connection voice says, “Let’s get together here.”

Again, body language can intensify it. Nod and make casual eye contact, which means not staring at the person, but looking away from time to time. Use the credible pattern when answering a serious question or when addressing a staff problem. It creates confidence in the manager.

Use the connection pattern to build relationships. It’s good, for example, when the manager is trying to hire someone.

Many times it’s best to start with the connection voice. Use it to get people to like you. Then switch to the credible pattern when you want to show you know what you’re talking about.

Palms up, down, and sideways

Hands too have a language.

Palms facing up bespeak openness. It says, “I am open to communication.” With a business contact, that’s a signal of welcome and “Let’s have a conversation.”

Palms held sideways facing each other indicate some openness, but mostly seriousness. It says, “I’m open to talking about this.”

And palms facing down cuts off communication entirely. It says, “This is not open to negotiation.” And the more someone repeats the gesture, or bounces their hands up and down, the more adamant the “no.”

There are also combinations.

One palm facing sideways and the other facing up says, “Yes, it’s serious, but I’m open to speaking about it.” Or upward palms plus a connection voice says, “Let’s talk and have a conversation.”

A point to remember is that people believe their eyes before they believe their ears. That’s well illustrated when someone combines a connection voice pattern with palms-down gestures and wonders why there’s no rapport. The downturned palms are negating everything that’s said.

Sitting for success

Sitting posture is also communicative.

The most positive sitting position is upright with a slight forward lean and open arms. That’s engaging.

Sitting back might be comfortable, but it doesn’t do anything to please the other person. Instead, it shows a lack of concern for what that person is saying.

Even worse, folded arms say, “I don’t care about you, and I’m not interested in what you have to say.”

To maintain a positive conversation, sit with your hands open and still or folded comfortably on the desk. Sit quietly. Don’t fidget. Don’t touch your face. If you are inclined to nervous activity with your hands, hold a piece of paper.

And don’t rest your chin on the tips of your index fingers while the other person is talking. That’s carries two negative messages: “I’m the expert” and “I’m not open to hearing you.”

Venus versus Mars

Finally, men and women have body language differences, and to avoid serious miscommunication, they need to understand what the other is saying and hearing.

Here are two important differences.

One is the fact that a woman nods her head when someone is speaking. But that doesn’t mean she agrees with what’s being said. The nod simply acknowledges that she’s hearing it.

A man meeting with a woman has to overlook the nodding and ask her thoughts on what’s being said. Conversely, a woman needs to be aware of the message being sent and stop nodding.

The other important difference is that while a man interprets a sideways palm gesture as seriousness with a willingness to negotiate, a woman often uses it in place of the downward palm gesture. For her it means there’s no negotiating here.

That one difference is a major cause of the standard complaint that women think men don’t take them seriously. More often than not, the man is simply misreading body language.


Related reading:

8 quick ways to improve communication with your staff


How to ask the partners for an evaluation


For personal success, get beyond the words and metacommunicate


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