How Body Language Gives You Nonverbal Answers

August 13, 2019

Janine Driver, founder of the Body Language Institute, dissected audience members’ postures during the National Association of REALTORS®’ Leadership Summit in Chicago on Monday, explaining the underlying messages of their body language. “Body language shows up before thought by about five seconds,” Driver said. “When you read people incorrectly, this is where your business can be destroyed.”

Driver, a former federal law enforcement officer, has trained more than 60,000 people to detect deceptive body language. At Monday’s session, Driver presented an array of photo and video examples to explain how to interpret the unspoken messages of people’s bodies. Her first example was a picture of Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo, sitting with one hand grasping her chin. “When we grab our chin, we are about to win,” Driver said, detailing how Nooyi’s pose shows intelligence. “With body language, you can’t unsee it, you can’t unhear what we’re talking about, and you can’t unlearn it—you’re all already body language experts without even knowing it.”

Driver demonstrated other common poses and their meanings, such as throwing your arms up in the air (which says disaster is imminent); pulled-back lips (a sign of disapproval); picking off imaginary pieces of lint on clothing (which conveys stress or that someone doesn't like you); and misinterpreted shoulder shrugs. “If someone tells you, ‘Oh, that’s not a problem,’ along with a shrug, they just told you there’s a problem in that shrug,” Driver said. “Whatever you’re thinking about is influencing your body language—it’s already happening naturally. It’s influencing how you show up for work and how you show up for life.”

Other physical cues for real estate pros to pay attention to:

  • Handshakes: Driver cautioned against stiff, one-handed, “cold-shoulder” handshakes and advised following her “navel intelligence” rule. “We fix our belly buttons towards people we like, admire, and trust. When you’re with a buyer, look at the bellies—where are they facing?”
  • Hidden lips: “When we don’t like what we see or hear, our lips disappear,” Driver said.
  • Crossed arms: This might sometimes give off a negative impression, but Driver says this position is actually helpful because it engages both sides of the brain. “You are 30% more likely to solve a difficult task or problem with crossed arms,” she said.
  • Steepled hands: This power pose happens when you place your flattened hands and fingers together while leaving room to create a triangular shape—a steeple. “When we steeple people, we intimidate people.”
  • Palms: Driver said the biggest way to tell if someone is speaking truthfully is whether their palms are faced toward you.

The session was meant to inform real estate pros how to better notice everyday body language from their colleagues and clients. Driver also emphasized knowing the “why” behind your life’s purpose and making sure that everything you do in your business always connects back to it. “What you do in this industry is significant. You’re in the business of human beings helping human beings,” Driver said. “Do you want to be right or do you want to be effective?”