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Body Language

Small Things Matter

by Randall Craig on November 27, 2007

Filed in: Blog, Communication, Make It Happen Tipsheet

Tagged as: , ,

Have you ever had a meeting with your staff, manager, or perhaps a recruiter, and it didn’t go as well as you thought it would? If so, you’re not alone. While we all like to focus on the content of what we say, one thing will often get in the way: our body language.

Research suggests that most of your message is actually interpreted through your body language. If you are not aware of how your body language “speaks” to others around you, it shouldn’t be a surprise if your message isn’t resonating. With increasing diversity in many workplaces, people will rely more on body language to augment the meaning of an uncertain word.

The most important thing is to ensure that your words and your body language are congruent. Defining your message is first, but after that, work on your body language:

1) No Slouching: An interviewee recently spent 45 minutes in front of me slouched to the side in his chair. Was he really interesed in the job? Try sitting at the front of the seat, leaning slightly forward.

2) No Scowling: Would you like to work with someone who always looked angry? Lighten up, and smile from time to time.

3) No Shoulder Surfing: Keeping eye contact shows sincerity. If your eyes are always darting over the shoulder, seemingly interested in something else, then the assumption will be made that you are… interested in something else.

4) No Performance: If you are usually a restrained person, act that way. If you are usually outgoing and extroverted, then act that way. If you try to be someone you’re not, it will look like you’re hiding something.

There are dozens of other body language clues, but start with these four.

This Week’s Action Item: Before your next meeting with your manager, staff, client, or supplier, make sure that you know your message. Then work on your body language – small things can make the biggest difference.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)


Message and Messenger

by Randall Craig on August 28, 2007

Filed in: Blog, Communication, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Presentations

Tagged as: , ,

In business school years ago, I learned an important lesson. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it that can make a difference.

Back then, we were asked to hand in two copies of each major assignment. One copy went to the professor who would mark us on the concepts we learned in class. The second copy went to an English professor, who only marked our written communication skills and formatting. Both marks counted equally.

You probably recognize that successful communication is partly based on the words you use, but also your tone of voice. And most people recognize that body language trumps both. But how does it do so?

There is a communications hierarchy between the content of what you say, your tone, and your body language. At the base, there has to be content. Without a particular expertise – without content – there would be no reason for people to listen to you. This is true during a sales pitch, job interview, or business meeting.

Your tone of voice and body language amplifies your content, and influences your listener emotionally. If one of these is not in sync, don’t expect great buy-in to your message:

  • No content (and too much body language or tone): fluff, where’s the beef, showman, silver-tongued, etc.
  • No tone (but tons of content): dull, no recall, topic is not relevant, etc.
  • No body language (but great content): stiff-looking, doesn’t believe in their message, not an expert, etc.

This week’s action item: Whether the communication is written or verbal, to a large group or just with one person, remember that you are being marked on your content and your presentation. Practice content by becoming an expert in your field, and preparing before your next meeting. Practice tone by recording yourself and listening to your voice (hint: use your voicemail). And practice body language by videotaping yourself, and then asking for feedback from colleagues, friends and family. Only you can be the best messenger for your message – but it takes practice.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)