(Second of a series)

In my last post, I shared with you the essentials of reading and understanding body language. We learned that in order to maximize the usefulness of body language, you have to learn how to read it in its proper context and you also have to observe all possible signals from your subject.

In today’s post we are going to discuss some practical ways that you can apply concepts in body language to enhance rapport with your subject and instantly increase your persuasive power through nonverbal statements.

How close should you stand when speaking to someone?

If you want to send the right message to your subject and project respectfulness and thoughtfulness on the first meeting, you need to make use of proper zone distances.

Zones are imaginary boundaries that dictate how close you can be to another person without causing offense or anxiety. There are four types of personal zones that you should keep in mind: intimate, personal, social and public.

The zone that is closest to the subject is called the intimate zone. This zone extends to about one and a half feet from where the subject is standing. If you are a very close friend or a family member, you may approach this zone with ease.

If you are socializing with people, you must extend your distance to roughly two feet so that you do not appear to be too forward. This distance is especially useful if you are interacting with the opposite sex. Coming too close may send a signal that you are attracted to the other person and this might not be your intention.

When you are dealing with strangers or casual acquaintances such as cab drivers or your building’s maintenance staff, a distance of four feet is acceptable. At four feet you would still be able to interact quite dynamically and you can still observe the other person’s body language well.

If you feel that you are not completely comfortable with four feet, feel free to extend the socializing zone. Your subject would still feel comfortable with a longer distance and normally, a distance of another foot will not communicate anything negative.

And finally, if you are addressing more than two people at a time, it would be best to increase your public distance to at least six feet so you can address all members of the audience properly.

Standing too close may defeat the purpose of addressing a group of people, and some members may feel that they are being purposefully left out of the interaction.

Cultural Reminder: In some countries such as France, the socializing zone is much shorter than it is in most countries. If you are unsure of the proper zone distances in a new country, simply observe the locals and emulate their normal to avoid any problems.

What do hand gestures denote?

Hand gestures, like zone distances, are vital in conveying the right message to your subject.

Here are some reminders when gesturing with your hands:

  1. Honesty

When a person exposes the palms of his hands, he is saying, “Here’s the truth.” Open hand gestures that reveal the naked palm are signs of honesty and sincerity.

Some people make use of this gesture when they are trying to lie but it’s easy to spot them because other micro-signals will give them away.

  1. Making a Request

If you are trying to make a request, avoid giving the request with your palm facing downward. This is a very negative gesture and it means that the other person is of a lower rank or stature than you.

Even if you are the boss or if the other person does have a lower stature in any way, using this gesture will instantly create internal resistance in your subject. Instead, use an open palm to make a request and make sure that you don’t “chop air” while providing the details of your request.

Strong gestures like “chopping air” also insinuates that you are the one in power and this can easily backfire on you.

  1. The Pointed Finger

Another hand gesture that you should avoid is the pointed finger gesture. The pointed finger gesture does not equalize a situation and the subject may feel that he is being pressured to do something that he doesn’t like.

Unless completely necessary, do not use a pointed finger to emphasize anything. Of course, if you wish to draw attention to an object like a map, pointing would be necessary.