The people you meet form an impression of you in the first few seconds. Whether you are recruiting or being recruited, meeting potential business partners, or building a rapport in the working environment, building positive connections quickly is important in achieving your aims.
People like to connect and relate to others. The best connections are with those that make us feel good: validation, acceptance and respect are essential in coming across, and continuing to be, good business partners. Also, we seek to repeat positive experiences, so others feel valued and validated will make others be drawn to working with you in the longer term. How can your body language help you create good business relationships quickly and effectively?
The power of a smile
Eye contact and smiling are key to likeability and confidence: when a person looks at another in the eyes, they are saying: “I am not afraid of you” and “I am acknowledging you.” When a person smiles, they are sending out a message of friendliness and being open to business opportunities.
In addition, smiling releases three feel-good chemicals: endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. So smiling helps you feel better about yourself and, at the same time, it also exudes confidence and is attractive to others. But the power of a smile does not end there: smiling is contagious, so your potential business partners are inspired to smile back at you and, in turn, their brain will release those same feel-good chemicals. By coming across as a friendly and confident business partner and by making them feel good, you are improving your chances of coming across as a good person to do business with a simple – yet incredibly powerful – smile.
Keeping the right distance
If you are approaching someone for the first time, the distance at which you stand in relation to them is also important in coming across as confident, that is that you are not scared of them, as well as likeable because you respected their personal space. To check that you are at a distance that the other person feels comfortable, observe what they are doing while you approach them or while you are standing in front of them.
Are they stepping back slightly or are they leaning back with their torso? If so, they are probably feeling uncomfortable about the distance between you and them. If you are walking, you should slow down to show them that you will be respectful of their personal space. If you are standing, step slightly back to give them more space. Once they stop leaning or stepping back, you know they are feeling comfortable.
Everybody is different. We all have several “spheres” of distance at which we feel comfortable: intimate distance, reserved for whispering and closeness with very close friends, family and romantic partners; personal distance for good friends; social distance, for social and business meetings; and public distance, the distance at which we feel comfortable with complete strangers.
Depending on culture and personality, as well as how we are feeling at any given time, people can have different distances at which they feel comfortable. Similarly, some people on the autistic spectrum or with anxieties may not feel as comfortable with people standing very close to them. Always check other people’s body language and expression when approaching someone you do not know. If they are showing discomfort or stress, please stop and stand back until they look relived and comfortable again.
Finally, people who want to be perceived as good business partners should present themselves with open palms facing up. This goes back again to our hunter-gatherers ancestors, who were faced with potential threats from other groups. How would they know if a person approaching them was a friend or an enemy? From their facial expression (are they smiling or are they looking angry?), from their body language (is their body language open and relaxed or are they readying themselves to fight?) and from their hands (are they holding weapons or are they empty-handed?).
Showing your hands, rather than keeping them in your pockets or behind your back, signifies that you do not have bad intentions towards them and having palms up shows to them that you are open for business and open for discussion, it shows empathy and respect towards them. If you want to cooperate with someone on the same level, or if you are asking for advice, help or funding, an open hand with palms facing up gives you the best chance of success.
An open hand with the palms down is often used when giving orders and people are less likely to want to work with someone who is perceived as domineering. Even more so, a pointed finger is often adopted by police offers and those in positions of formal authority to give imperative orders, so finger pointing is best avoided altogether in business situations.
Building a rapport is important when meeting others in business. Coming across as likeable, friendly and approachable is important because it makes others comfortable with you and it makes them feel good about themselves. When people feel good about themselves, they are more likely to want to do business with you. If you are recruiting, or if you are being recruited, when you are meeting potential clients, business partners or when you are managing people, you can help create successful business relationships by simply smiling and making eye contact, by keeping a distance at which others feel comfortable and by using your hands wisely.
Alexis Faber is an expert in body language, reading people and psychology. Thanks to one-to-one sessions and group workshops tailored to each individual’s needs, she helps people present the best version of themselves to achieve their career goals and realize their potential. She offers unique programmes to help executives, salespeople and professional women. Find out more at https://www.in-sight-edge.com/ or feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org