Will Your Body Please Shut Up?
By Bob Goldman

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I hear you, elbow. I'm listening, kneecap. Good point, eyebrow.

Like it or not, your body is talking.

While you have developed mad skills at lying through your teeth, the rest of your body speaks the truth. This leads to many critical "tells" that your workplace enemies can use against you in determining whether to believe what they're hearing or believe what they're seeing from your tattletale body parts.

Of course, if you could learn how to read the body language of those workplace enemies, the shoe would be on another appendage. That's the purpose of "Seven Tricks For Reading Body Language Like A Pro," a recent Travis Bradberry contribution to Forbes.

(You may find it difficult to take career advice from Bradberry or any other author. You can read their words, but you can't read their bodies. You can't read my body, either, which is a really good thing unless you like horror stories.)

According to Bradberry, UCLA research "has shown that only 7 percent of communication is based on the actual words we say. As for the rest, 38 percent comes from tone of voice and the remaining 55 percent comes from body language."

This is a powerful statistic. As the article concludes, "learning how to become aware of and to interpret that 55 percent can give you a leg up with other people."

And if you can read that leg, you can't lose.

We don't have space for the entire reading lesson, but here are few highlights:

Trick No. 1 in body language speed-reading is to understand that "crossed arms and legs signal resistance to your ideas."

Building a virtual wall with body parts is "a signal that a person is mentally, emotionally and physically blocked off from what's in front of him."

Your experience with dealing with co-workers reluctant to accept your wisdom may be somewhat different, but I do think you can read a similar reluctance when the designated listener crawls under their desk, curls up into a ball and starts whimpering. To penetrate that wall, you have to crawl right in with them, and just keep talking until they agree. Or pass out.

"Real smiles crinkle the eyes" is trick No. 2. You may think someone is smiling in agreement, but if there aren't crinkles at the corners of their eyes, "that smile is hiding something."

Unfortunately, reading crinkles is not easy to do.

I recommend bringing a pair of powerful binoculars to every meeting, even if it's a business lunch. By using binoculars, you can sit across the table and still get a close-up crinkle check. You can also read the reaction when you offer to pay for the meal. Those crinkles will definitely mean a real smile, or total amazement that you actually offered to pick up a check.

Understanding that "copying your body language is a good thing" is trick No. 3. As Bradberry points out, "mirroring body language is something we do unconsciously when we feel a bond with the other person."

How strong is that bond? You can calibrate it by choreographing a series of distinct movements to see if the other person mirrors you.

Say you are negotiating a raise with an HR professional. The HR person says she'll approve your raise request, but you suspect that she is not telling the truth. What to do? Stand up slowly. Put your right foot in. Put your right foot out. Put your left foot in. Put your left foot out. Then -- and this is the critical point -- shake it all about.

If the two of you start doing the hokey pokey, you know you've bonded and you can up your raise request 200 percent.

"Posture tells the story" is trick No. 4 since "maintaining good posture commands respect and promotes engagement." Standing up straight with your shoulders back is a power posture position. Slouching projects less power.

You can easily read the message of power displayed when your manager rises to his full 5-foot-2-inch height. To make sure you are being read correctly, go beyond a slouch. What you want is a crouch, bowing like a bubblehead and leaving, once you have taken your lashes, crawling backwards.

Your boss probably never learned to read bodies or books, but even a body-language illiterate will hear what your blabbermouth body is saying loud and clear -- I am a powerless supplicant before your awesome majesty.

And let me tell you -- your boss is going to like what he reads!

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com. To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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