The Art of the Schmooze Part 4: Body Language

Tuesday, January 5, 2010 , Posted by Johnny Fuery at 5:35 PM

Originally Published 2007-06-22 19:37:35

This is part 4 of an ongoing series of articles entitled “The Art of the Schmooze”. Here’s a list of the other posts in this series (some are yet-to-be-written; will be updated after completion). Please note that these articles, although certainly useful in all social interactions, are written mostly with salesmanship in mind. Since I’m single and spend a lot of time on athletics, I tend to use dating and basketball as metaphors, but I nevertheless hope that you’ll find these tactics of higher value in getting your startup funded, increasing your sales quantity, and improving your bottom line.

  1. Introduction

  2. Showing genuine interest

  3. The mirror game

  4. Conveying openness through body language (this post)

  5. The All-Important Smile

  6. Eye Contact

  7. Breaking the ice

  8. Listening attentively and actively

  9. Finding something in common

  10. Questions vs. Statements

  11. Add value to the conversation

Sometimes you can be saying all the right things, but your body is contradicting your every word. As I've discussed in previous articles, you should already be showing genuine interest. In discussing body language, the most important aspect is to not contradict the other methods of making people like you with your body language. A little anxiety is ok, but remember that we're trying to make friends and influence people here. We're schmoozing. Often when you're schmoozing, food or beverages are involved, and so you'll find yourself sitting at a table of some sort quite often.

There are some very obvious signs of discomfort that should be avoided. Don't tangle up your legs, as this conveys anxiety (probably less of an issue with a table hiding them, sure, but still notable). Don't fold your arms and sit back, which subtly implies judgment. Don't rap your fingers on the table, which says your bored. Don't yawn and check your watch. Don't answer your phone (have it on vibrate and excuse yourself if you simply must address it). Don't sit tensely, as if ready to jump up and run/fight. Don't curl up into a little ball, even just a little bit in your chair, as this is a defensive (and weak) position, showing fear or lack of confidence.

Now for a tough one. Don't invade personal space. This is difficult, because part of making people like you is being welcomed into this space. Furthermore, this rule varies based on gender, as males are typically extremely receptive to "invasion" of personal space by a female (whether or not there is any attraction on either side), whereas females have a heightened awareness of these boundaries when dealing with the opposite sex. There are also subtleties of invading personal space that have a sexual overtone, even among two straight men. This can create some awkwardness, or even offend, if executed poorly. I hesitate to fall back on "common sense" here, since I'm trying to codify, but this area is highly subjective to cultural norms. Basically, if you're not sure, don't do it. Play all the other cards outlined in this series, and if appropriate, your counterpart will step over the line into your personal space, signaling an invitation. (This rule is slightly different in a romantic setting. It is the male's job to initiate conversation, but it is the female's job to initiate physical contact. She'll do this naturally, either by moving closer, casually touching an arm, etc. After that, it's ok to hold her hand, guys. I'm afraid that defining when it's ok to go in for a smooch, however, is outside the scope of this set of articles :-))

To instead convey a feeling of receptiveness and openness, relax your body language. Don't cross your legs (ladies, you can break this one when you're wearing a skirt, but don't get all tangled up below the waist). Maintain your posture, but relax your shoulders and arms. Slouching a slight bit in your chair is ok. Hold your palms open in a natural fashion. Breathe normally, with longer, calming breathing cycles. Leave your arms uncrossed. Relax your clothing, if appropriate. This means unzipping a jacket, unbuttoning your collar, setting down a purse or bag, etc., as appropriate to the setting, of course (i.e., don't remove your tie at a 9am meeting; definitely consider loosening it for an evening meeting).

Of course, this all needs to be balance with the mirror game. Get in synchronization with your counterpart first, engage in the dialog by showing genuine interest, and then lead them into a relaxed state themselves once they're mirroring you by relaxing your own body language. They'll find you refreshing, calming, and they'll feel comfortable around you.


On 2007-06-23 14:56:34 Lisa said:
Interesting post. The worst thing I've noticed some people do is, as mentioned in your post, invade your space. I think it's some kind of brain malfunction on some people's part. They just don't sense when they are inappropriately close.

On 2007-06-28 02:56:06 Mike said:
Hi there,

I've been following your "The Art of the Schmooze" series, and it's been a little too successful for me.

I was out with my work colleagues, here in London, following a particularly nasty mBiz board meeting, and was demonstrating the Schmoozing technique to one of the girls.

Unfortunately, my manager, Colin Slappy, was in the line of fire between us, and he now fancies me.

What do you think I should do ?


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