The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said - Peter Drucker
Have you ever spoken to someone who wouldn't look you in the eyes? A lack of eye contact can easily be interpreted as insincerity, insecurity or uncertainty. Body language is an extremely crucial form of communication but it is often taken for granted. When was the last time you read someone’s body language? When was the last time you were conscious of your body language?
Body language is important in forming relationships with people, especially those you’re meeting for the first time. Imagine you’re in a meeting and you notice one of the participants is constantly changing their posture. This can indicate that they’re bored, restless or anxious. Analysts should look out for body language signals in themselves and in others to avoid miscommunication.
Why should an analyst care about body language?
Because it is not everything a person thinks or feels that they put into words.
The tone of voice, facial expression, body posture and eyes should be observed and analysed because they carry as much weight as spoken words. If you only listen to your stakeholders' words, you might end up missing a huge proportion of what they’re communicating.
Successful analysts are skilled at watching and interpreting the expression on the faces of stakeholders. It’s important to pay close attention to non-verbal cues as this can help in discerning when someone needs a break, more explanation or when they have something to contribute. Here are some interesting body language signals you should be aware of:
- Approach encounters with stakeholders with a positive attitude. This positivity should reflect on your face, creating a warm and approachable demeanour around you. Remember that a cheerful attitude can help stakeholders relax.
- Good eye movement communicates involvement and interest in what stakeholders are saying. Ensure that you hold their gaze, looking away every 3-5 seconds. Maintaining eye contact along with the occasional nodding or "uh-huh" indicates that you're actively listening.
- A confident and firm handshake is an appropriate expression of touch in most situations. A handshake can easily break barriers but should not be too limp or too aggressive.
- Distracting gestures like finger-pointing, fidgeting, scratching, tapping and hair-pulling, to mention a few, should be avoided when having conversations with stakeholders.
- Adopt a good posture. It creates a commanding presence and a sense of leadership. Sitting on the edge of your seat and leaning forward can also indicate that you're interested in the conversation.
- Pointing your toes and squaring your shoulders to a person creates an open body language. Lean into the conversation, making sure your legs are not crossed.
Observing non-verbal cues augments the ability of the analyst to understand what stakeholders are saying and what they're not saying. These cues can also confirm or contradict uttered statements.
Non-verbal cues convey information about stakeholders' intentions, concerns and personality traits. Like most skills, the interpretation of non-verbal cues should be constantly practised though there are always exceptions to what these cues mean.