How To Read Body Language

“I know why you shave your head.”

I used to get this a lot. Friends and acquaintances would approach me over the topic of my clean pate. They would first ask, “Why do you shave your head?” Then they would follow up with their own answer:

They stare at me in disbelief when I tell them the reason I shaved off all of my hair. Then they refuse to believe my reason and go back to theirs.

Why do I shave my head?

I’ll tell you in a minute.

But I use this example to draw attention to an observation. People have their own reasons for their behavior and we have our own reasons for explaining our observations of their behavior. And as much as we would like to categorize the entire spectrum of human behavior into a few well-defined boxes to quickly explain why our clients do the things that they do, it simply isn't possible.

For example, pick up any book on reading body language. Somewhere in there, you will find a statement indicating that a client's folded arms is an indication of their resistance to your ideas.

I fold my arms all of the time. When I was younger, I slipped while coming down a flight of stairs, landed on my shoulder blade and separated my shoulder. The surrounding muscles shortened during the healing process. I can still feel it in the winter months. Now, folding my arms is a very relaxing position for me.

But nobody has bothered to ask me why I cross my arms. And nobody asks me if I’m being resistant to their ideas when I fold my arms. However, I do notice a change in their approach and their demeanor. When I ask them about the change that I noticed, they brush it off as nonexistent or irrelevant.

There are ways to ask questions in order to understand your prospect’s behavior and their actions. Lance Tyson, CEO or Dale Carnegie Training of Ohio and Indiana, and senior sales instructor, regularly touches on this subject. He warns class participants about assuming to much when they can readily ask questions to gather the information.

He will fold his arms in front of the class and ask, “What does this mean?” Everyone will say, “You are resistant” or “You are closed minded.”

His response? “Maybe. On the other hand, maybe I’m cold. Or, maybe I’m feeling comfortable with myself. Or maybe I’m giving myself a hug. Truth is, you do not know what this means and it could mean anything. So be careful with your assumptions about your client.”

Lance will be touching on this topic in two programs happening in the Cincinnati area. One is entitled “Successful Sales Leadership”, a half-day seminar for sponsored by McGohan Brabender. The other is entitled “Making Sales”, and is an intensive, 2 day seminar addressing a number of The Hat from Tombstone, AZ.topics, including how to use questions to gather useful information. Sometimes it’s as simple as using a small trial close in order to better understand your client’s preferences.

We’ll talk more about using questions to better understand behavior in a later post.

But first, the reason I shave my head.

I shave my head so that the hat will fit.

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