As coaches, impressions are very important, and your first impression is when potential clients decide 90 per cent of their opinion about you. Whether you’re an executive coach, life coach or sporting coach, it pays to become fluent in reading and sending body language signals.
Allan Pease, aka Mr Body Language, has mastered the unspoken communication tool since working in
door-to-door sales as a teenager in the 1960s and says, whether you are trying to land a dream client,
build morale within a team or help a client cope, it’s critical to think about your body language, as well
as the message you’re delivering because Body Language accounts for 60% - 80% of the impact of
“Coaching is significantly about
making that right first impression, creating a positiveb coaching environment and communicating your message effectively – because most of that ‘communication’ is happening without saying a word,” he says.
“Body language strategies give you the ability to help you dramatically improve many areas of your lives and this is especially true when it comes to coaching.
One of the most popular examples of how body language is important in business is the widely accepted idea that a firm handshake has positive connotations.”
Palm power – When used correctly, palm power invests its user with a degree of authority and silent command. Palm-facing-up is a non-threatening gesture that’s been used since caveman times to show that the person is not holding any weapons. It is also used by primates for the same purpose. If you give a presentation and continually use the palm-down position, our research shows you’re more likely to suffer rejection of your ideas from your audience.
The pointed-finger is a symbolic club with which the speaker figuratively beats the listener into submission.
If you are an habitual finger pointer, practice using the
palm-up and palm-down hand positions. You’ll find that a combination of these gestures can create a more relaxed atmosphere and you’ll have a more positive effect on your clients.
Shaking hands is another relic from ancient times that
has been modified over centuries.
Your handshake communicates to the other person:
Dominance: ‘This person is
trying to dominate me. I’d better be cautious.’
Submission: ‘I can dominate this person. He/she will do what I want.’
Equality: ‘I like the person. We’ll get on well together.’
Left Hand Holding We typically greet each other, open doors, move a chair or wave goodbye with our right
So, if your right hand is free of objects you’ll avoid looking clumsy.
Practice holding folders, papers, brief cases and drinks in your left hand. It makes your greetings smoother and less stressful. Hold cold drinks in your left hand to avoid greeting others with a cold, wet
Smiling is a primate
appeasement gesture to show others that you are non-
threatening. Our research shows the more frequently you smile, the closer others will stand to you, the more eye contact they will give you, the more likely they will be to touch you and the longer they want to stay with and cooperate with you.
Smiling (with your teeth visible) is great for your coaching business and personal life. Don’t
be afraid to practice your smile in front of the mirror.
We each carry a bubble of space around our body known as personal space. Its width depends on population density and what culture the person is from. If you are standing close to someone and you notice them move back, they’re telling you this is the amount of space they need for comfort. Keep your distance and resist moving forward.
Dress for Success
The secret to appropriate business dress is to ask yourself how your client expects you to be dressed.
For you to appear credible, approachable, likeable,
authoritative, knowledgeable and successful, how would you be dressed in their opinion? This can change geographically and climatically.
“Others form up to 90% of their opinion of you in under 4 minutes” says Allan, “and you never get a second chance to make a first impression. But when you practice these techniques for around 14 days you will become more successful at making a positive first impression every time,” says Allan.
Attract more Clients
Some gestures are universal and the most widely recognised is the raising or ‘flashing’ of eyebrows, which is a useful tool to understand in all business, particularly customer-facing ones, for attracting the attention of and retaining customers.
“For example, if you go to a coffee shop and there is a line of people in front of you, you start debating whether to stay or go,” says Allan.
“Shop owners know once you get past six deep, people are going to leave and you’re going to lose business.
We’ve found that if the person making the coffee or serving customers gets your eye contact and raises their eye-brows at you, and you’ll stay another seven minutes longer before you leave, because you feel you’ve been recognised.”
Exude power, yet remain approachable.
As executives, mostly men, climb the corporate ladder, they tend to show fewer gestures and expressions with each promotion and they’ll often keep a straight face when shaking hands.
Meanwhile, people in less-important positions are not as guarded and are more likely to nod, flash (raise) their eyebrows and reveal their teeth (smile).
“By showing your teeth and giving an eyebrow flash, others can instantly feel comfortable and think, ‘this guy won’t threaten me, he’s not intimidating me, he acknowledges me’. Whereas when someone meets you and shows no expression, they come across as potentially intimidating,” says Allan. “These are only small body signals but they’re enormously powerful because first impressions account for up to 80% of the other person’s opinion of you. They’re looking at you and making assessments as to whether you’re going to be friendly or aggressive.”
Body language strategies to give you the edge
Keep your fingers together
– People who keep their fingers closed and their hands below their chin when they talk command the most attention and authority. Using spread fingers or having your hands held above the chin is perceived as less authoritative.
Keep your elbows out
– Sitting with your elbows on the armrest of a chair is perceived as a position of power and conveys a strong, upright image. Humble, defeated individuals let their elbows drop inside the arms of the chair and close to their bodies to protect themselves. They are perceived as more fearful or negative, so avoid sitting like this.
Mirror their body language
Mirroring the other person’s body language and speech patterns builds rapport quickly. In a new meeting with someone, mirror their sitting position, posture, body angle, gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice.
Before long, they’ll start to feel that there’s something about you they like – they’ll describe you as ‘easy to be with’.
When coaching couples, watch for who mirrors whom to uncover the decision-maker. If the woman makes the initial movements and the man copies, there is little point in asking him for a decision.
To create an open but authoritative attitude as a coach, keep your body open and uncrossed at all times. When addressing a client or an audience, keep your palms visible and avoid finger pointing at anyone.
Show your teeth when you smile, nod frequently and eye-brow flash constantly.
Allan Pease and his wife Barbara are internationally-renowned relationship authors, penning a total of 18 best-sellers and presenting sold-out seminars in up to 30 countries every year. Allan's keynote addresses, books, videos and audio programs, are sought after by everyone from business executives and politicians, to media personalities, royalty and celebrities.
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