In 2002, I was the Field Underwriting Manager for one of MetLife’s Washington DC regional offices, and I was in the process of building what would become an award-winning underwriting team. I was recruiting to fill a very critical quasi sales role to increase the sales and profitability of our disability insurance products. Early in the recruiting process, I met Monique for lunch at a local TGIFridays. At the time, she worked for US Airways, and it took me about 5 minutes to realize she was the talented person I was looking for. After she came into the office to interview with other members of the Underwriting and Sales team, the collective feedback was immediate. Hire her. What made Monique so convincing of a hire? Turns out, she was one of those rare people who is naturally gifted at connecting with people, and because of her natural talents, she also has an amazing ability to influence people and get their buy in. In fact, according to Gallup’s Strengthfinders 2.0 assessment, one of her strengths is known as Win Others Over (WOO). She was incredibly successful in her role for MetLife, and she remains one of the top sales professionals for her current employer today.
So how can those of us who do not have Monique’s natural talents develop the ability to influence others? With practice, you can learn how to do it quite well. Practice these 6 powerful body language techniques, and watch your ability to influence others and get their buy in soar:
Technique #1: Smile
The first technique is the easiest. A genuine smile is one of the most powerful ways to create engagement and happiness. People almost always return a smile, and because smiling triggers positive feelings, by doing so, you instantly change the emotional state to a positive one. A smile opens the door for the connection and engagement to start and/or deepen.
Technique #2: Connect with Touch
Touch is another incredibly useful nonverbal cue. For centuries, the handshake has been one of the most recognized ways to signal “I am happy to see you”. In addition to the handshake, touching someone on the shoulder or arm are other ways to establish rapport and connection. A word of caution – don’t overuse this technique and also be very careful when using touch as different cultures have different rules for what is and is not appropriate. So be “culture” appropriate with this method.
Technique #3: Use Navel Intelligence
People who are actively engaged in conversation tend to point their belly button towards each other. “Navel intelligence” was coined by Janine Driver, author of “You Say More than You Think”, and it is a great way to evaluate your level of influence ability. As she says in the book, the Belly Button Rule is one of the most accurate tools to read and influence others without having them say a word.
Technique #4: Use Mimicry to Drive Emotional Connection
When you mirror another person’s behaviors, you create a strong connection with that person. It has to be genuine, and it actually tends to happen naturally just out of our realm of conscious awareness. When talking with people, we tend to engage in a subconscious rhythmic mimicking. The power of this technique lies in being aware of it, and using it to your advantage. When others mimic you, it is also a sign of connection and agreement. So if people are not showing the same expressions that you’re showing, it might be a sign that they haven’t bought into you.
Technique #5: Remove Barriers
Whenever you’re seeking to influence someone or a group of people, remove barriers between you and your target audience. The fewer the obstructions between you and them, the greater the chance you connect with them on an emotional level and influence their thought process.
Technique #6: Reinforce Key Points Using Hand Gestures
Great speakers use 3 specific hand gestures to influence our thinking:
- Steepling – this gesture is short in duration, and it is achieved by placing your hands in a prayer like position. It is an incredibly effective way to demonstrate confidence and power so you must be careful not to overuse it. The basketball steeple is perceived to be a little less assertive/arrogant while still delivering the message of confidence.
- A-OK Sign Two Finger Steeple – Another form of steepling, when you want to emphasize a key point, using two fingers to show the OK sign is a great way to do it. After all, it signals that what you’re saying is…well…OK.
- Open Palm – showing your palm is one of the best ways to invite others into your space while simultaneously reaffirming you’re not a threat.
Steve Jobs was one of the most prolific speakers in modern times, and his speaking success was driven by the use of all of these techniques. Watch this video on CBS Money Watch to see him using them in action.
Much of what we communicate is done non-verbally, yet most people never realize how to use body language to their benefit. When using these techniques in combination with targeted language designed to help the listener find you interesting, then intriguing, and finally irresistible, you will significantly increase your ability to influence others and gain buy in just as Monique does naturally.
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