The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

Your Body Language Speaks Out

I know! You think that the entire idea of non-verbal communication through “body language” is the worst kind of pop psychology, and totally bogus, to boot.

Well, you're wrong.

When I see you hiding under your desk, folded up like a taffeta scrunchie, I can instantly read the message your body is sending. I didn't even need to hear you quietly sobbing to understand that you are not at all ready for 2015.

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That's the power of body language, and, if you still doubt me, you certainly will not have any bones to pick — or to break — when it comes to the advice of body language expert, Carol Kinsey Gorman, Ph.D.

Gorman, writing for Forbes.com, has unveiled her “10 Powerful and Simple Body Language Tips for 2015.” How these 10 tips differ from her offerings in 2014, 2013 or 2012, I'm not sure, but with 2015 well under way, I do think it is time to focus on what our bodies can say for us in the new year.

And we do have to act fast. As Gorman points out, “a study at the University of Glasgow's Center for Cognitive Neuroimaging discovered it takes the brain just 200 milliseconds to gather most of the information it needs from a facial expression to determine a person's emotional state.”

I don't want to scare you, but it doesn't take more than three milliseconds to know that you are less than one millisecond from a total meltdown. We really do need to get on this.

One body language tip I really like is: “To become more trusting, hold a cup of coffee.” According to a study done at Yale, people holding a warm cup of coffee as opposed to a cold beverage were more likely to judge a confederate as trustworthy after only a brief interaction.” [This explains why you don't trust anyone standing next to you at the Kit Kat Klub when you're quaffing your third Moscow Mule.]

If warm coffee is good for building trust, how much better would it be to replace your morning latte with a Flaming Jagerbomb. The highly-combustible combination of Jaegermeister and Red Bull should shoot out flames like Krakatoa, spreading trust all through the office, at least, until the fire department arrives.

Another intriguing body language tip is “to perform well under pressure, squeeze a ball with your left hand.” There's not much I have to add to this, except, maybe, “Ouch!”

“To stay positive when you read email, relax your face” is another intriguing tip. Of course, if the email comes from the HR department, and has to do with your annual review, or your annual lack-of-raise, relaxing your face may not come easily. In this case, keep half a cantaloupe handy. Burying your face in the soft melon is not only relaxing, but it's also like a spa treatment.

“To negotiate a win-win deal, shake on it” is a tip based on a Harvard study, which showed that “those who shook hands before negotiating ended up with a more equitable deal than those who went straight to business.” This probably explains why you get along so well with your supervisor. Whenever you see her, you start to shake.

Meanwhile, high above Cayuga's waters, Cornell provides fodder for another good tip — “To enhance your customers' experience, touch them.”

Waiters who touched their customers on the shoulders increased their tips from 12 to 14 percent. Waiters, who touched their customers on the hand twice, increased their tips to 17 percent.

[It isn't in the study, but I believe that waiters who sat in their customers' laps and tousled their hair while crooning Phil Collins songs received tips of 220 percent, especially if they were able to slip the customers' wallets out their pockets before climbing off.]

Of course, in today's corporate environment, you have to be careful of whom — and how — you touch your clients, co-workers and managers. A good compromise is to do all the touching you want, but wear boxing gloves. It makes typing a little difficult, but it makes a truly soft touch.

The final tip is “To make sure you'll keep your New Year's resolutions, tighten your muscles.” University of Chicago provided the ammo for this tip by showing that “participants who tightened their muscles — hand, finger, calf or bicep — were able to increase their self control.”

This may be true, but no way I'm tightening anything. Frankly, I still haven't gotten over squeezing that ball.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.

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