Business Body Language 101: It's Not About What YOU Say, It's About Where YOU Sit

“It has been well-established by researchers that those who can effectively read and interpret nonverbal communication, and manage how others perceive them, will enjoy greater success in life than individuals who lack this skill.” — Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence

There’s a lot to be said when it comes to observing the world around you. However, what you might not realize is that each and every time you sit down for a business meeting or on a job interview (or on a date) – you are, in fact, revealing something.

Here are a few fun examples displaying different seating positions and what their hidden meanings are. The following information is from the international bestselling book The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease.

The Competitive/Defensive Position
Fun Facts:

  • People tend to speak in shorter sentences from this position.
  • People can recall less information from this position.
  • People are more likely to argue from this position.

“In business scenarios, 56 percent saw the Competitive/Defensive Position as a competitive position, but in social situations, such as a restaurant, 35 percent saw it as conversational.”

This works in the restaurant setting because this position allows for good eye contact.
If Person B is trying to persuade Person A – this position is likely to reduce the probability of success, unless, of course, Person B wants to appear as a subordinate for strategy’s sake.
“A.G. White conducted an experiment in doctors’ offices that showed that the presence or absence of a desk had a significant effect on whether a patient was at ease or not. Only 10 percent of patients were perceived to be at ease when the doctor’s desk was present and the doctor sat behind it. The figure increased to 55 percent when the desk was absent.” 
The Cooperative Position
This position occurs when two people are thinking on the same page. It’s a great position to build a connection and create a feeling of rapport.

Fun Facts:

  • One of the best positions for presenting information and having the information accepted.
  • Allows for great eye contact and the ability for light touch.
  • Allows for body language mirroring and body language observation.

You do not want to be seen as a threat (or creepy) when moving into this position. In Part 2 of “Body Language 101,” I’ll provide some insight on what facial expressions and what body language to look for to know whether it’s a go or it’s a no. 

The Board Room
Who’s got the power?
According to body language experts Allan and Barbara Pease, Person B would be the most influential because he or she is at the head of the table and facing the door. A study was done by Strodtbeck and Hook and found that Person B was actually viewed as being from a high economic class as well. In addition, Person A and B are seen as being very task-oriented. On the power ladder, it goes A, B, D, C, and E.