When we contact another person, the question of whether they already know us or not, is of great significance.
If this is our first meeting and they have no prior knowledge of us, we must take account of this, as we only have a few seconds to create an impression and get them to ‘buy us’. This is the effect of ‘first impressions’. It means that when we contact a client for the first time, what is being said can be less important than who is saying it, how the person behaves and looks (savoir vivre in business.) This includes the gestures that are being used (body language) as well as personal appearance. Appearance includes appropriate clothes, hairstyle and neatness. Speaking style covers intonation, voice pitch (high or low), and breathing (quiet or noisy). Whether we speak fast or calmly is also very significant.
Only 7 percent of the information we give about ourselves during a first contact is conveyed by words. The remainder, that is, 93 percent is made up by nonverbal messages.
All of us know someone who after only a few minutes in a room with a group of people, can judge their relationships and feelings accurately. The ability to discern attitudes and thoughts from behavior was the prime system of communication between people before the development of speech. Body language is an outer manifestation of our emotional condition. That is why it is extremely important in business relationships with clients. Every gesture or movement that people make can give us valuable information about the emotions they are feeling in a given situation. Apart from verbal communication, the way in which a client behaves, their gestures, the way they carry themselves and what they do with their hands, are very significant during trade talks, negotiations and contacts with clients. Eye contact is also vital. It is the most important sense for the social functioning of human beings. It is believed that 80 to 90 percent of information is gathered through eye contact. It serves not only to gather information but also demonstrates attentiveness and interest.
The handshake is also very important in business. It is the only physical contact that we are allowed to make with clients. A handshake is a nonverbal message and it is important to use it properly. It is a gesture expressing a friendly attitude, or at least good will towards another person. The way in which we greet another person is of great importance, especially at our first meeting with them. When we greet someone we send information about ourselves and receive information about the other person. A proper handshake should be warm, cordial, resolute and quick, sending the message, ‘You are in good hands. I am a competent person in the right position.’ Remember to maintain eye contact during a handshake – averting one’s eyes sends a negative message, which could make us appear indecisive. When we are talking we move our hands, head and body. Most of the gestures we make serve to emphasize the elements of our speech, point to people or objects, or illustrate shapes and sizes that are difficult to put into words. Most of all however, they reveal our emotions. Some gestures, such as shaking hands, are conventional and are employed deliberately. Some, such as covering ones mouth, rubbing one’s chin, putting an index finger to one’s cheek etc. depict one’s emotional condition and are made unconsciously. All these gestures express the emotional condition and attitude of the speaker. Body language often reveals a person’s attitude towards others. Two basic postures can be distinguished: open and closed. The open posture suggests security, relaxation and openness, while the closed posture can show withdrawal, insecurity, lack of acceptance, anxiety or fear. The key to reading body language is to focus on the emotional condition of the client while listening to what they say and paying attention to the context in which they are speaking. It is important to ensure that your verbal and nonverbal communications are consistent with each other. This will make your message sincere and credible. Body language plays a vital role in developing business contacts. Knowledge of the subject contributes to success in trade talks, as well as in bringing others round to our point of view or in selling a product or service.