Do you speak body language?

Updated: 11 June, 2019 08:27 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

Ahead of her talk in the city tomorrow, Australian communications expert Catherine Molloy shares a hack or two on sprucing up your non-verbal skills

Catherine Molloy demonstrates how signs like the 'thumbs-up' can be perceived differently across countries. Pics/Suresh Karkera
Catherine Molloy demonstrates how signs like the 'thumbs-up' can be perceived differently across countries. Pics/Suresh Karkera

On a Monday morning in Mumbai, Catherine Molloy gives out the most enthusiastic handshake. So, it is easy to believe that she has written a book about handshakes.
Her fascination began when she was 16. After being orphaned twice, she left school and started work at Westpac Bank, one of Australia's leading banks. "I watched how people would negotiate. They all shook hands. Some people made a great connection and some left in tears. It was really interesting to watch and since the bank had some videos on body language, I started to study it. Then I became the top salesperson in Australia for our bank," she shares, when we meet at a five-star at Nariman Point.

Molloy's book The Million Dollar Handshake (Hachette India), which was released last year in Australia, is now available in all Commonwealth nations including India. But that's not all; the Queensland resident informs us that publishers in Taiwan and Vietnam have just picked up the title. "Everything has changed with technology but the way we communicate with others is still the same. Our behaviour has a domino effect. What you think isn't always right. So many businesses close down because they don't communicate well with the staff or their customers," she says, while demonstrating how the way you sit affects the way you think — sitting upright is the best way to feel good. "When you're sitting hunched and you tell a person 'I'm fine', your body language isn't saying that. If we can think about our reactions before they happen, only then can we make a difference in our communication," Molloy says.

Relax your arms for a good handshake
Relax your arms for a good handshake

Another detail the author highlights is how you need to be culturally aware with body language signals. "If I'm diving in Australia, and I give a thumbs-up, it means that I'm okay, whereas the same sign in India could simply mean that you want to drink. And now that same symbol is being used on Facebook to imply you like something. So, this book is not about you meeting another person but about how you can make them feel," she adds, recalling her 30-year-old journey in the business.

After her husband fell ill in 2008, Molloy lost over a million dollars. "I still had three children in school and wanted to keep them there. So, I started my own training company that offers services for hospitality, retail, relationship management, and customer service, among other things," she shares.

Don't let your finger touch the vein, as it makes you seem dominating in comparison
Don't let your finger touch the vein, as it makes you seem dominating in comparison

It was then that she discovered that it wasn't the certificate that made the difference for the person-in-training but the soft skills — which are important to help you manage yourself through tough times. Molloy explains, "You may walk around going, 'I hate my job, I hate my job'. Now what if you decided to change your mindset and said, 'when I walk in the morning, everyone smiles at me and we have a chat' or 'I love that if I do my job well, it makes a difference for the business, the team and my customers'. So, it's up to you. You've got the power and you've got the power of 7,00,000 different body movements. You can use them for good or for bad."

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Tips for better language

For an interview

Research the company in advance so you are already dressing like the people there. Have everything ready the night before. So, when they see you, they see someone who is going to fit into their organisation. Also have a look at their mission statement so you can use those words when you're speaking with them. You also need to have great eye contact and a big smile. If you're holding a folder, don't hold it to your chest. Relax your arm and try to match the firmness of your partner. Make sure your finger doesn't touch your partner's vein, since it makes you seem dominant, and goes around their hand instead.

For a business dinner

While shaking hands with a client, make sure your head, shoulders and your hips are aligned. Once everyone is seated, offer food to your guests before you take the food.

For a date

On dates, girls often play with their hair and blink a lot. It's interesting because when we're trying to influence people, the more we blink, the more problematic it turns out to be.

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First Published: 11 June, 2019 08:18 IST

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