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Become a master at reading non-verbal signals

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This article is based on the free eBook “Essential Communication Secrets”

It is difficult to enter into a meaningful relationship with someone without first building a rapport. This depends, however, on the culture of the characters we are talking about. Americans will want to ‘get down to business’ within 10 minutes of meeting with you without appreciating the necessity to establish any rapport. In the UAE, it is customary to establish a relationship before entering into any business and this could take weeks or even months.


Emulating the body language of others

It helps to build rapport early in the relationship, if you use the natural human tendency to emulate the body language of others. When people want to develop a good working relationship, they unconsciously match the non-verbal behaviour and in particular the body language of the other person. Conversely, if someone is mirroring your non-verbal behaviour, you subconsciously view this as a positive sign.

Non-verbal communication signals are not static and it is important to interpret non-verbal signals in their total context and to remember that social and cultural factors also need to be taken into account. Body language research shows that changing a negative body position unlocks a negative attitude and gives a better chance of getting a positive outcome. The following non-verbal signals may be useful in giving clues about internal emotions and attitudes.



  • Leaning forwards     =     Interest, attention
  • Leaning away     =     Lack of interest
  • Curling up     =     Regression
  • Fig Leaf Position     =     Closed, protective



  • Erect     =     Neutral
  • Tilted     =     Interested
  • Bent down     =     Judgemental or negative



  • Fully raised     =     Disbelief
  • Half raised     =     Surprise
  • Normal     =     No comment
  • Half lowered     =     Puzzled
  • Fully lowered     =     Angry


Hand and arm gestures

  • Palms open     =     Open
  • Gripping arm chair     =     Holding in feelings
  • Fingers steepled     =     Superior and confident
  • Thumb gestures     =     Controlling
  • Hand-Held in pockets     =     Casual, could not care less
  • Hand-held behind body     =     Very nervous, compensating with aggression
  • Arms crossed     =     Unapproachable, not open to comment
  • Wringing of Hands     =     Nervous, unsure


Now look at the person next to you, your colleague or employee and see what message his or her body language is telling you. Awareness of this type of body language reading behaviour will enable a rapport to be built more rapidly, thus saving time and enabling you to become a more influential listener. This ability to read other people’s body language and respond accordingly will help you build long lasting business relationships. So, let’s start practising.


If you want to further study the secrets of business communication, read “Essential Communication Secrets!” by Carole Spiers Group.