Lean In, Literally

Elbows on table and leaning in.

Elbows on table and leaning in.

After two full days of back-to-back client meetings with my new manager in Los Angeles, I asked for his feedback on how I was doing so far. He was impressed by my organizational skills and inquisitiveness but gave me one piece of advice that I didn’t expect. He suggested I mirror the body language of the person I am meeting with. For example, if she/he leans in, I should lean in too, literally.

I probed further. Isn’t it weird to just copy them?

He noticed that I sat with a super straight back each time at all 10 meetings. While expressive in my tone, my body language felt stiff. He essentially said that by adapting my physical stance and making it similar to that of the person I am meeting with, it sets a more comfortable tone which can help ease nervousness or tension in the conversation. It helps both parties relax.

Arms and elbows on table, slightly leaning in.

Arms and elbows on table, slightly leaning in.

Usually if you are the one trekking to meet someone in their office, they are in their comfort zone and are more likely to express more casual body language. By no means does casual suggest you should slouch but notice the following and try to copy some gestures that feel natural to you: Are their hands or elbows on the table? Are they leaning in closer? Are they maintaining good eye contact? Are they leaning back with arms on the armrests? Is their chair angled towards you? Are their legs crossed or flat on the floor?

This rule, if you will, applies to positive body language - not negative body language such as crossed arms.

Be mindful of body language the next time you’re meeting someone and take note if it helped you to connect with them more and facilitate conversation. Let us know how it goes!