Chapter 2 - Building Rapport With Body Language

Building Rapport in Business - The Definitive Guide

For the past 2 weeks, Charles has been puzzled by Susan's comment about calling him cold. What did Susan really mean when she said: "Why do you always appear so cold, Charles"?

If you walked into Charles's office tomorrow morning you would notice an extremely organized workspace. On the left wall, you’d see a whiteboard with 4 markers that are always in the order of Black, Blue, Green, and Red. This order matters to Charles because it’s in alphabetical order. Why does something so trivial matter to him so much? Because the details matter. On the right wall, you would immediately notice his college degree hanging up from Harvard University with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

If you were in a meeting with him he’d quickly remind you of Jesse Eisenberg, the actor who played Mark Zuckerberg in the movie The Social Network


What Susan was really referring to was Charles’s lack of emotion when he communicates. In other words, his facial expressions always appear serious or emotionless in conversation.

Why does Charles appear emotionless anyway?

As we learned in chapter 1, Charles has a calculating personality style. This means in conversation he’s usually processing the information in deep thought. As Charles is focused on what is being said internally, externally he seems intensely serious appearing disinterested in the conversation altogether. 

Charles is so concerned about giving the right answer his facial expressions create a communication breakdown with the other person.

Can you see how easy it can be to break rapport without saying a word?

Charles is completely unaware of what his body language is saying, which creates an instant miscommunication.

This is the very reason why reading body language is so hard. We interpret what we see, but as we will learn there is actually much more we need to understand to correctly assess body language.

Think about this for a moment. Did you know your face has 43 muscles and can create more than 10,000 expressions?

Here's the reality of body language. If you're like most people, you’re completely unaware of the 100’s of positive and negative messages your body says on a daily basis.

In this chapter, you're going to learn how to build rapport faster through body language. You’re not only going to uncover the major components of body language but also discover our SOFTEN technique designed to ensure your body language instantly says you’re confident and positive in virtually any situation.  

When it comes to studying and understanding the subject of body language, it can quickly start to get overwhelming. Think about this, the human body can produce up to 700,000 different movements creating 1,000’s of body language messages.

So, if you're like Charles, unaware of what your body language is really saying, where do you start?

In order to simplify this subject, we’ve broken down body language into 2 major categories:

  1. Facial Expressions
  2. Body Gestures

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Facial Expressions Made Simple

Beyond Facial Expressions Basics

As Charles finally realized what Susan meant, he started to take a closer inventory of his facial expressions. To his amazement, he uncovered 6 negative facial expressions he used on a daily basis. For example, lifting his eye browse was like shrugging his shoulders saying I don’t care, or lifting one cheek saying I don’t believe you. He was completely unaware of how this impacted his communication.

According to Paul Ekman who has spent over 40 years studying facial expressions, he has categorized them into 7 major emotions.

  3. ANGER
  6. FEAR

What facial expressions are you using on a daily basis?

Amazingly, this seemingly small aspect of communication plays a huge role in building rapport. Think about it for a moment, you could move your lips or eye browse just slightly in a conversation and could make a positive conversation turn into a negative one in the blink of an eye without realizing it.


Facial Expressions create messages with the movement of 5 main components in the face:

  1. Eye Browse
  2. Eyes
  3. Nose
  4. Mouth
  5. Head Movement

For a more in-depth understanding of facial and micro facial expressions, I'd recommend checking out Paul Ekman's Micro Expressions Training Tools.

Why are facial expressions key when building rapport?

One of the fastest ways to lose rapport is through negative facial expressions.  It is critical to first identify and become aware of your bad habits when it comes to negative facial expressions.

Once you have this inventory, you can slowly learn to minimize them over time and learn to replace them with more positive facial expressions that will help you build rapport faster.

A few key facial expressions that will help you build rapport quickly are smiling, head nodding, and eye contact.

  • Smiling - Shows your friendly, inviting, and warm
  • Head Nodding - Shows you're actively interested in what they are saying
  • Eye Contact - 70-80% eye contact shows your focused and listening to them

This might seem simple but won't mean much until you work to minimize your negative facial expression habits first.

Do you know why most of us are so bad at reading body language?

The truth is body language is only part of the equation. The personality type you are communicating with can help you uncover what to focus on and what to ignore

Think about this for a moment, people who are more left-brain dominant generally communicate with less facial expressions. This is huge when talking to a dominate C or D personality type, as you’ll know to spend less time trying to read facial expressions and more time focused on the conversation at hand.   

On the flip side, people who are more right-brain dominant generally communicate with facial expressions which makes it much easier to read an I or S personality type.

The bottom line is reading facial expressions isn't as straightforward as most might think. You always need to take into account the personality type first which helps understand how to decode what we see in the other person.

Body Gestures

Body Gestures can be broken down into 10 major areas:

  1. Posture
    • Straight = Confidence
    • Slouching = Not Confident
    • Leaning in = Interested in what they are saying
  2. Hand Shake
    • Strong = Confidence
    • Weak aka The Dead Fish Shake = Not Confident
  3. Spacing
    • Give them about 18 inches
  4. Arm Gestures
    • Crossed = Negative and Not open to what’s being said
    • Open = Positive and Open to what’s being said
  5. Hand Gestures
    • Negative = Hands Clenched Together
    • Confidence = Steepling Hands
  6. Leg Gestures
    • One leg is crossed = may be used to show a nervous, reserved or defensive attitude in some countries
  7. Hand to Face Gestures
    • Boredom Gesture = hand to supporting the head
    • Interested Gesture = closed hand resting on the cheek
  8. Breathing
    • Deep Breathing = Relaxed and Confident
    • Short Breathing = Nervousness or Anxious 
  9. Sitting down
    • Readiness = Standing with the hands-on-hips pose
    • Confidence = Both Hands Behind Head
  10. Matching and Mirror (Discussed in Chapter 9)

Using the SOFTEN Technique to Build Rapport in Minutes

In chapter 8 of the Book First Impressions for the Business Professional, we discuss in detail about the SOFTEN Technique. This simple but powerful tool provides a framework to build positive body language in virtually any business environment. Incorporating these 7 techniques in your daily business communication routine will ensure you build rapport faster in every conversation.

Smile - Remember to smile as much as possible. When you keep a focus on smiling you’ll appear warm and inviting.  

Open Posture - Standing straight up allows you to appear more confident when you speak. A bad habit we didn’t discuss was posture. When you slouch, you'll appear less confident immediately.

Forward lean - Lean forward to show you're listening and interested in the conversation.

Tone of voice - This is extremely important. The more voice variation you have, subconsciously you'll appear more authentic in the conversation. We'll discuss this in-depth in the next chapter

Eye contact -Try to make eye contact 70 to 80 percent of the time to show you're focused on them.

Nod head –- Nodding your head shows that you’re interested in the conversation.

In the book, First Impressions for the Business Professional – Why Some of Us Excel and Most of Us Fail, you’ll  discover the First Impression model, which is designed to teach you how to maximize rapport in the business world in minutes.

Keys to Building Rapport Faster with Body Language

  1. Learn the 7 major facial expressions
  2. Identify and minimize your negative facial expressions
  3. Practice the key positive facial expressions
  4. There are 10 major body gestures
  5. Utilize the SOFTEN Technique to build instant rapport with your body language
  6. Review Chapter 1 to ensure you know which personality characteristics you should focus on.

Now that you have a better understanding what your body language is saying, it’s time to dive into chapter 3, and understanding what your tonality is really saying.

Effective Business Communication Skills