“It’s not what you say, but how you say it” – a message I’ve addressed several times in the past in a handful of different ways. The way that a message is communicated, the very method of delivery itself, carries equal (oftentimes even greater) value than the words themselves. And, let’s be honest: while the importance of this simple truth has never been diminished, it’s something that we’ve all heard before. However, there is another side to consider, one that many of us are not as consciously aware: body language and silent messages.
This goes beyond the age-old adage of keeping eye contact and having a firm, confident handshake. With a little practice, anyone can master this art with a minimal amount of effort. In fact, this form of interaction isn’t limited to human beings – most puppies learn how to shake hands with people before they’re two years old. The significance of the handshake has become such a cultural staple of body language that we even see fit to imprint this instinct into our pets. But look a little closer, and you’ll notice one very important difference. When two people meet professionally and exchange pleasantries, you get what is commonly called the “dead fish” technique: the eyes meet, heads nod at minimal, polite angles, hands clasp in a firm, emotionless grasp, and a little “pleasure to meet you” is swapped. Shake hands (paws) with a puppy, and the game drastically changes. That puppy is so happy to meet you, and they make no effort to hide it. Without even trying, simply through charm and natural positivity, they make you feel welcomed and all-important. It packs a punch, and leaves a lasting impression on anyone involved.
Why? Simply, it all comes down to attitude.
All too often, and too easily, is this forgotten in the business world. A positive, friendly attitude makes a world of difference. Becoming wrapped up in the pressure of maintaining a highly professional atmosphere and persona is a slippery slope that, if one is not careful and mindful, easily leads to a pattern of cold, impersonal, and removed behavior with clients and coworkers alike. Engaging in overly-cautious, stiff-necked professionalism is oftentimes just as detrimental as a lack of any professional bearing whatsoever – two sides of the same coin, as the proverb goes.
In the business world, no one is simply selling to companies and clients – you sell to people. And people don’t want interaction with a robot dressed up in a suit and tie. We inherently seek out and respond more positively to friendly, engaging atmospheres. A simple smile, a word of positive encouragement, a joke to break the ice; these forms of interaction are not simply reserved for friends and family. Generating good comradery with clients and coworkers can go a long way, which unfortunately can fall by the wayside in the world of the uber-professional setting.
A good attitude is nothing to scoff at. No matter the setting, we’re all human beings in the end, and all of us simply want to be treated as such. Bringing people together, inspiring a sense of belonging and collective engagement, is what delivers true and lasting results.