You’re in a meeting with a potential client. You step through the door and she greets you with a handshake, while putting her free hand on your shoulder. During the next 20 minutes or so, her voice tends to rise at the end of each sentence and she keeps touching her face. Her arms keep crossing. Then you notice her glasses on the table have been chewed at the ends…

Regardless of how the conversation has gone, you realise, with your Sherlock Holmes like powers of deduction, that you’ve already been the victim of a power play; she may not have been truthful in what she says; there’s a defensive position going on; and yes, those glasses, there’s some vulnerability there too. Welcome to the world of business body language.

Communicating sub-consciously
Research suggests that only 7% of the impact we create when meeting new people is generated by what we actually say. Our voices, grammar and confidence makes up 38%, while more than half of our impact (55%) is created by the way we dress, act, and walk through the door. In other words, the messages we communicate sub-consciously through our body language and tone of voice can be far more insightful than the words we use.

Given the importance of body language, we’ve compiled some tips to help you get your body language right, while reading theirs.

Body language for you:

–   Don’t cross your arms – it’s a very defensive posture and looks like you have something to hide. It can look casual too.

–   In negotiations, send out those positive vibes – nodding your head early on in the discussion sets the right tone and encourages the other party to agree with your point of view (don’t nod too much though)

–   Don’t look down when making a point – all that authority you’ve been projecting will just fade away and no one will believe what you’re saying

–   Keep your distance – it shows you respect someone’s space, but not too far way, that could be construed as being unfriendly or uninterested

–   Maintain eye contact – if in a group, don’t focus on one person.

..and what their body language says they’re thinking:

–   Touching their face or hair? They could be lying

–   Twisting your hand in the handshake? They’re trying to get the upper hand (literally).

Think about your posture, adopt a good firm handshake (though not too firm, or it might be interpreted as a power play), try not to fidget or touch your face, and if you’re having a face-to-face discussion with someone, body language experts recommend you can try standing slightly to your left so your right eye is directly in line with theirs.

For more, have a look at for the ten worst body language mistakes. And for that perfect handshake? See what the experts recommend to help you get the upper hand in a negotiation.