RTRE 53 – How Body Language Can Improve Your Real Estate Business

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Body language is one of the most important tools in your arsenal to build a rapport with your clients. Today we discuss how much more important your body language is to your clients than your words and your tone.

We discuss the ins and outs of the handshake, when to avoid closing the deal, and what different signals mean. Tune in and don’t forget to leave us a review on iTunes!

Our body language conveys a clear message.

Rethink Real Estate Podcast Transcription

Audio length 25:59

RTRE 53 – How Body Language Can Improve Your Real Estate Business 

[music] [Chris] Welcome to re:Think Real Estate, your educational and hopefully entertaining source for all things real estate, business, news and tech. 

[Christian]: I am Christian Harris in Seattle, Washington.

[Nathan]: Hi, I am Nathan White in Columbus, Ohio.

[Chris]: And I am Chris Lazarus in Atlanta, Georgia. Thanks for tuning in. 

[music] [Chris]: Everybody welcome back. This is re:Think Real Estate your number one source for real estate, business, news, tech and tactical advice. Today we’re talking about body language and why that’s important in your real estate business. Christian. What do you think about body language buddy?

[Christian]: The language of the body. [laughter] I think it’s good. I think it’s something we probably don’t focus on enough because you know there’s a lot of subconscious queues that we take from tone of voice and the…and the disposition of someone’s body that we don’t really recognize. You know we focus on scripts and what we say but you know it’s actually a relatively small amount of our communication, affective or not is through our words.

[Chris]: Absolutely. So interestingly enough if you haven’t…to anybody out there if you haven’t researched how body language works and how communication works, about 7% of all communication is vocal. Those are the words that I speak. The words coming out of my mouth. And 30…what was it? 38% of all of it was actually vocal. That is the inflection, the tone of our voice makes up more of the communication that we’re…in the message that we’re sending to others, than do the actual words that we speak today.

[Christian]: Wait is that why my wife is always upset with me? And she never focuses on what I say but how I say it?

[Chris]: Yes. Yeah that’s actually…

[Christian]: Lessons to learn there. OK. 

[Chris]: And yeah. So interestingly enough that you bring that up. People that are naturally able to read a room, so if you’ve come across somebody and you’re like “Wow they’re very perceptive”, it’s because they pay attention to body language. And women are way better at this than men are. Just naturally they stop and think. 

But 55% of all communication is through body language. It’s nonverbal. It’s in the gestures that we make. It’s in how we present ourselves. And, you know, for anybody watching this you’re not gonna see anything that I am doing but you’ll hear in the vocal inflection more than you’ll pay attention in the words that I am saying just statistically. So please keep listening to my inflection. [laughter]

But it’s extremely important. And I think that in real estate we have all these sales gurus that are telling you “This is what to say, this is what to say. Call them. This is what you need to say to somebody”. They’re writing scripts down. They’re telling you how often you need to call somebody. They’re telling you when like who you need to call. You need to call all your neighbors and you’re doing circle prospecting and you’re inviting them all to you open house. 

But it doesn’t tell you that…none of these coaches talk to you and say “And by the way when you call them don’t do this and talk like “Hi my name is Josh and I am a realtor and I am listing the house down the street. We have an open house coming up and I would like to invite you there [flat intonation]”. Because you’re gonna put everybody to sleep. Not only that but nobody wants to talk to somebody that they don’t know and they’re not passionate or enthusiastic about anything that they’re saying so the inflection makes a difference. What do you think Christian?

[Christian]: I think you’re real spot on there sparky.

[Chris]: Just keep petting my ego.

[Christian]: Yes.

[Chris]: Like words I never get tired of hearing. “You’re right”.

[Christian]: Yes it’s interesting because so much you know with something like google something like audio podcast, all you’re hearing is the voice of the content and the inflections. Right? So like on my other podcast it is interview based. It’s the Sea Town podcast. What I started doing is instead of having the guest sit you know across a chair across from me, everybody sitting and talking, I use my stand desk and we put the microphone in the middle and we stand. And have a conversation. 

Because there is actually you know statistics that talk about, you know, you actually have a lot more energy naturally and a lot more expressive when you’re standing and you can talk with your hands and you’re not like standing in a chair. And so you can actually hear them in someone’s voice as far as their energy level and their excitements if they’re standing versus if they’re sitting. You know. 

And I notices that myself. Like if I am monologue-ing or something I have to be really intentional like if I am doing video I need in my head I need to be super over the top excited because it might actually come out to the other person like I am talking normally.

[Chris]: Yeah and I mean it’s really weird because a lot of people talking about the inflection in your voice like if you’re selling something you need to be passionate about it. Because people hear the passion more than they hear the words that you’re saying. So if you’re sitting down with a seller or a buyer and you’re talking about “Oh this is the process and this is how we’re gonna help you buy the house and we’re gonna get you prequalified [flat tone]” versus “Hey this is awesome. You’re at a stage now where we have a lot to do and here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna get you prequalified and you’re gonna talk to X,Y,Z lenders and once we get the prequalification down we’re gonna start doing the home search. So you’ve given me some of the things and…[excited tone]”. 

The message is completely different. Inflection in how you talk. People can hear passion. People can hear whether or not you actually care about what you’re doing.

[Christian]: They can tell whether or not you believe in the product you are selling so to speak.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Christian]: Yeah.

[Chris]: “I think everybody should own a home” [flat tone] “I THINK EVERYBODY SHOULD OWN A HOME” [excited tone].

[Christian]: Your examples are killing me. Stop. Stop. 

[Chris]: [laughter] So I mean and then it comes down to like the body language. Right? So once you’re actually in front of people how important is body language? Well not only it is 55% of all communication but it…body language permeates even our vocal. It permeates our vocabulary. Right? You’re got phrases like ‘to shoulder a burden’. ‘To face up to it’. ‘Keep your chin up’. ‘Put your best foot forward’. They all describe how we can approach things and inevitably these phrases give an innate understanding of what that message is supposed to portray. Even if you’re not able to communicate it verbally. Right? People just understand what those mean. And that’s because we understand the messages that come across through body language. 

All right so here is some things that we could talk about how we can add body language into your repertoire. How you can focus on improving things. So there was a study done on using your index finder to point. And first off you should never point with your index finger mainly because there is lots of cultures that consider it rude. 

Secondly because this study had 2 different audiences, same speaker, same speech. In one speech the speaker was pointing with his index finger. In the other speech he was gesturing with his hands open, palms open, hands up. And 80…over 80% of the audience was receptive and thought that he was well mannered in the…in the speech where palms were open. Under 40%…actually over 40% of the audience thought he was arrogant and did not know what he was talking about in the speech where he was pointing with his index finger. So there is some food for thought there.

[Christian]: I mean I find that pretty interesting. I was talking about a case study. What…if our listening are thinking to themselves “What are we talking about when we’re talking about body language?”. Like the things that come to my mind are the obvious ones like if I am sitting you know leaning back in my chair with my arms crossed I am giving off, you know,  the impression that I am closed and I don’t give a [censored] about what you’re saying.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Christian]: If you know I am generally sitting with open posture I am receptive to what someone is saying or respectful or whatever.

[Chris]: Yeah. And…

[Christian]: Here are some examples.

[Chris]: In most times you’re right. Now there is a few reasons people are gonna sit with their arms crossed though. People are gonna sit with their arms crossed either they don’t give a [censored] about what you’re saying and they just…they…nothing you say is gonna get through to them or maybe they’re anxious. Maybe they’re nervous. 

All 3 of those feelings will come across when somebody is crossing their arms. For example, you know crossing arms isn’t just it as a…crossing arms is the most common especially for kids. But as people grow up they get more kind of conscious about what they’re doing with their hands and arms. They start taking on more of a subtle role. 

So if anybody has ever watched Prince Philip. Prince Philip will grab and adjust his cufflink which is his arm crossing his body. It’s a nervous tick that he has and he does it whenever he is in large crowds. Same thing Queen Elisabeth. She will clutch a purse. She will hold with both hands so she is crossing her body. And people, adults do this all the time. 

So it’s just watching for the subtleties and it’s learning to understand what they’re actually doing. And this is super important because Christian if you’re sitting across from me and you’re a seller and you’re talking about listing your house and your arms are crossed it’s not a good time for me to go in for a close and ask you to sign stuff.

[Christian]: [laughter] Yeah it doesn’t seem like a lot of buy in, you know.

[Chris]: No it’s time for me to start digging in and asking you questions to find out what’s really bugging you. So I mean…

[Christian]: What would you say…

[Chris]: Go head.

[Christian]: Sorry didn’t mean to interrupt your example. I was gonna say what are some examples for real estate agents to come across as far as like being in tune not only to your own body language but to your client’s body language as far as what they may be saying without saying it?

[Chris]: Well for us we want to make sure that we’re doing a few things. 1, we want to be open. We want to gesture with our hands open not with our index fingers. We never want to cross our body so when we’re seating we’re not crossing our legs. Now women in you’re wearing a skirt that is an exception. But we’re not fidgeting. We’re…our arms are open. Our arms and hands are not touching. Arms are not crossed. Sitting upright with a good posture. Those are all extremely important. 

Second your handshake. Your handshake is incredibly important. You want to have a firm handshake. There is 3 different styles of handshake and they all mean different things, right. If your handshake is palm up than that’s kind of a submissive handshake. Those are things that you would give when you’re meeting the pope, right. Somebody who is in a very important higher up kind of status. 

And then for the opposite of that is the palm down handshake where you are displaying authority. It could be a power symbol. So for the most part when you’re meeting with people especially clients, people that you’re doing business with you want to make sure that their handshake is vertical. Right, your palm is up and down and you want it to be firm. 

And then starting off with a good handshake because once…if the handshake gets [censored] up, if somebody misses whatever it is just grab their elbow, do it again. Say “Hey let’s get this right” because doing something like that is gonna show them that you care enough about them to make sure that you’re getting off on the right foot and you’re gonna make sure that the meeting is important.

[Christian]: Say when I mess up on a handshake I just go in for the awkward like “Hey bro…” bro hug you know. That usually…wait I don’t close my deals. 

[Chris]: Yeah never met someone with those [laughter]. That usually doesn’t work. 

[Christian]: Yeah I wouldn’t recommend it on the first meeting.

[Chris]: So there is actually ways that you can really make a handshake more powerful. But if somebody is…if you just know them, right, it creeps people out if you like touch them and give them a handshake. But if you just spend time like an hour getting very personal with somebody about what they have going on like when you shake their hand to leave you can grab the outside of their hand. Say “Thank you for your time.” Or maybe their elbow and just handshakes shouldn’t be more than 3 seconds. [laughter]. If they are they get creepy. But just doing that extra gesture shows that you care, that you can empathize with what they go through. 

It’s just not something that you do right when you meet somebody cos than it’s weird and creepy and they’re gonna think that you’re inauthentic. So I mean there is a lot of things that we can do as agents to use our body language to make a…the experience more warm, more inviting for our clients and the people that we’re meeting on a daily basis. 

[Christian]: Alright. So…So Chris give me some examples. Let’s do a brief list of body language to dos and body language to don’ts [laughter]. Things not to do. Let’s start with some stuff that we should be doing like specifically regarding, you know, maybe common interactions that a real estate agents would have with a client. What are some things they wouldn’t be conscious of when meeting a client?

[Chris]: Well when you’re meeting a client you always want to make sure that you’re making eye contact. That you’re not crossing your hands. You’re not fidgeting with anything. You are giving them your full attention. It’s important that you have good posture. That you’re upright. Shows that you are caring and paying attention on what they have to say.

[Christian]: OK now what if let’s say they are from an Asian background. Because a lot of these body language to dos are relevant to the American culture which you know to some other cultures we seem aggressive.

[Chris]: Yeah we definitely do.

[Christian]: But the Asian cultures you know it’s respectful to you know not make eye contact and look down you know or be more passive you know.

[Chris]: Culture is definitely something to pay attention to because it is extremely important. There is a great book out there and if I can remember it I will post it in the links. Which is basically like a cheat sheet of how to interact with like 100 different cultures. And what’s…what’s considered appropriate and what’s not. So that’s really up to the individual to know who they are gonna be meeting with. And to make sure that they understand how they need to act. 

Body language though is gonna be pretty universal. If you are fidgeting is gonna come across that you are not interested. If you’re crossing it’s gonna be closed off. And the reason body language is so universal is because that’s how communication happened before language developed. Like we had silent movies. Silent movies worked before audio came into the movies. People understood what was going on and that was universal. People can understand a story based off of not having words.

[Christian]: Sure interesting, interesting reminder yeah.

[Chris]: Sure there are cultural things but for the most part you want to be open, you don’t want to have anything crossed because you want to be considered trustworthy. You don’t want to touch your face. You don’t because touching your face is like a nervous tick for a lot of liars so you just want to stay away from all of that and just focus purely on what the other person is doing. Don’t fidget. Pay attention.

[Christian]: But what about the…the common…I don’t know if it’s a myth or not. You know I have heard that if people are lying they always look up and to the left. You know like that kind of stuff I mean like is…Because I know like when I think. Like if someone asks me a question I have to think about it. I notice that I look away. While I am thinking I don’t look back like I don’t know like that is subconsciously picked up or matters. You can’t really control it.

[Chris]: Well people pay attention to that stuff but I don’t know if it’s about a lie. So for that I think people look up in a way because they want to focus on their thought process and not be distracted by the person that is right in front of them. You want to pay attention to the person as much as possible. And sometimes they might ask you a difficult question and you need to think about some details but I will try not to pure away if possible. But you know that is a little outside of my realm. I am not too familiar how the unconscious works with you know look up and left or look up and right.

[Christian]: Very true. 

[Chris]: Based off of what you were saying.

[Christian]: OK so what…what…So getting into some of the things not to do. You know you mentioned you want to focus on the other person. What about when you focus on in the wrong way of too much and you know people get a creepy vibe? What are some body language things that give off that that ? You don’t want it.

[Chris]: I think [crosstalk]. For me really the worst is a bad handshake. The dead fish, the like bone crushes. The…the sweaty palm I mean it’s…those handshakes, those meetings never go well. Somebody comes in and they’re meeting with me and they come off the back like immediately I need to go the restroom and like wash my hands. And I understand, there is a certain…there is a percentage of the population that is like…somewhere between 10 and 15% of the population I think that suffers from a medical condition where they just overly sweat. I get it. But if you’re going into a business meeting before you go in have a handkerchief. Get a little dried off there and than, than start. 

[Christian]: Sure.

[Chris]: And I would probably say that the limp, the limp fish is like way worse the bone crushes. That’s probably the second worst in my book.

[Christian]: Sure.

[Chris]: But that’s like to me that’s like the holy grail. You don’t violate that.

[Christian]: Sure. Would you say that…that you kind of…I know it is a general statement but that…what does a handshake say about someone like either a bone crashes to me that says hey they are trying to…they are coming in aggressive. And they’re trying to dominate the other person.

[Chris]: Exactly.

[Christian]: While the limp fish is like super passive, not gonna have an opinion about things. Doesn’t want to offend people.

[Chris]: So the limp fish is an interesting one because for the most part yes. They’re like…they’re the message it conveys is that they’re submissive. They’re not gonna be very strong. But there’s a cavy out there. If they work in a profession where they use their hands like if they’re a surgeon don’t expect to get a strong handshake from a surgeon. Especially if they’re a very good one because their hands are insured. Because if…if they just do that naturally like all means to protect the tool that is their livelihood. 

But yeah typically the bone crusher is a power move. People don’t do that on accident. They do that because they want to make an impression. And I think a lot of people come in with the bone crushes thinking “Oh I am gonna show them that I really mean business and I am gonna crush their hand and show them that this is a strong handshake”. But the reality is that if you go to do something like that to somebody and you are not their superior, you are not in a position of authority with them it’s a complete turn off. I had a home inspector do that for me and you know what I am not messing with them. I don’t want to deal with anybody that is just trying to put on a show. And you know be more important than they are. Just vertical…

[Christian]: Type a yeah?

[Chris]: Yeah. Firm match the grip of somebody…of the other person. That’s all you gotta do. It’s not hard. It’s not rocket science.

[Christian]: Sure.

[Chris]: But I am finding out that like I don’t know, did your dad ever teach you how to do a handshake when you were younger? 

[Christian]: My dad didn’t teach me [censored]. I hope he doesn’t listen to this podcast. [laughter]. Not now there wasn’t a lot of intentional training that I remember from my dad unfortunately.

[Chris]: OK so a lot of…a lot of man get that.

[Christian]: Yeah.

[Chris]: Women don’t. That’s not something that is taught to women. So women have to get out and learn these stuff because they will come into…if a woman comes in and they do a very weak handshake in a business environment they’re gonna be thought of as feminine. And they’re gonna be treated as such. 

If they don’t come in with that firm handshake that says “Hey I am here I am on equal ground with you and we’re gonna do this” than there is…it’s been traced that they’ll be treated differently. Conversely if they come in with a bone crusher nobody is gonna want to deal with them. They’re here for a power play which…

[Christian]: Sure. I am sure there is gonna be some subconscious double standard where they’re gonna be “Me and you rather as dudes and not used to think in terms of…and OK if a guy you know does this thing this is my response but if a woman does it I am gonna think about it differently” you know like…

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Christian]: Yeah that can definitely be unfair in the business world. You know kind of a double standard that we subconsciously apply. 

[Chris]: Definitely. There is a great book for anybody who is interested in learning more about body language and how it can impact and shape how your business ventures go. Not only in your business life but it also talks about things that you need to know in your daily life. How to read a bar, how to read a party and you’re able to see how people are feeling based off of how they interact. The book is called The Definitive Book of Body Language. The Hidden Meaning Behind People’s Gestures and Expressions. By Allen and Barbara Peas [phonetics]. It’s a great book. Currently reading it now and somewhat sound like an expert based off of that but don’t take it for granted. 

[Christian]: Oh yeah.

[Chris]: I get my info from books. 

[Christian]: I will make sure it doesn’t go to your head.

[Chris]: Thank you. I appreciate that. No it’s definitely good stuff. It’s important that we pay attention to how we’re communicating with people not just verbally, not just vocally but also through our body language. So everybody thank you so much for tuning in. This has been another episode of re:Think Real Estate. We’ll be back next week. Nate will be back. And I think we’ve got some guests coming up soon. So we will have some good guests. We’ll see you soon. 


[Chris]: Thanks for tuning in this week’s episode of the re:Think Real Estate Podcast. We would love to hear your feedback so please leave us a review on iTunes. Our music is curtesy of Dan Koch K-O-C-H, whose music can be explored and licensed for use at dankoch.net. Thank you Dan. Please like, share and follow. You can find us on Facebook at Facebook.com/rethinkpodcast. Thank you so much for tuning in everyone and have a great week.