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Guest Post: Use Body Language to Make a Friendly First Impression

Posted by Ilise Benun on

Frequent guest mixer Mary McCauley-Stiff of 5 Star Writing recently got some good input on what to do (or not) when it comes to non-verbal communication.

It’s not what you say and it’s not how you say it; it’s all about the body language.

This is what I learned at a recent Technology Association of Georgia meeting for the Consulting sub-group. The speaker was Colin E. Blalock, CPA, PFS, and CFP (i.e., accounting super-guy). Over many years, he’s gathered information on body language and applied it well during his time working for the IRS. (He now works for Jones and Kolb, CPAs.)

Here are some tips I picked up for setting a warm, friendly tone when you first meet someone:

  • The common signal to indicate friendliness is the "eyebrow flash," commonly used before shaking hands. This is when your eyebrows raise and lower quickly. Look around and see how often people use this, especially when they first meet each other.
  • While you’re speaking, don’t hold eye contact for more than 3 seconds — otherwise it’s too intense. Always break your gaze downward.
  • Never stand directly opposite an unknown male or adjacent to an unknown female. For men, start out standing by their side and slowly work your way opposite them. For women, start out standing opposite them and slowly work your way to their side.
  • Tilting your head with a smile and eye contact indicates interest and warmth. This is especially useful when asking for help or cooperation.
  • When possible, sit with your best side to the person you’re speaking too. What’s your best side? It’s the side with the greatest distance from the corner of your outer eye to the corner of your mouth. To determine this, Colin recommends applying (unused!) dental floss to the mirror over your image, then measuring it.

If you’d like to learn more about how to interpret body language and make it work to your advantage, Colin recommends The Definitive Book of Body Language, by Allan and Barbara Pease and The Secret Language of Success by David Lewis (no longer in print, but probably available online).

(Editrix’s note: David Lewis’ book is available via, here; if you’re interested in further reading, Mixmaster Ilise Benun has a chapter on body language in her latest book, Stop Pushing Me Around, you may want to check out.)

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