posted 10 Sep 2008 in Volume 12 Issue 1
Book review: The Nonverbal Advantage: Secrets and Science of Body Language at Work
Author: Carol Kinsey Goman
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 1 May 2008
Virtual networking may be the boon of a growing global business world, but virtual communication lacks something important – body language. Once you’ve taken nonverbal communication away from human discourse, you have no way of reinforcing your credibility or ‘reading’ the true feelings or meanings behind what other people say.
Words are… well… just words. Once you’ve read The Nonverbal Advantage, you will have no doubt that virtual communication, though second best, is a poor second to person-to-person contact. The author doesn’t directly make that point, but once you learn all the meanings of nonverbal communication in the business setting you will see what I mean.
Intuitively we’ve always known that our bodies communicate and – left to their own devices – tell the truth. From the day you were born your body was hotwired to communicate. As a child you displayed a variety of facial expressions to signal your mood, pointed at objects of interest, and bonded to your mother with eye contact. You assimilated gestures and expressions that seemed appropriate; then refined and disguised signals that were unwelcome.
Like knowledge management, we’ve always done it but not necessarily well. A thorough understanding of the role body language plays in the workplace in our day-to-day business activities is vital. And yet this globe-trotting therapist, coach and professional speaker sees a parade of executives, managers and salespeople who aren’t reading the clear signals of others or don’t have a clue how their own nonverbal communication is sabotaging their efforts.
In Nonverbal Advantage she tells you:
The five ‘Cs’ of reading body language (congruence, context, culture, clusters, consistency);
How to make sure your body language is in sync with your verbal messages;
How nonverbal communication builds (or breaks) rapport with customers and team members;
How to gain the ‘seven second advantage’ and make a positive first impression;
How to accurately decode the nonverbal signals of resistance, interest, boredom and agreement.
Entire chapters are devoted to the behaviour of eyes, face, hands, feet and touch. The chapter on touch was a revelation to me. Appropriate touching – even in the workplace – can be used to make both parties feel more connected. The handshake is a formal manifestation, but a brief touch on the forearm is a powerful force that can create a human bond.
Bear in mind, however, that this is an American author and the meanings of body language are generally from an American point of view. For example, while touching works for Americans, the British aren’t fond of it.
But body language is, for the most part, human nature. It originates when a baby receives that first cuddle outside his mother’s womb. Nevertheless, there are some cultural differences. Goman devotes a chapter to these differences. She assists you in learning about cultural differences before you let your body loose in a different society.
This book is a fun read that delivers thoughtful and vital knowledge. There are lots of stories to illustrate points about body behaviours and “try this” sidebars.
Try this: “Try increasing your communication impact by adding a touch now and again – but remember to use your common sense. Look for signs of discomfort. People signal a reluctance by crossing their arms and legs, pulling back. Limit the contact to the hands, arms, shoulders and back. And be aware that touching bare shoulders is a no-no.
Make the touch light and short and then step back.
You will relate to this book. You’ll be examining your own body language and analysing those of your colleagues and customers. Keep the book at your desk and pick it up for a few minutes now and then. New points take just a minute or two.
Best of all, you will begin applying your new nonverbal advantage immediately.