There were no nodding heads, yawns, or coffee breaks at the special 90-minute afternoon session presented March 4 by Dr. Jack Brown of The Body Language Group during the ASAP 2015 Global Alliance Summit held at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Florida, USA. An expert in nonverbal communication, Brown spoke to a captivated audience about “Negotiation, Nuance, Conflict & Resolution—The Nonverbal Advantage.” A keen people-watcher for more than 25 years, he has consulted to C-suite executives, law enforcement, government, industries, and at universities, to name just a few clients. The advantages of reading body language in business transactions, partnerships, collaborations, and everyday exchanges can provide you with a big advantage, he says.
“Some 55 to 80 percent of communication is nonverbal,” Brown says. “Another 10 to 38 is paralanguage [an in-between category] … and 7 to 10 percent is verbal.” Understanding that breakdown and the associated communication nuances can help us become more powerful during negotiations, mediation, conflict resolution, and in exchanges in general.
Understanding body language can save you a lot of trouble down the road in your business transactions. Learning how to read a sociopath is invaluable, he quips. “Trust your gut … and run!” he advises, prompting a ripple of laughter from the audience. “Trust your gut”—the reoccurring mantra of his talk. “Be like a spy satellite or fighter pilot,” he continued, while flipping through slide after slide of facial and body cues –contrasting the cues of U.S. President Barack Obama to Russian President Vladimir Putin and spotlighting Hollywood stars.
“There’s a huge amount of information that we as a society ignore. … Younger people have good instincts, but we [adults] are really good at suppressing [them],” he adds.
“Women are better at it … they tend to be better communicators and nonverbal communicators.” Older people and animal lovers also have the touch. Nonverbal communication is innate and cross-cultural, but there are cultural differences for sure. For instance, at least from a western perspective, the Japanese tend to be the hardest to understand—they tend to have more idiosyncrasies, he says.
Always look at multiple cues before assessing someone. One non-verbal cue isn’t enough for a conclusion. For alliance managers who communicate frequently via telephone—a topic that drew rapt attention—close your eyes, he suggests. Blocking out a sense can help you zero in more clearly on vocal cues without ever having to observe the other party. For in-person meetings, get a glass table, he advises.
For more information on the art of reading nonverbal communication in alliance management and business transactions, watch for forthcoming content in the ASAP Member e-News and Strategic Alliance Magazine, available as a benefit of membership in ASAP.