Body Language, Expressing Emotion Key to Influencing Others, Says Communications Expert Cabane
Communications expert Olivia Fox Cabane of SpitFire Strategies demonstrated how to influence and persuade people more effectively in high anxiety situations, in an interactive presentation Nov. 5 to faculty, students and executives at McCombs. “You only have to remember to do one thing,” she claimed. “Control your body language.”
Cabane said that more than 80 percent of communication is body language, and that researchers have shown they can predict with 80 percent accuracy the result of an event, such as a sales call, based on body language alone-ignoring words, logic and reasoning.
Cabane focused on three key elements of successful communication:
Control of Body Language
Your body language often mirrors what you're thinking or feeling. For example, if your mind is wandering while someone is talking to you, it shows on your face, especially around your eyes. People pick up on this instantly, and you may lose their trust and loyalty as a result. That's why poker players often wear dark glasses, so their eyes don't give away a bluff.
Cabane suggests practicing method acting or visualization. She explained that our subconscious can’t distinguish between real and fake and so if you visualize an emotion, your body reacts accordingly.
You can control any facial expression you want by visualizing it. In high stress situations, such as a sales call or tense negotiation, visualize an attitude of gratitude, not desperation. You can’t feel both gratitude and desperation at the same time.
First impressions determine the future of all relationships and are made within two seconds, Cabane said. Why such a short time? Our instincts are geared to "fight or flight." In tribal times we had to determine friend or foe accurately and very quickly. Those who could, survived. Those who couldn’t, became crunchy protein snacks.
So how can you tell whether someone is friend or foe? Similarity is key. People like people who look and dress like them. (Remember hearing “birds of a feather flock together”?) Think of clothing as tribal wear. Would you feel confident wearing a string bikini to an investor's conference? American Express used this similarity concept and significantly increased sales on college campuses by hiring sales people who looked like their target customer.
The most important thing to remember in communicating is that people associate you with however you make them feel about you and about themselves. It’s all about them. Don’t try to impress someone, just make them feel smart. Let them impress you, and they will love you for it. If you have to deliver bad news, the key is getting people to feel how much you care. But don’t fake your emotion. If you aren’t feeling the emotion, visualize yourself in that state of mind.
Olivia Fox Cabane is a regular columnist for Forbes and was recently profiled in The Wall Street Journal. She is often featured in media such as The New York Times, Bloomberg and BusinessWeek.
The seminar was sponsored by the Supply Chain Management Center of Excellence and the Center for Customer Insight and Marketing Solutions.