What I hide by language, my body utters.
— John Barthes
As a body language expert, I'm in the business of helping people understand each other better. I teach people how to study movements, gestures, and facial expressions so they can decode other people's thoughts and feelings. The media often asks me to comment on the body language of famous or infamous people such as politicians, Hollywood celebrities, and criminals. Judging from the amount of media coverage they receive, nothing fascinates us more than the private lives of celebrities.
While individual celebrities may fascinate us, when two celebrities come together in love, we are transfixed. We create cute names for them, like "TomKat" and "Brangelina." We track their dinner dates, their holiday plans, their "baby bumps."
That's why, when a celebrity manages to maintain some distance from the media and keep her private life somewhat private, we're that much more curious. Few A- list celebrities have been as successful at holding the paparazzi at arm's length as actor Renée Zellweger — even after her ill- fated marriage to Kenny Chesney.
Zellweger met Chesney, a quadruple- platinum country performing artist, in January of 2005 at a concert benefi ting the victims of the tsunami. After a brief, intense courtship, they married in a small, romantic ceremony on the beach.
Then their whirlwind romance came to a crashing halt. A mere 128 days later, Zellweger fi led for an annulment.
The gossip media was abuzz with wild speculation about the fast demise of the marriage. She had checked the box marked "fraud" on the annulment application — what did that mean? Reporters, bloggers, and fans couldn't help but wonder, What kind of fraud? Was Chesney gay? Did Zellweger just discover it? Was she crushed?
Through it all, Zellweger maintained her dignity and stiff upper lip while under the constant watch of the public eye. She probably thought the story had gone away and that she was home free by December 2006, a full year after the annulment was finalized, when she appeared on Late Show with David Letterman to promote her new film, Miss Potter.
A frequent guest on the show, Zellweger had always enjoyed an easy, joking rapport with Letterman, who had customarily been warm, welcoming, and respectful to her.
That may have been why she was caught off guard when, after a cordial welcome, Letterman abruptly changed the subject and attempted to pin her down with a question about her marriage to Chesney. A week later, I had the opportunity to analyze Zellweger's body language on The O'Reilly Factor, and I was astonished by what I saw:
At first, Zellweger's signals telegraph a strong connection with Letterman — her body is turned toward him, her posture straight and tall, her shoulders back, her chest out. She's maintaining eye contact with him, with her back to the cameras. Her legs are crossed in a pose universally seen as the sexiest sitting position for women, the leg twine, which highlights the muscle tone of her legs. She preens a bit, touching her hair and tossing her head, standard female signals of self- confidence, attraction, and interest. She's playfully flirting with him and clearly anticipates that this encounter will be as pleasant as their earlier interviews.
The moment Letterman asks the question about Chesney, all of those rapport signals start to fall apart. Even as she's forcing a smile, teasing Letterman for having the temerity to ask, trying to keep the moment light, this Oscar- winning actor's body language betrays how deeply hurt she is by the invasion. She completely stops making eye contact with him. She leans directly away from him, exposing her neck in a submissive gesture that shows how vulnerable she feels about the issue. As she sits up again, at the same moment, she shifts her body so her knees and feet point away from Letterman, and she orients her chest and shoulders toward the audience.
Having introduced the topic, Letterman continues with the line of questioning, although he, too, starts to change his body language. He averts his gaze and stares down, seeming to ask the desk his remaining questions.
Their rapport has disappeared. Both parties have stopped looking at each other. While Letterman and Zellweger both continue to speak to each other verbally and show outward social signs of "making nice," their bodies relate an entirely different conversation. Her body language is saying, "I'm so angry and frustrated that you brought this up"; his body is saying, "I'm sorry that I had to do this — let's just get through it."
Zellweger begins to rock her body back and forth in increasingly larger movements and responds to his comments with big, forced, barking laughs. Her fingers twist in her lap. Yet all the while she has a big smile on her face.
As Letterman makes a joke about having been disappointed when she got married because he had wanted to marry her, she turns completely away from him and drops her head down, still smiling. Then, the most telling moment: for just the briefest instant, a flash of true anger covers her face. She scowls, narrows her eyes, purses her lips, and all traces of even fake smiling leave her face. There's no doubt — it might seem like she's joking, but she is just plain livid.
As quickly as her anger appears, it disappears. That "microexpression" lasts only for a fraction of a second, not nearly long enough for the untrained eye to catch it. In fact, I had to slow down the clip for Bill O'Reilly during my analysis on the show. But once you've seen this signal, you know what to look for. You can't miss it.
Zellweger's flash of anger evaporates and she smiles brightly again, swings her head around, and looks directly at Letterman. For the first time in the twenty seconds since he asked the initial question, she looks him in the eye — and a bit forcefully. She even subtly moves her head around to draw him back into direct eye contact. Perhaps not coincidentally, soon thereafter he straightens his tie in his trademark gesture of discomfort and says, "Probably none of my business, is it?" and she says, "Well, now that you mention it — no!" with a big barking laugh.
We all have aspects of our private lives that we like to keep private. When we need to interact with the world, we put on our public face and try to conduct our business without letting anyone see behind the veil.
While we intend to maintain our privacy, very few of us are successful at completely obscuring our true feelings. Even the most accomplished actors can unintentionally betray their genuine emotions with body language signals.
Once you have studied and mastered body language, you will be astounded to discover how much a person can unwittingly reveal about himself without saying a word. While most people never pick up on these signals, once you learn to recognize them, you will detect them everywhere — and even be able to control them more easily in yourself.
I'll never forget the first time I learned the power of body language.
I was in a psychology class at Pace University, an eager- to- impress student. I sat in the front row of the class, taking copious notes as I listened to Professor Mitchell deliver his lecture to a packed auditorium.
This particular day, Professor Mitchell was talking about proxemics, the study of how humans interact with each other within physical space. He described the zones of personal space, telling us one of his trademark great stories, walking back and forth in front of the classroom.
Gradually, as he spoke, he moved closer and closer to me. Naive little old me continued to take notes, somewhat oblivious to what Professor Mitchell was doing, but subconsciously starting to feel increasingly uneasy.
In the middle of a sentence, he abruptly stopped talking. His tone changed, and he said loudly, "OK, I want everyone to look at this young lady."
Every head in the classroom turned in my direction, and the class drew an audible gasp. Professor Mitchell was leaning over my desk, nearly nose to nose with me. Although my hands were still on my desk, the rest of my body was stretched as far back as it could go.
My professor had moved in so subtly, I'd no idea what was happening. Until he had concluded this little "experiment" and called attention to my posture, I hadn't even realized I had contorted my body to try to get away from him. My body had automatically responded to his sly, but very aggressive, takeover of my personal space. He had used his body to communicate messages of power, dominance, and total control. And his skilled use of body language coupled with my total lack of awareness gave this man the complete upper hand.
I was dumbfounded, awestruck, and immediately hooked. I had to learn these secrets for myself. And so my passion for body language was born.
Research has found that as much as 93 percent of our interpersonal communication is nonverbal. How your body moves, what expression your face makes, how fast you speak — even where you stand or sit, how much perfume you have on, what type of jewelry you wear, or whether your hair is long or short — all of these elements send messages far more convincingly than any words spoken. An estimated one thousand different nonverbal factors contribute to the message you send in every interaction. Cumulatively, these nonverbal elements have much greater power than the paltry 7 percent impact of the words coming out of your mouth.
Every flick of your wrist or change in your vocal tone reflects something about how you are feeling or what you are thinking to the person with whom you're speaking. Do you trust this person? Do you truly believe in the product you're selling? Do you want to turn and run for the hills? The languages of the body don't just supplement what we say — they usually dominate our conversation.
Our conscious brains might be focused on decoding the spoken words in the conversation, but the subconscious does the really heavy lifting, "reading" the body's many languages for nonverbal cues that tell us about the other person's true intentions. Emerging science in the fields of psychology, anthropology, linguistics, and sociology shows that nonverbal signals are the most honest and reliable sources of communication. Our primate ancestors developed a keen insight and understanding of the nonverbal languages of the body, and we've inherited that "sixth sense" from them. In fact, a single class of brain cells — the "mirror neuron" — has evolved from one that aided primates' survival into one that helps humans share knowledge, teach fine arts, learn how to fight or show compassion, possibly even how to speak — all based on the act of reading one another's body language. Exciting new neuroscience research has revealed that from birth a certain part of our brains is constantly wired and rewired based on our nonverbal interactions with others. The brain's ever- moresophisticated communication system reacts and changes with every interaction, constantly learning more and telling us nearly everything we need to know about the people around us.
The problem is that many people have conditioned themselves not to listen to these signals. We deny our "gut reactions" because we think they're not as reliable as our rational evaluations of other people. As a result, we end up getting duped, swindled, jilted, misled.
Take Jim for example.
Jim was a copywriter at an ad agency. His high- pressure job was becoming more like a snake pit every day. He was glad to have a friend in Tom, a younger colleague whom Jim had mentored. Tom and Jim shared all the available office gossip, analyzing corporate politics to figure out when the next restructuring might happen. They both knew their jobs depended on coming up with new ideas that sold products.
One of the most anxiety- producing parts of their jobs was to pitch ideas to a room full of colleagues and senior creative executives. To prepare, Jim and Tom would often practice on each other. One day, when Jim was pitching his new idea to Tom — his fi rst "real" idea in a long time — he felt something had changed in their relationship. He started to feel unsettled. Was it the new idea? Was it Tom?
Tom wasn't doing anything different — he was just sitting there, watching Jim's pitch, just as he always did, perhaps even a bit more intently than usual. As Jim detailed his idea for the tagline and advertising strategy for a new brand of diet soda, Tom's arms were crossed, his brow was furrowed in concentration, his eyes were focused on Jim's presentation. Just as Jim got to the best part, Tom's eyebrows rose and he crossed his legs.
"Yeah, I guess it's a good idea, Jim," Tom said when Jim had finished. Immediately, Jim felt crushed — that wasn't the kind of response he was hoping for. Tom looked at the floor, scrunching his lips together. "You might want to work on the end of your — oh!" he looked at his watch. "Conference call at two! We'll talk more later." Tom got up and walked quickly out of Jim's office.
Jim sat there feeling deflated. I bet he's just humoring me, Jim thought. My idea probably really sucks.
For the rest of the day, and the next morning, Jim had an unsettled feeling. I wish I could shake this, he thought. He looked for Tom to go for coffee, but was oddly relieved when Tom wasn't at his desk.
Later, during the pitch meeting, Jim took his regular chair at the table and was surprised to see Tom on the other side. Usually they sat together. Tom flashed a tight grin at Jim, and again Jim had that unsettled feeling. What was going on?
The managing director bounded into the meeting, and everyone snapped to attention. "Excellent, great to see everybody," she said, looking around the table. "We're going to do things differently today. This morning, I heard an amazing pitch, one that's going to sell a heck of a lot of diet soda, and I want to share it fi rst thing so we can all work on it for the remainder of the meeting." Jim's stomach flipped over, and he shot a look at Tom, who kept his eyes on the paper in front of him. "Tom here was standing in the elevator this morning, when I happened to get on..." The managing director proceeded to detail Jim's idea, which Tom had claimed as his own.
Now, wouldn't it have been useful for Jim to know before he shared the best idea of his career that Tom was not his real friend? Wouldn't it have been much easier and less gut- wrenching to realize that fact weeks earlier, when Tom had started to slowly pull back from their friendship and give off cues — such as less eye contact, more arm folding, and less nodding when Jim spoke — that he couldn't be trusted?
In this book, I will teach you to consciously read these nonverbal signals, so you can know what the people around you really think, not just what they say. When you learn the techniques I share in these pages, you'll begin to notice who your true friends are, and who is out to deceive you. You'll learn to recognize whether someone is falling in love with you or simply trying to mislead you. You'll learn to tune in to your instincts and to trust them, so you'll know not to disregard your gut when it screams, "I don't care what he's saying — don't trust him!"
When we lose touch with our natural body language ability, we can also unintentionally send the wrong signals and end up turning people off or pushing them away. In this book, you'll learn how to control your own nonverbal signals and communicate only the messages you want to send — and none of the messages you don't. Just by learning a few key tricks and principles, you can tap into the miracles of your brain's natural communication system to greatly enhance your ability to read other peoples' body language as well as control your own. Ultimately, armed with some useful information and a bit of practice, you will become what I call a Master Communicator — someone who understands the body language of all players and can manipulate the playing field to his or her advantage.
Does manipulate strike you as a negative word? It shouldn't. One of the primary definitions of the verb manipulate is "to manage or utilize skillfully." In this book, you will learn to skillfully manage and utilize your own natural awareness of body language, both to read other people correctly and to transmit only the messages that help you achieve your goals.
It's that simple.
Several years after I was introduced to the power of body language in my psychology class, I learned how useful it was to be a Master Communicator. As an analyst and staffing specialist for a Fortune 500 financial firm, I interacted with new employees every week. While I was surrounded by people who were trading in financial resources, I traded in human resources. Like those other traders, I had to quickly evaluate the potential of scores of prospects, pluck out the ones whose stock was on the rise, and carefully avoid those who might not perform at the level we'd expect. When someone met my eyes and spoke in confident, strong tones, I would take another look. When someone continually shifted in her chair, crossed and uncrossed her legs, or refused to make eye contact, I knew she would never last. I made these decisions based almost entirely on my gut, and my first impressions frequently became my final judgments.
Sound harsh? Superficial? A bit heartless? Perhaps. But it is a fact of life we all have to face: people judge you on the first impression you make.
Recent research from Princeton University shows that when we meet someone for the first time, we make our initial judgments about a person's attractiveness, likability, trustworthiness, competence, and aggressiveness within 100 milliseconds — one- tenth of one second — of meeting them. And once those impressions are formed, they tend to stick and become even more entrenched. Only by carefully managing any future interactions can you ever hope to revise a bad first impression.
Over time, those people who are looking to hire, award new contracts, or even fall in love have been exposed to many of these first impressions. The results are collected into their own mental databases, each powered by a personal logarithm that determines precisely which characteristics are going to make a person a "yes" or a "no" to fulfill that particular need in their lives.
We all want to be a "yes" far more often than we want to be a "no" when we apply for jobs or try to win over people in social and business situations. And that's why it is important to master that all- important first impression, in all areas of our lives. Master Communicators know how to ace that first one- tenth of a second. In this book, you'll learn all you need to know to turn every first impression into a "yes."
One of the trickiest things about first impressions is that they work on a subconscious level. This applies no matter how smart you are — even intellectual giants cannot form a fully conscious thought in one- tenth of one second. But just because some thoughts are subconscious, that doesn't mean we can't learn to control them in ourselves — and in others.
As a certified hypnotist, I know that our subconscious can be trained to help us send more powerful nonverbal messages. If you want to appear happy, or confident, or commanding, you can train yourself to exude those traits, even if you don't feel them at first. On the flip side, by learning to control your own body language, you'll automatically learn to control the subconscious thoughts and impressions others will have about you.
A few years after I left the financial world, I reentered the realm of body language at the behest of a good friend and mentor. Thereafter, in my practice and in seminars throughout the United States and around the world, I helped scores of people to overcome their anxieties about work, dating, parties, and presentations and showed them how to feel comfortable in all kinds of settings and situations in which body language plays a huge role. As I've worked with people, I've found that one of the most effective tools in overcoming stumbling blocks in social situations is a particular kind of mental practice — to visualize yourself doing certain actions in a specific sequence.
One of my clients, Jenny,* was afraid to enter a room full of people by herself. She especially had trouble at parties, approaching groups of people to join in conversations. Together, she and I developed a mental script that she could use to remind herself of the correct body language to use when entering a group:
I approach the party, I stand tall, my spine straight as steel. I walk with confident steps, making eye contact and smiling at one individual after another. I look for either people standing alone or groups of three or more to join in order to strike up conversation. I approach a gathering of people, I look for the person whose foot is pointed away from the center of the group — that is my opening. I smile, nod, and wait to be acknowledged and invited into the group. I focus fi rst on listening, and I do not worry about what I will say. When I have something to say, it comes out naturally and as part of the fabric of the conversation. I am strong, confident, happy, and serene.
Here again, the emerging research on the brain's communication system holds the key to strengthening your subconscious mind. The same methods that elite athletes and classical musicians use to perfect their craft can help you master the most effective opening line in a speech or at a nightclub. With this book, you will learn how to tap this neurological system to feel more mentally and physically confident and authoritative as you also project those traits to the outside world. I'll help you just as I've helped so many of my clients — I'll give you the exact directions on how to move your body, adjust your posture, and change your facial expressions, so you can exude attractiveness, likability, and self- control while you also enjoy the same vitalizing sensations in your body.
Over the years, I've been consulted by people and organizations, from Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly and Access Hollywood to the New York Times and Psychology Today, to help uncover the hidden messages in body language. I've helped government employees understand where the lines fall in appropriate workplace behavior. I've helped men and women learn the signs of trustworthiness and deceit in order to determine if their spouses are cheating or if their friends are true. I've advised fleets of salespeople from fields as diverse as construction and magazine advertising on how to read their clients effectively, make the right pitches at the right time, and ensure closed sales and happy repeat customers.
But body language isn't just about reading signals. I've helped managers learn to use their own body language to work effectively with staff, staff to work effectively with customers, and CEOs to negotiate with other CEOs. I've even helped politicians minimize the effects of damaging press just by coaching them on certain facial signals and hand gestures. I'm very gratified to have helped to empower thousands of people by teaching them body language.
While you and I may never have the opportunity to work together directly, this book will teach you much more than I could ever impart in one or two sessions with you as a client. You'll hear stories of people who are just like you whose lives have been changed forever because they made just a few small adjustments to their body language. You'll learn how a real estate agent made one critical change in the way he stood with clients during his sales calls — and increased his sales dramatically. You'll learn how one dateless young woman developed a signature flirting move that had gorgeous, successful guys lining up to talk to her. You'll hear about people like Cindy — confident, ambitious, and successful, yet somehow spinning their wheels, all because of a few missteps in their ability to read body language signals and respond appropriately.
Cindy first called me to book a session to learn some hypnosis techniques for relaxation. As an overworked manager recently promoted to oversee sixteen of her former peers — all men — she needed to unwind a bit. The stress was really piling on, primarily because her staff wasn't listening to her, and her team wasn't meeting its sales goals.
Cindy's phone voice was very attractive — confident, dominant, lower in pitch, but nicely varied in tone. Overall, an excellent voice, by nonverbal standards. I wondered what could be happening in that office to hold her back.
The day she walked through my door for a consultation, the mystery was over. Cindy had come directly from the office, and when I looked at her outfit, I was amazed that her team was getting any work done. Her tight suit was cut perfectly to show her every curve. Her striking pale skin was offset by dramatic red lipstick, and her short, spiky hair and four- inch heels completed her extremely sexy but highly unprofessional look.
After we had settled in, I asked her if she'd like a body language analysis at the same time. She eagerly agreed. I took a moment and then leaned toward her. "Cindy, how do men look at you in the office?"
"What do you mean?" she asked, a bit taken aback. "The normal way, I guess."
"Do they ever do this?" I mimicked the once- over, an up- and-down glance.
"Well, sure, of course," she said, and smiled. "Because I dress to kill."
Obviously, Cindy was very proud of her body and her sense of style, and deservedly so. But while her outfi t would have "killed" in a nightclub, it was slowly murdering her managerial career. "Cindy," I said, "it's time to make some changes."
When it comes to dressing for business, there is an unspoken line in the office, and Cindy had long since crossed it. As a telephone salesperson, she'd performed 90 percent of her job over the phone, and her very attractive voice had helped her to do quite well. But once she'd made the transition to management, her tight suits and stilettos had become a distraction in the office.
Although Cindy was dubious at first, she agreed to slowly introduce changes into her usual appearance, one week at a time, on a trial basis. First, we changed her makeup. Cindy and I went to a makeup specialist, and together we found "her" colors — lipstick in a more neutral tone and eyes that were now muted and not ringed with black liner. At the end of week one, the blinding red lipstick was gone — and you could finally see the warmth and intelligence in Cindy's eyes.
Week two, we worked on outfits. "I'm going to swim in these," Cindy protested, as she took her one- size- bigger suits, with their twoinches- lower hemlines, into the dressing room. Trying them on with her new, slightly lower heels, she had to admit they were more comfortable — and didn't her staff seem just the slightest bit less defiant that next morning during the daily meeting?
Finally, we headed to the hair salon to soften out her spiky look with something a bit less confrontational, and more sophisticated. When Cindy emerged from the salon, she looked like a new woman. With just a few slight adjustments to her appearance, she'd gone from overdone office floozy to striking young professional.
Two months later, Cindy returned to my office for a refresher session on relaxation hypnosis. "Now I have the kind of 'problems' I always wanted," she told me. She described how the sales team's productivity had shot up, and she was adding staff and juggling expanding responsibilities. "The funny thing is, I didn't change a single thing besides the way I look," she told me, her eyes shining. "I give the same kinds of talks, set the same goals for the team — but now, instead of not listening or rolling their eyes in meetings, the guys actually raise their hands to speak. They truly want to impress me.
"I haven't changed the way I manage people — but I can't believe how much of a difference my new look has made in the body language of the people I manage."
Now I'm going to show you how to harness the power of body language so you can experience the life- changing effects of becoming a Master Communicator. You're about to learn that you're already an amazingly astute "speaker" of body language. All you have to do is tune in to your natural ability to read others and to transmit the messages you want to send. You'll do that by first becoming self- aware, then by becoming more aware of the messages around you, and finally by making slight tweaks to your own signals — and I'll guide you every step of the way.
To start, I'll give you full descriptions of all the body language signals and tools at your disposal and explain how they work. Then, I'll show you how to use them in specific situations so you can succeed in every encounter by perceiving other peoples' true intentions and by using body language to achieve your goals. Finally, I'll teach you the Reiman Rapport Method, a ten- step process to master universally pleasing body language. The Reiman Rapport Method puts all the signals together in a quick and easy process that will enable you to build rapport with anyone in any situation.
While all of my advice is on the up- and- up, in certain situations, I am going to teach you how to manipulate the playing field to your advantage because — let's be honest — sometimes we have to do that. I'm not suggesting that you do anything devious — sometimes you simply have to consciously change your body language in order to be more honest. As you'll discover, some body language can be an obstacle that obscures the truth! But it doesn't have to be.
So if you're ready to learn the power of body language, and become a Master Communicator who can succeed in every encounter with other people, turn the page and let's begin. If you have any questions as you go through the book, please feel free to contact me at Tonya@BodyLanguageUniversity.com.
Copyright © 2007 by Tonya Reiman