Understanding and guiding people: The effect of nonverbal


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Text comes from: Menschen verstehen und lenken: Ein FBI-Agent erklärt, wie man Körpersprache für den persönlichen Erfolg nutzt (2011) by Joe Navarro, published by Münchener Verlagsgruppe (MVG), Reprints by friendly permission of the publisher.
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Many people think it's more about the content than the presentation. That's a big mistake. The nonverbal effect is at least as crucial.

Understanding and guiding people: Understanding and directing the action of nonverbal people: The effect of nonverbal


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Joe Navarro Joe NavarroJoe Navarro was an FBI agent and is now a body language specialist.

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The power of action: The eye eats with it

You have arranged appointments with two different financial advisors to discuss the best investment strategy for your hard earned savings. Upon entering the first office building, you notice that the shrubs at the entrance must be truncated urgently and fingerprints on the revolving doors.

At the reception desk the responsible security guard pushes you to the visitors list. You know the procedure: you log in, present your ID card and wait while a call is made to the upper floor. Following this, the post will let you know where the elevators are with a casual wave.

The occurrence counts

Once at the top, you'll find a receptionist who's busy operating a hectic flashing system telephone. Between the calls you name your name and your concern. She points to a chair on which you sit. Then you start leafing through the magazines that are there on the table.

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You wait ten minutes and just want to ask if you can use the toilet as your potential adviser enters the scene. His rolled-up sleeves and loosely tied tie suggest that the morning was already hectic for him. After hastily shaking your hand, follow him to his office.

The telephone is already ringing there. He picks up the phone as he gestures for you to sit down. They sit down and try to stray away while the adviser is on the phone. Finally, he hangs up and your conversation begins.

The power of the beautiful light

The second appointment looks like this: The windows on the building are sparkling. The facade is freshly painted, the green area perfectly maintained. At the reception desk, you are benevolently aware that you are already expected: your name is on the visitor list. A quick look at your identity card, and it's up to the elevator.

The waiting room lady is on the phone as you approach her. She ends the conversation, hangs up, gives you a friendly look, and greets you with a good morning. How can I help you?". You name your name and your concern. She asks you to sit down while informing the adviser of your arrival. They sit and browse a little in the company brochures that are on the table.

It takes less than five minutes until your contact comes and buttons his jacket as he approaches. He greets you with a friendly smile and a firm handshake before you go to his office together. There are a few chairs and your adviser gives you a choice of where you want to sit. You'll be surprised to discover that your favorite beverage is already waiting for you. As you suddenly remember: You recently received a call confirming the appointment and asking you what you like to drink. They both take their seats and start the meeting.

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Checklist non-verbal signals

Surely you can now think of what I'm aiming for: Assuming that all other circumstances are more or less the same, who would you rather trust your money with? What may not be obvious at first glance is that in both scenarios, almost all the crucial elements are non-verbal:

  • the appearance of the building complex
  • the efficiency and courtesy of the security staff
  • whether you speak or gesticulate with you
  • whether the receptionist gives you her full attention (time, eye contact and Opening address)
  • the type of reading material that is available
  • the waiting time
  • the care that your interlocutor devotes to his appearance
  • the first encounter with your contact person and their handshake
  • Interest in your well-being (seating, drinks, meals)
  • the fact that you pay more attention than an incoming phone call

Lightning estimates - quick decisions with far-reaching consequences

Perhaps you think that such things only serve the superficial, beautiful appearance. But briefly recall the reasons that usually lead to a business relationship. Often, it's the small disparaging details - unrequited calls, unanswered eMails, constant delays, the uncomfortable feeling that the contact person is either in a hurry, disorganized, or favoring other clients - that is our goodwill or that vital in economic contexts Undermine trust and put an end to the originally positive relationship.

Often we are not aware of how frustrating a relationship has become - until one day contracts have to be renewed, prices rise, a competitor makes a tempting offer, or a mistake caused by carelessness has costly consequences and overcomes the shortage.

This is how we filter and evaluate impressions

We humans are born with a large, adaptable and eager brain. Since we have serious defects in our physical appearance (for example, we have neither a shell nor claws, beaks, wings or fangs, and we are not particularly fast), we had to rely on our mental flexibility to survive: ours Ability to assess situations quickly and to react decisively on the basis of the incoming sensory impressions, to learn from experiences and to remember what we have learned.

We're going through the world with radar turned on, with our senses picking up a steady stream of impressions that we're constantly evaluating. We consciously receive and evaluate many impressions: we take note of someone whom we find attractive, and approach this person for a closer look. We smell freshly baked chocolate biscuits and feel the urge to taste them. We hear our supervisor call our name and approach him to find out how this happened.

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That's what science says

We receive and evaluate other impressions without thinking consciously: We see a car racing and jump out of the danger zone. We step back as soon as someone gets too close. We avoid people whose behavior or appearance does not seem to conform to the norm. In short, based on a surprisingly small amount of information, we are constantly making decisions - and in a surprisingly short time. That's what I mean by the term "lightning assessment."

The scientific approach to this topic began in the 1990 years, when studies showed that we were able to make very accurate judgments about the personality of people within a very short time, which often sufficed for a photograph that suited the subject for a few seconds (or even shorter).

The power of unconscious decision

It has been found that much of our decisions - from the friends we surround ourselves to the way we invest our money - are made on the basis of unconscious whisperings from a very old age of our consciousness that is not deliberately accessible to us.

This awareness is constantly active and circumvents our logical mind, it works in the background, but still dominates our perceptions. Lightning assessments often provide astonishingly precise insights into our fellow human beings: how they affect us, their trustworthiness and their feelings towards us. Most of the data we base ourselves on in those millisecond yet sustainable reviews is non-verbal.

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