What if we told you there is a secret language that is being spoken in your franchise business everyday? It’s not a language your employees made up so they could talk about you. It’s been around since the first humans started communicating with each other.
That secret workplace dialect: body language.
Knowing how to read it will make you a better leader in your franchise business. Even if you espouse an open door policy in your workplace, people are not always going to be forthcoming with you or each other if they have concerns. If you are able to decipher what they are telling you with the way they stand and how they hold themselves, you can tap into some of the unspoken issues going on in the workplace.
Why body language is important to learn
Learning to interpret body language is important because it allows you to be more prepared for some of the curveballs that you will inevitably be thrown when running a franchise business that is populated with employees who all have different personalities
Here is an example:
Imagine talking to one of your managers and you notice that during certain conversations, he always crosses his arms and slowly starts to move backwards as if he’s trying to escape that particular conversation.
And, at other times when he’s sitting in your office talking with you, he tends to cross his feet at the ankles and they start to twitch rapidly.
During staff meetings, when certain other people are talking, he crosses his arms and moves his lips as if he’s muttering something.
If you were adept at reading body language, and you knew this particular manager well, you’d know that some subjects made him uncomfortable and made him want to protect himself (crossed arms) and escape the conversation (slowly moving away).
You’d also know that he was holding back something he wanted to say at times (legs crossed at the ankles, rapidly twitching feet) and that certain other staff members made him uncomfortable (crossed arms, moving lips).
Armed with this information, you could then talk to your manager and probe more and see if there were any underlying issues in the workplace that were making him unhappy.
Even if employees are saying all the right things when they’re around you, what their bodies are saying might be something completely different. How people stand when they’re talking to each other, what they do with their hands and arms, which direction their feet face and all kinds of other subtle background details can give you so much insight into what people are feeling.
Catching the details
Being able to read body language is akin to watching a movie twice the first time you see it.
When you watch a movie for the first time, you generally only pay attention to what’s happening on the “surface,” meaning the main action and dialogue. When you watch it again, since you already know what is going to happen, you can focus more on the background details to find those clever references and hidden jokes that filmmakers like to include.
When you are able to read body language, it’s like watching a movie once and being able to catch all the main action and dialogue while you also catch all the background stuff at the same time.
However, it’s important to remember that not every single thing a person does with their body has some kind of hidden meaning, as Dr. Ray Birdwhistell points out.
Birdwhistell is an anthropologist and he founded kinesics, which is the study of body language. ‘No body position or movement, in and of itself, has a precise meaning,’ Birdwhistell has noted.
If a person is crossing their arms when talking to you, it could be that they are trying to create a barrier between the two of you or it could be because they feel awkward and don’t know what else to do with their arms so they’re just reverting to what they usually do with them or they might just be cold.
For this reason, reading body language also involves observing the general environment you’re in. And, the better you know a person, the better you’ll be able to read their body language.
If you know a person’s default stance is with their arms crossed, then it’s going to be less significant than if it’s someone else who normally has a much more open stance crossing their arms.
Having the ability to read body language will not only help you as a franchise business owner, it will help you in any situation. It will sharpen your observation skills and make you a better overall listener and make you a better leader.
Check out these books and this video to get started:
- The Definitive Book of Body Language: The Hidden Meaning Behind People’s Gestures and Expressions by Barbara and Allan Pease.
- What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People by Joe Navarro and Marvin Karlins.
- ‘How to Spot a Liar’ TED Talk by Pamela Meyer
You won’t find any crossed arms when you talk with your local FranNet consultant. We’re always happy to talk with prospective entrepreneurs. If you believe you’re ready to take that first step toward business ownership, sign up for a free FranNet franchise search and consultation today.