Body Language in the Boardroom
Kevin can't speak English.
I am convinced he tries to speak to me with his pathetic meows and his tail flicks - he really does have a tiny meow for such a big cat... I also believe he listens for the intonations in my voice when I talk to him and watches my movements which indicate when he is going to get fed and when it is time to go out. (let's get this over with now - yes, Kevin gets to go out during the day for 1-2 hours. I am fully aware that this is not good for him in the long-run, but he loves being outside and his precious time he gets to chase birds keeps him fit. He is not allowed out at night as this is when the cat gangs appear in the alley and he would get his furry butt handed to him by some inner-city kitties who know how to handle themselves. Alex, the old cat who you will meet later, is strictly indoors)
Although some of us like to just use words to convey information with people as the current state of technology demands instant answers via email or phone, we don't realize that we miss what is being said with our body language and subtle nuances. Subtle nuances like how Kevin licks his paws or how your co-worker always walks to the right of their chair to sit down. When Og and Zog were hunting sabretooth, I don't think they were yelling grammatically correct full sentences with each other as they were moments away from the "coolest-in-the-cave" kill. I suspect that they were using some form of non-verbal signal to give directions in "operation-kill-sabretooth".
There are great links online to blogs and forums about how to read body language. This isn't a perfected science and there still seems to be discussion about how many emotions humans can convey non-verbally and what can be detected by watching body movements, however, there are some simple basic gestures that can help to understand what peoples body language is trying to say.
Understanding your teammate or opponent, whichever the relationship may be, can help your project success. Are their arms crossed in defence or indifference? Are they covering their mouth when they speak? Are they playing with pens? Are they eating their pen? Are they turned away from you? Are they looking at their phone when you are speaking? All these and many others gestures can reveal much about how people are feeling towards a topic, you, or a situation. Not everyone has the ability to naturally watch and read body language, and some people really don't care. However, a little time spent looking at someone to see what emotion they have can determine if your idea or direction is being received correctly. It was described to me once this way - "you can say one thing but your body is something else. This is why we don't like bad actors. They don't act with their whole body."
For us HSP's (highly sensitive persons), we can get so passionate about what we believe or think is right that we ignore all body language. This is where we need to stop and regain poker-face composure. The poker-face. Those experienced in business and corporate management are excellent at the poker-face. It is difficult to read the poker-face, but if you can get the poker players to feel comfortable, maybe share a laugh or good story, then slowly the body language starts to reveal emotion. Like hosting your own house party, making people feel comfortable in a meeting helps to relax individuals enough to want to look at each other. When we know we are being watched as we are talking, we feel that we are connecting to our audience. A large part of disappointment in meetings is when no one feels like they have been heard or that anyone was listening.
Kevin doesn't have a cat door. He also doesn't have opposable thumbs, and he can't successfully scratch at the metal door, so he is left finding another way to ask to come inside. He steps onto the patio furniture outside and looks anxiously into the window. If I didn't take the time to look-up from my work, then Kevin would become a catsicle in the cold or be left for those bad-sass cat gangs. If a cat can find a way to use body language, I am sure we can.
Fiona Warren - 17 years experience with large high-profile projects and teams.