I am always amazed by the disconnect in some people between body language and the words coming from their mouths. It got me to thinking that consultants, given that we are supposed to be experts/authority figures, should probably pay more attention to our nonverbal cues.
You raise a good point. It is hard to be authentic as a trusted advisor interested in client issues when you are sitting across from them, leaning back in your chair, with your legs and arms crossed and your hand on your face - all gestures suggesting you are closed off from the other person. However, leaning forward, arms in front of you with palms open, eye contact, appropriate facial expressions, and other indicators of interest will engender more trust.
Unless we take the time to recognize how these gestures might be interpreted and pay attention to our own nonverbal communication, we are possibly cutting off trust by our clients and that may hinder our ability to deliver good value. Alternatively, you may want to become a student of body language and other subtle (or not so subtle) cues so you can better judge where your client is coming from. Nothing says be careful like a words of confidence spoken by a person whose body language says they are not so sure. Tip:
Diversity in all its forms, whether ethnicity, age, nationality, lifestyle, gender or other types, brings with it complication of what body language really means. A friendly gesture on one culture may be seen as disrespectful in another. What is common in one generation may be confusing in another. A great book to sensitize you to how various cultures see the world and how to act and think appropriately, is Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands (The Bestselling Guide to Doing Business in More than 60 Countries)
. This book opened my eyes to how to better understand verbal and nonverbal communication as well as appreciate different ethnographic and cultural perspectives (not only among countries but within your own). It is a fun read and valuable reference book. © 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA