Every once in a while I'll be surprised by a book, and this was one of those cases. This came in from Wiley a couple of weeks back, and my first thought was "Huh?", as this is certainly not a "job search" book per se, nor particularly in my main interest zone. However, I'd gotten bogged down in another book and was looking for something brief that I could finish in July (I try to read at least 72 non-fiction books per year, which works out to six a month, so there is a sense of urgency sometimes in trying to keep those numbers where they need to be!), and this looked like a good candidate.
Well, I'm glad that I pushed Sharon Sayler's What Your Body Says (And How to Master the Message): Inspire, Influence, Build Trust, and Create Lasting Business Relationships to the top of the to-be-read pile, as it is a fascinating look at how to get your verbal and non-verbal communications in sync. As I note in my review, this would have come in very handy when I was active in Toastmasters, as even advanced speakers there still seemed to have problems with their body movement, and this book would be a great help in that context.
Again, this is certainly not a book about the job search, but it teaches skills that would be quite useful in networking and interview contexts. Needless to say, somebody who has a high degree of congruency in their levels of communication is going to be perceived to be a much more impressive figure, which can only help! In her answers to the questions below (after the cut), Ms. Sayler provides some specific advice for the job seeker, focusing a few things that are in the book for the interview situation.
Q: Briefly, what's your background?
A: I have an MBA, and consider myself a Communications Success Strategist. I teach people how to match their body language to what their mouth is saying. I combine my understanding of communications with a solid business background. I've served as a communication director for several companies and have owned a number of successful businesses. I consider myself a serial entrepreneur and an avid lifelong learner with practical, real-world application of nonverbal communication. Along with being an independent coach and consultant, I'm an associate of Michael Grinder and Associates, one of the foremost authorities on nonverbal communication and group dynamics.
Q: Have you had notable job-transition experiences?
A: Not really notable job-transitions, just many jobs early on as I searched for what I was meant to do.
Q: How did you come to be a communications coach?
A: I became a communications coach through the power of a mentor. Mentors are one of the best ways to accelerate your learning. About 13 years ago, I realized I was being misunderstood a lot! When something confuses me I dive right in and learn everything I can about it. During that study of communications (and miscommunication) I learned the power of our nonverbals. It changed my life, the way others understood what I was saying, and the confidence it created. After studying for several years, I wanted to share my life-changing knowledge and have had the opportunity to go to work along side my mentor Michael Grinder, a foremost authority on nonverbal communications as a consultant and coach.
Q: Why did you decide to write a book on business body-language?
A: Our non-verbals are the most often overlooked cause of misunderstandings. We all think about the other guy's body language (non-verbals) but rarely our own.
Words are only a small part of communication. The most influential part of communication is your nonverbals. Your nonverbals can actually destroy or produce the results you want, such as inspiring employees to do better work, calming angry customers, creating fans in the marketplace, and closing sales. I often hear from people who wonder why they are not taken seriously at work or why, when they mention an idea at a meeting it isn't heard, then some guy mentions the same idea 10 minutes later and becomes a hero. These are usually symptoms of your body language not matching what your mouth is saying. It is amazing the change in someone when with just a few simple tweaks to their body language, they have whole new opportunities open up for them at work.
Q: Do you have any specific tips that would help somebody in the job search?
A: On first meeting, make appropriate eye contact by placing your gaze at their eyes or slightly above. Never below in a business setting, placing your eye contact at the nose or lips is too personal for business. Maintain good eye contact without staring. Too much eye contact can be creepy--the old adage "look them in the eye" is only good if the interviewer is making the same amount to eye contact. Take your cues from the interviewer, if they occasionally look away, it's okay to glance away - but certainly never to your watch or out a window as if something is more interesting than that moment with that person. Second, a genuine slow smile with a small gentle nod. A slow smile is perceived to be more sincere than a large, quick smile. The handshake is a bit like a dance. If the interviewer offers the hand, certainly shake hands--meeting their same grip and tempo--no loose-grips or death-grips allowed. Maintain good posture both standing and sitting. Often I see good posture standing, then slouching or crossed arms or legs when sitting. We often feel more comfortable with people "like us." If the interviewer is more casual (and casual is appropriate to the position for which you are applying) it's okay to cross your legs, but certainly not your arms. Too much is read into crossed arms. They can mean anything, from too cold to gas ... yet all too often it is read by others to be closed or hiding something. Crossed arms is a gesture loaded with assumptions. Stay away from crossing your arms in an interview. Finally, the key number one nonverbal that will put ourselves and others at ease quickly is to be aware of our breathing. Low, abdominal (normal) breathing is key to looking and feeling confident and relaxed with the added benefit of more oxygen to our brain. More oxygen to the brain the quicker and more intelligent our answers can be.
Q: What do you feel makes your book unique?
A: This is not a book about learning to read other people's body language. It focuses on being consciously aware of what messages your nonverbal cues are sending. Quickly reading one movement or a single gesture of someone else's body language more accurately tells how they are feeling in the moment, not how they are thinking. If you had hours to spend observing someone's behavior, you might begin to understand what he or she is thinking. However, you would, at best, still be making an educated guess.
My aim is to provide the reader with enough new ways to look at non-verbal communication so that when one approach isn't working, you have enough tools in your toolbox to try something else. What you do with your body has a significant impact on how others perceive you. Once you use a few of the techniques in this book, you will never think about communication in the same way.
Q: Aside from your book, what resources do you recommend?
A: The least expensive is one of the best, observe others' nonverbals and notice how they make you feel. If they make you feel good, study and adapt them to your situation. If they don't make you feel good, make note of what happened. Practice, practice, practice. It's wonderful to practice eye-contact and a slow smile in the grocery checkout line or with your local barista.
Q: Any additional words of wisdom?
A: No one is born a great communicator. Great communicators have learned behaviors we often refer to as charisma. Part of charisma is learning to use your nonverbals intentionally. Instead of spending your time worrying about the other person's body language, control what you can, your own body language. Each time we make a commitment to learn something new we grow and change. Learning to observe and adapt can at times feel challenging. Give yourself grace as you practice and incorporate understanding the nonverbal messages you are sending.
As noted, this was a pleasant surprise in that I found the information in it potentially quite useful ... it's a fairly compact, but intense, read, with a reasonably tight focus on a core group of skills. The author has a web site up at http://whatyourbodysays.com, with some additional resources, and, as usual, a more in-depth look at the book is over in my review.