Body Language . . . Virtually Speaking

How has the shift from in-person to digital communication changed the way we read people and their body language?

In a previous version of this article published in 2015, I made the point that body language is about stance, eye contact, movement, facial expression and the use of space. It sends cues about some of our most fundamental traits such as honesty, collaboration style, negotiation skills, ability to reach agreement, sense of power, and actual work performance.

Yes, all that! And it is still true!

Because we have migrated to a world without contextual and non-verbal cues, we encounter new guidelines on how to communicate effectively, persuasively and in a way that matches how we want others to hear and understand us.

Hopefully, we have come to appreciate the incredible power of body language and learned to use it to our advantage since clients, employers and colleagues, among others, pick up quickly on non-verbal signals and make hiring and long-term association decisions accordingly.

As a business development consultant, I see daily how the current marketplace puts considerable pressure on sellers of services to stand out. It is a buyers’ market. The balance of power has shifted to the client/customer who now needs, more than ever, a compelling reason to choose us.

People are persuaded by people they like and trust. It’s not what we say, it’s how we say it and we need to convey the same enthusiasm, warmth and confidence remotely as we did face-to-face.

Ask yourself:

  • What thoughts, intentions and feelings you are communicating as you establish new relationships or nurture existing ones?
  • How you can have more control over how people respond to you?
  • How you can communicate in a way that matches how others need to hear you?

Even remotely, you can adjust your body language to get the results you want. Here are tips for our ZOOM meeting world where facial expressions, posture, gestures and tone of voice are crucial:

  • Flash an authentic smile that connotes enjoyment and pleasure
  • Relax your voice to lower its pitch so it is easy on the ears
  • Pace your voice to come across as calm and inviting of the opinions of others
  • Sit up straight and keep your head straight to look confident rather than tentative
  • Wear clothes. Really. A judge in Florida recently admonished young lawyers to dress appropriately rather than as if they were poolside!
  • Maintain eye contact by looking directly into the camera as if it were the other person’s eyes. To do this, you may have to lower your monitor’s camera so as not to tilt your head
  • Use open-arm gestures to signal involvement, honesty and invite engagement.

Do not miss the second-most viewed TED Talk of all time by watching Amy Cuddy’s “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.”  Here Amy talks about “power posing” not only because it shapes how others see us but, also, because it changes how we see and feel about ourselves. “Our bodies change our minds and our minds can change our behavior, and our behavior can change our outcomes.”

You will notice that people respond to you differently and you to them. You control what your body language conveys.