Body Language Can Say It All
The next time you’re in an important professional meeting with someone, keep an eye on the person’s feet. I’m fascinated with body language and there’s one particular movement that especially intrigues me: it’s what I call the rapid foot twitch. It’s when someone’s foot suddenly kicks upward, and from what I can tell, it generally occurs when something in the conversation hits a nerve with the person. After all, the movement is similar to what might happen if a doctor used a reflex hammer you. Is it a good nerve or bad nerve? You probably can’t tell from just the kick. But watch for other signs that might expand on the foot clue.
Because of my interest in body language I’ve read a bunch of books on the subject and I’ve had experts speak on the topic at Cosmo salons, including the very knowledgeable Janine Driver. Janine was in last week to talk about her new book, You Can’t Lie to Me: The Revolutionary Program to Supercharge Your Inner Lie Detector and Get to the Truth, and she held the audience captive. Pick up her new book and you’ll know why the public should have known that Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spritzer were lying all the time.
In addition to talking about liars, Driver offered some general guidance for anyone trying to make a mark in her career. One key point she made. People are constantly evaluating our body language, often on a subliminal level that they’re not even fully aware of. Unfortunately they sometimes get things wrong, in part because of commonly held notions. For instance, if you look away at a moment during conversation, the person you’re talking to may assume we’re lying even though you’re not; if you fold your arms across your chest, he may suspect you’re feeling guarded or uncomfortable even though you’re simply wishing you brought a sweater.
“Certain gestures don’t always mean what people think they mean,” says Driver, “but you still need to be aware of how people may be interpreting them. Myths matter.”
Be conscious, therefore, of you how you stand, how you sit, and what you’re doing with your arms, hands, and yes, feet.
One great tip she offered on appearing powerful. Powerful people tend to take up space. At a meeting, stretch your arm across the back of a chair and “pop your shoulder back.” You’ll seem like you own the room!