Want to know what words to say or hold back? What body language signifies power, and even where to sit in that important meeting with a potential customer? Janine Driver, body language expert and best-selling author, covered all that in an entertaining session during the recent meeting of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association. “I am going to train you to think like an investigator,” she said at the beginning of her session. Today, I’m sharing her best tips, and you’ll learn I’m failing woefully in a few areas. I pledge to do better.

Janine Driver used AAMA meetings manager Florence Nicolici to show attendees where to sit and not sit during a meeting.

What Not to Say

The word “obviously” is suspicious. “It should only be used when it really is obvious,” she said.

Strike one for me.

She told attendees if you are one of the people who says “to be honest,” you need to stop saying that.

Strike two.

How Many Words are You Using?

When someone asks you something, think of how many words you are using. Example: Can I ask you a question?

“Words matter,” said Driver. “The apology you use needs to be more words than your excuse why.” She made the audience repeat this phrase several times to stress its importance.

Consider saying this after making a mistake whether it’s at work or home: “You’re right. I’m sorry.”

The yelling continues.

“You’re right. I’m sorry.”

And continues.

“You’re right. I’m sorry.”

By the end of that conversation, the person who was upset with you will be on your side, said Driver.

Phrases to Remember

“When there is a burp or a yawn, there is lying going on.”

“When we grab our chin, we are about to win.” This gesture is connected to power, said Driver.

“Left is love. Right is fight.” Use this when choosing a seat in that next customer meeting.

Getting People to Open Up

To get people to talk when you can tell they have something more to say, try this:

“Maybe I’m wrong here …”

“Is there any reason why …”

Then wait.

Driver says this really works, and I can attest that it does. It made me think of the owner of our company who is a true master at reading people. She has said a version of the first phrase on several occasions, and it always gets me talking. Though that may be because I am pretty much an open book, but that’s a different story …

Deciphering Body Language

Driver did an entire session just on body language, and while I missed that workshop, she mentioned some of these in the one I attended as well. Take notice the next time you do one of the following:

  • Touching your nose often means a spike in stress.
  • Touching the neck is saying, “I am not going to be vulnerable to you.”
  • If you put your thumb inside your fist that means you need reassurance.
  • If a lip disappears it signifies anger or that the person is holding something back. She gave several crazy examples of people doing this like Alex Rodriguez, Tiger Woods, Jerry Sandusky and Anthony Wiener. You get the idea.
  • A shoulder shrug signifies uncertainty.
  • Do you ever make a half smile? This signifies contempt or moral superiority.
  • Reasons we smile: For embarrassment, delight and evil. The latter is referred to as duping delight. Driver made the audience gasp on more than one occasion when she showed public figures who were later proven to be lying, who gave that duping delight smile while confessing their innocence.

And in case you think none of this matters, think again.

“You are always being judged by your body language,” said Driver.

Where to Sit and What to Bring

Those who were in Driver’s session will think twice the next time they prepare for a meeting with a potential customer, for example.

First, Driver gave research-backed examples that in a meeting you want to put a hot beverage in their hands, which will make them more open to what you have to say.

“When meeting a customer, you should know their favorite hot beverage,” she said. “I never come to a meeting without a cup of coffee.”

Never sit right across from a customer. Instead, sit at an angle. Once you start working with a customer you can sit side by side if you like.

“Side by side conveys: I’m on your side,” said Driver.

So the next time you see me at an industry meeting, beware: I will be watching. Feel free to do the same, obviously.

Honestly, I mean it.



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