Suit or No Suit – What is the body language saying for men?

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When a man wears a suit in a business meeting what message does it convey? … and is it appropriate and in what type of situation should he wear one?

If it is a formal meeting for a special purpose (such as presenting a business proposal to a board of decision makers) and there is an underlying expectation that everyone should be dressed in a suit, the answer is most likely yes. It often also signifies power and authority, especially a dark suit and a white shirt with a strong coloured tie such as red. The subtle aspects of covering of the body such as the tie (covering the lower neck) and long sleeves (covering the lower arms) provides a non-verbal message of ‘hiding something’ or ‘masking’, possibly linking in to the concept of ‘not putting all cards on the table’.

What about another type of business meeting where the relationships between the people are more established, relaxed and connected? Is it appropriate to be wearing suits? What if men had no jacket, no tie and a soft coloured shirt? This would convey a more relaxed approach, and if sleeves were rolled up slightly this would indicate a more open and honest approach (not hiding anything) and ready for action towards being useful and productive.

Ultimately, it comes down to what the purpose, values and culture are for the meeting. Is it a matter of power and persuasion or is it more about openness, honesty and helping others? It could be one or the other … or maybe somewhere in between.

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How to Overcome Blocks to Effective Listening

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You have probably heard the saying “we have two ears and one mouth”, implying that we should be listening twice as much as speaking in order to truely connect, understand and communicate with others. Often our thoughts and actions can have an adverse effect on our ability to listen effectively. Let’s look at a few key aspects that relate to this and the skills and techniques we can apply:

1. Assumptions 

Avoid clouding up your listening attention with assumptions about what your client is trying to say, what they really mean, what they want you to hear, etc.  Assumptions are often not accurate and they could certainly prevent you from focusing on what’s being said.  To manage this situation, you can say within your mind “If I’m assuming, I’m not listening.” Tune in on any possible assumptions they might be making based on what you hear. If you feel you need to, check-in with them by asking a question to “pop” any possible assumption and provide clarity for both you and them.

2. Buzz Words

Your prospect or client may have private buzz words which have a definite emotional charge, sometimes positive, sometimes more negative.  When you hear their own buzz words, it may be appropriate to reject or accept the whole message on the basis of their instant emotional reaction to the word or idea.  If you get hooked into the buzz word and its emotional intention, the listening stops.

3. Interruptions

In our haste to share our own ideas, we cut others off. This conveys to your client that you do not value what they have to say, and this can result in the perception of lack of respect. If you have something to say, hold the thought while staying focused on listening to the other person. This may not come easy, but it is important to stay committed towards developing this skill. Make sure they finish their sentence or their message they are trying to communicate and keep the discussion flowing.

4.  Generalisations

If you feel they are generalizing too much, ask them to be more specific. You can do this by asking questions that start with the following:

 “What specifically …”

 “How specifically …”

 “Who specifically …”.

 Examples:

What specifically would you like to achieve during this meeting?”

 How specifically can I be of service to you right now?”

 Who specifically would be most suitable to help you develop the project plan?”

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