First Impressions by Lisa Goldstein
Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant impression by remaining silent. -Dalai Lama
Body language plays a critical role in the Rainmaking Process. Especially upon initial impression, it's not what you say; it's how you say it. Last week, I was waiting outside a restaurant for a breakfast table with my immediate family and my "in-laws" when my mother-in-law spotted some of her friends. She introduced me to her friends stating, "Mr. X and Mrs. X, this is my daughter-in-law Lisa." I turned to shake Mr. X's hand. He grabbed my hand and shook appropriately. However, as he was saying, "It's nice to meet you", he turned his head away from my face so that he was facing the opposite direction, entirely avoiding eye contact. As I reached out my hand to Mrs. X, she avoided it altogether and gave me a smile and a nod.
When the encounter was over, I was left with the impression that the couple had no interest in meeting me. Although nothing inappropriate was actually verbalized, the blatant avoidance of eye contact demonstrated a lack of interest in me, as did the failure to shake my hand. Although the couple's behavior may not have been intentional, the subconscious disinterested message overrode any verbal message.
Usually when I train lawyers about nonverbal communication they are reluctant to discuss the topic. Ironically, at the beginning of the discussion they often cross their arms and legs. (The closed off body language demonstrates "closed off" disapproving behavior.) However, nonverbal communication plays a critical role in the rainmaking process, and is part of Rainmaker Training. Studies show that only seven percent of communication involves actual words, fifty-five percent of communication is visual (body language, eye contact), and thirty-eight percent is vocal (pitch, speed, volume, tone of voice). By studying nonverbal communication, you can gauge your actions and words to your clients' nonverbal responses.
As lawyers, we use facts and figures to litigate our cases or to close our deals. Although trial lawyers are acutely aware of how body language influences the jury, most lawyers are not interested in "soft skills." It's the substance that determines the terms of the deal or the outcome of the litigation. When interacting with clients and potential clients, however, it's essential to master nonverbal communication. Although a potential new client may tell you that they will "call you when something comes up," their body language may indicate otherwise. In addition, your own nonverbal communication reflects how others perceive you.
Keep in mind the following nonverbal indicia:
Crossed Arms &mdash Disapproval
Open Palms &mdash Truth
Pointing feet towards door &mdash Dishonesty
Head of table &mdash Power
Leaning on elbow, hand on shin &mdash Boredom
Leaning back &mdash Confidence/Power
Leaning forward &mdash Interest
Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. A master of nonverbal communication forms better relationships and is better able to control the business development process.