Has anyone ever told you that “it’s not what you say, but how you say it?” They were totally right. (Thanks, mom!) And it’s not just your tone of voice you need to keep an eye on — it’s your body language, too.
The most successful people in business are memorable and, well, successful, partly because they keep us engaged and trusting in their skills. It’s all thanks to skillful use of body language. You can learn to use it, too.
1. Steve Jobs
He may have passed on, but Apple’s co-founder was one of the great public speakers of the tech industry. Before TED Talks let any so-and-so rock a turtleneck and body mic, Jobs was giving just us “just one more thing.” Inc points out that he rocked eye contact, creating a real connection with his audience. I say he was a master of props, too, like this classic reveal of the MacBook Air in 2008. He also had a terrific storytelling formula for all his speeches, which gave him confidence of words as well as actions. So yeah, get some sweet eye contact, a compelling story and maybe some props, and be like Jobs.
2. Oprah Winfrey
OK, so Oprah isn’t on network TV every afternoon anymore, but I bet you have a classic “Oprah impression” up your sleeve. Maybe it’s, “You get a car, and you get a car, and you get a car!” or it’s “Please welcome, Kate BlANCHeeeeettttteeeee!” or something similar.
Why do we have an “Oprah voice” at the ready? It’s because her body language — those enthusiastic arm movements — and the cadence of her voice got us SO excited. She pointed at individuals, she held her arms out wide in a pseudo-embrace with every member of her audience (studio or home), she made big surprised expressions to let us live the moment with her. Truth is, Oprah treated her daytime talk show like a great life experience we all got to share with her, not just as a result of her.
3. Lance Armstrong
Poor Lance. He’s an example of body language you don’t want to follow. After his Oprah interview about his doping scandal, he was positively skewered by body language experts who claimed to be able to tell that he was lying. His body language including a half-smirk, shaking his head “no” while replying “yes” and other giveaways seemed as clear as day to these experts, including Patryk Wezowski of the Center for Body Language. Watch his full analysis:
Of course, body language analysis can sometimes be “fake news,” especially when you’re looking too hard to find “something” in someone’s gestures. But if you need to impress someone — a boss, a hiring manager, a client — it helps to know what comes off as untrustworthy.
Tell Us What You Think
Do you trust body language, or do you think this is mostly pseudoscience? We want to hear from you. Talk to us in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.