By Svetlana Sidenko
Good communication is an important competency which affects both how people perceive what you are transmitting and how they react to it. To build and maintain successful business relationships, we must consistently and deliberately assess and grow our power communication skills and our emotional intelligence to ensure that we have all of the necessary traits to develop reliable strategic partnerships, as well as to position ourselves as trusted advisors.
The ability to understand others, or “read between the lines”, observing the body language of our partners and colleagues, understanding ourselves and controlling our own body language in order to transmit the right message, as well as the ability to influence and persuade, are critical competencies of any professional aiming to become a Business Relationship Manager. This is why I decided to approach all of these notions in depth and show you how they affect both our business behavior and performance and what we can do to use them to our advantage. In this series of articles, I will discuss the three main statements successful BRMPs swear by when it comes to business communications:
Principle #1: Body Language is Crucial for the Transmitter and Receiver
It’s no secret that 93% of our communication is non-verbal communication. In the business environment, every non-verbal detail affects the way our co-workers and partners perceive us. Psychologist Amy Cuddy takes us one step further, as she states that our bodies influence our minds and our behaviors. She sites scientific evidence stating, “when we pretend to be powerful, we are more likely to actually feel powerful” *. According to her research, so-called “power posing” makes us look and feel stronger. People who feel powerful are more optimistic, more willing to speak up for themselves and to take chances.
I am sure you have met people in your workplace who have a tendency to send power signals without even knowing it, by doing the following:
Using big office chairs that place them at a higher level than other people in the room;
Keeping their arms crossed when they talk;
Not smiling and using a loud voice;Being the first to talk in meetings.
Dressing very formally;
Being slightly late to the staff meetings, demonstrating how busy they are, due to their special status
These people are more likely bosses:supervisor or senior managers. Usually, they are feared in organizations. Also, they are likely to win in negotiations.
So what is the conclusion? Does this mean that we have to practice “power posing” body language as a mean of influence? This matter is not straightforward and the answer would be “it depends”. This image of strength might backfire on those who demonstrate power, as, yes, they do get leverage in negotiations, but they also determine those around them to be less open to talk. Colleagues of people such feel less at ease and are less likely to open up and share their ideas and solutions, especially subordinates. The point is that, the more managers send power cues, the harder it is for their subordinates to become proactive and approach them with fresh ideas. When one is strongly sure about own expertise or intentions and does not feel the need to appear trustworthy to colleagues and clients, “power” body language sends consequent signals. Unfortunately, the competency prioritized over trust undermines leadership, affecting business relationship and ability to influence.
According to Amy Caddy, the more likely conduit of influence is warmth and body language signals such as a nod, a smile, and an open gesture. Demonstrating and prioritizing warmth via active listening and empathy puts you immediately in the circle of trust.
Still, power posing is a useful, scientifically proven technique to learn. Think about occasions when you’re hunching up, for example, or when you are making yourself small, before an important meeting. What happens? If you think about it, you realize you start feeling powerless and you communicate that feeling to people, which perceive and even use that to their advantage.
So, next time you have an important meeting, try thinking of how non-verbal communication really affects your business relationship and do things that make you feel powerful or make you trusted. Deliberately apply techniques to convey your messages! Use “warm” body language to create trust and connect before you lead. Alternatively, do “power posing” for powerful body language to communicate directives or win negotiations. Be an actor. At the end of the day, as Amy Cuddy says, you need to fake it ’til you become it.