Do you want to be bulletproof at work, secure in your relationship and content in your own skin? If so, it’s important to be aware of what your body is saying to the world. In her book “You Say More Than You Think,” Janine Driver offers tips on making the most of your body language. An excerpt.
Imagine a mirror suddenly dropped down before you during your last meeting, sales negotiation, date, friendly get-together, or confrontation.
Would you be able to spot the subtle nonverbal clues that may be sabotaging you in these situations — and keeping you from reaching your fullest potential?
Are your facial expressions awkward?
Are your hand gestures not quite right?
Do you appear weak or arrogant or older than you are?
Does the way you shake hands discourage people from doing business with you?
Does your body language clash with your words?
Do you have a glaring flaw that everyone notices but you?
We interact with other people all day long, in every meaningful moment in our lives. But we don’t always understand what they’re thinking — nor do they understand our thoughts. If we don’t have well-developed social perception, we may experience repeated failures: losing to the competition, job interview bombs, failed dates, trampled trust. But if we can hone that perception, learn to read people better, and communicate more effectively, that knowledge helps us in every part of our lives. We start to enjoy more exciting career opportunities, more honest friendships, better dating prospects, even more frequent wins at work!
Look at the successful people who cross your path daily. I’d bet most have at least two characteristics in common. First, they possess a sense of serene self-awareness. They seem comfortable in their own skin.
Second, they have a better-than-average ability to connect with other people. They know how to put people at ease and create an immediate sense of rapport. Both of these traits stem directly from a strong command of body language.
Uncovering the mysteries of body language — how people communicate their thoughts and feelings without saying a word — is a powerful first step toward mastering any social situation. All successful people know that the ability to detect and react to the split-second signals that skim across people’s bodies hundreds of times each day is crucial to getting what they want in life. When something they’re doing isn’t effective, they’ve learned how to adjust their actions to maximize the moment.
Some people are gifted at body language — certain politicians or actors, for example — have a natural ability to woo others with their mere presence. Others try to emulate those lucky gifted few. They study their “tricks” and copy them, or they pore over body language textbooks to try to memorize individual signals to apply in certain situations.
This approach, unfortunately, has its risks. Authentic, effective body language is more than the sum of its parts. When people work from this rote-memory, dictionary approach, they stop seeing the bigger picture, all the diverse aspects of social perception. Instead, they see a person with crossed arms and think, “Reserved, angry.” They see a smile and think, “Happy.” They use a firm handshake to show other people “who is boss.” Easy, right?
Actually, I think they’re making it hard, way harder than it needs to be.
Trying to use body language by reading a body language dictionary is like trying to speak French by reading a French dictionary. Things tend to fall apart in an inauthentic mess. Your actions seem robotic; your body language signals are disconnected from one another. You end up confusing the very people you’re trying to attract because your body language just rings false. Your customers continue to be unsure of you. Your boss thinks you don’t respect her. Your date thinks you hate him. Your lying teen just laughs at you.
That’s why we need to move beyond the vacuum of disjointed, artificial body language to an approach based on you — your life, your history, your habits. An approach that builds your confidence from the outside in, one that keeps expanding your potential the longer you use it. But most of all, an approach that makes sense in your world, that applies in all situations, that feels natural and easy to use — because it is.
I’ve worked with more than fifty thousand people — from hardened cops to senior-level executives to pampered heiresses — to help them improve their body language, and I’ve come to believe one thing: we are all gifted in body language. Every single one of us has natural ability— we just need to learn how to tap into it. And once we do, the results can be life-changing:
• Employees have learned to hold their own in the boardroom and be treated well by the big boys.
• Those with social anxiety disorder have learned how to meet new people, more effectively manage their relationships, and build strong alliances.
• Middle-aged singles have gained the confidence to get back out in the dating scene.
• Women have learned how to read the judges in their divorce trials.
• “Alpha dogs” have discovered how to steady their nerves after a business downturn and get their power back.
• Others have discovered how to get the upper hand in negotiations so they’re never again manipulated by a mechanic, car salesperson, or family member.
• And all have been taught how to know what to do when what they’re doing isn’t working.
Seeing these kinds of changes in the people I’ve worked with is what drove me to write this book and share this program with you. I want to help you — no matter how stuck or shy or socially awkward you are — to switch on the natural body language abilities that I know you already have.
This program has evolved over fifteen years of careful study, hundreds of seminars and training sessions, and way too many encounters with out-and-out liars. I’ve combined all of the tricks and techniques
I’ve learned to bring out this natural ability into one integrated program. You don’t have to comb the research or haul out the textbooks; I’ve done that for you. You can concentrate on creating the results you want. Because optimizing your body language isn’t about studying or memorizing. It’s about experiencing life.
Think of the way we learn to ride a bike, dance, or kiss. We use all of our experiences — our senses, gut instincts, some helpful “instruction,” and a lot of practice. (Especially the kissing!) Once we’ve learned it, we know it; we can do it automatically, without thinking, because at some level, we already knew how to do it.
The 7-Day New Body Language program helps you mine your own experiences, senses, and gut instincts to develop your natural body language ability. No longer will you sabotage yourself unknowingly with negative nonverbal cues or bumble through life on the sidelines. You’ll learn to trust your own natural instincts that tell you if someone is lying, in love with you, or a total loser. You’ll learn to perfect your natural expressions, so you can appear more charming, caring, or cutthroat.
Whatever your intentions, whatever your goals, the New Body Language plan starts with your habits at your comfort level and builds from there. Because, ultimately, the New Body Language program is all about creating more confidence:
• More confidence to read people (Accuracy);
• More confidence to use body language masterfully (Application); and
• More confidence to radiate your amazing self to the outside world (Attitude).
But why should you listen to me? Because these techniques not only saved my reputation — they saved my life.
Confidence was my weapon
I haven’t always spent my days advising people on how to become better in business or ace job interviews or score hot dates. My career as an official body language expert started as a federal law enforcement officer for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and Explosives, ATF, for short.
I wish I could say getting that job was my lifelong childhood dream, but it wasn’t. As fate would have it, my college career counselor referred me to an old friend who worked for the small law enforcement agency, which, until that point, I’d never even heard of. A few months later, when I told my dad I’d gotten a job with an agency called Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and Explosives, he said, “I’m glad you could turn your hobbies into a career.” (That dad of mine — always a jokester.)
In my early years with ATF, while still in the field, I was able to identify and decode the nonverbal cues of skinheads, nazis, and gun dealers who trafficked weapons to felons and teenagers, which allowed me to immediately adjust my approach and my body language to establish rapport and build trust quickly. I became known as someone who could easily detect if a person was lying or not. While I was in the thick of it, out in the field daily, I made the conscious connection between understanding body language and projecting confidence.
You may be saying to yourself, “Sure, it’s easy to be confident when you have a badge, a nine millimeter strapped to your side, and the authority to throw someone in the slammer.”
But I was an investigator, not a special agent. I didn’t have a gun, and I didn’t have the authority to put someone in jail. Other than a badge, I didn’t have any leverage. Yet, at the age of twenty-one, I was inspecting large explosives manufacturers and importers, dirty and dingy old pawnbroker shops, and going inside more than five hundred gun dealers’ homes unannounced, some of whom sold machine guns. More often than not I was alone in the middle of nowhere, enforcing often controversial gun laws to a bunch of gun-toting, intimidating men — all before GPSs and cell phones. As you can imagine, as a representative of the U.S. government, I was never the most welcome guest.
My only weapon — and I carried it with me at all times — was confidence. The confidence that came from the ability to size people up quickly and understand much more about them in seven seconds than they ever would suspect. The confidence that came from using this knowledge to adjust my strategy in an instant. And the confidence that I had this secret weapon of body language awareness — but most of my suspects didn’t.
By the age of twenty-four, my expertise at reading people landed me a slot as one of the bureau’s youngest instructors. Over the next fifteen years, I taught interviewing and deception detection courses to new inspectors and special agent hires at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. By the age of thirty-one, I was teaching body language to more than thirty thousand law enforcement officers and U.S. attorneys across North America for the presidential initiative Project Safe Neighborhoods. I had the honor to work with some of the world’s foremost experts on nonverbal communication, including my mentor, J. J. Newberry, retired ATF special agent and CEO of the Institute of Analytic Interviewing, aka the “Human Lie Detector”; Dr. Paul Ekman, an award-winning researcher into microexpressions and the seven universal emotions; and Dr. Mark Frank, a leading authority on behavioral observation.
These decades of experience in federal law enforcement and deception training taught me how to use body language to prevent disaster and bring the bad guys to justice. They also taught me that people can make mistakes. Sometimes big mistakes, often unintentional ones, but mistakes that leave them shaking their heads in confusion wondering, “What went wrong?”
Excerpted from “You Say More Than You Think,” by Janine Driver. Copyright (c) 2010, reprinted with permission from Crown.