Episode 123 : How Body Language Impacts Customer Experience and Our Lives

Blanca Cobb is an internationally recognized body language expert who’s been featured on national television shows such as the Steve Harvey Show, TODAY Show, Megyn Kelly TODAY, Dr. Oz, Dr. Drew, CNN, Face the Truth, The Doctors to name a few as well as publications around the world, such as Cosmopolitan, Us Weekly, Elite Daily, Business Insider, Elle, Daily Mail among others. Blanca shares her expertise weekly on a CBS affiliate, WFMY News 2, in North Carolina.

When it comes to corporate America, Blanca’s in the relationship business. Her approach to sales is the relationship dynamics between sales professionals and their clients. It’s what isn’t said, but seen that can either drive or stall the sales process. Blanca also turns professionals into rock stars on camera, whether you’re booked for a TV segment, or making your own videos. She says to not let the small screen of the virtual world fool you, nonverbal communication is equally important on video calls and on camera when you’re making videos to promote yourself, your products, your services and your company.

Questions

  • Could you tell us a little bit about what is being a body language expert entail? And where does body language even extend to? We see it a lot in customer service and I heard a lot about sales in your bio, but just tell us about what different industries and careers does body language impact? Does it impact everyone? And is it a cultural thing? Just share a little bit about how you got into it? And who does it really impact the most?
  • If you really want to be someone who masters body language, especially if you’re a customer facing person, what are some key things that you would need to do to ensure that when people come into your presence, even before you speak, they feel welcomed?
  • In terms of let’s say, for example, you are trying to improve on your body language. What do you think of all the different components, you would have mentioned examples of hand gesticulations, walking, how you move your hands, facial expression, if you were to maybe give a weighting to the different types of body language, which do you think is the most important and can have the greatest impact on an interaction?
  • Could you share with us maybe what’s the one online resource, tool, website or app that you absolutely can’t live without in your business?
  • Could you share maybe one or two books that have had the biggest impact on you, it could be a book that you read many years ago or maybe something you read recently that has really impacted you?
  • Could you share with us maybe one thing that’s going on in your life right now something that you’re really excited about? It could be something that you’re working on to develop yourself or your people.
  • Could you tell our listeners where they could find you online if they wanted to connect with you further?
  • Do you have a quote or saying that during times of adversity or challenge, you’ll tend to revert to this quote, it kind of helps to maybe refocus you or just get you back on track if you got derailed?

Highlights

Blanca’s Journey

Me: So could you share a little bit about what is a body language expert, as I mentioned to you when I came into the Clubhouse room, and I was so eagerly excited when we connected again. I saw you on a TV show maybe a year and a half ago, actually, when I checked my archives, the invitation I had sent to you was from 2019 and for whatever reason, we just didn’t get to synchronize our schedules and connect. And I was like this lady, I need to interview her because I talk about body language so much in my customer service trainings so I couldn’t believe there was a body language expert out there, somebody who could now validate all of what I’ve been saying.

Could you tell us a little bit about what is being a body language expert entail? And where does body language even extend to? We see it a lot in customer service and I heard a lot about sales in your bio, but just tell us about what different industries and careers does body language impact? Does it impact everyone? And is it a cultural thing? Just share a little bit about how you got into it? And who does it really impact the most?

Blanca shared that how she got into it is a long story but she’ll make it short. When she was a little girl, she was always watching body language, but she didn’t know what she was doing. So she didn’t have a very happy childhood, she was an abused little girl and what she was doing is, she was always watching for signs of when the next beating was going to happen.

And those signs were listening to changes in the tone of voice, watching hand movements, just looking at body posture, facial expression, it even got down to footsteps walking down a hall, where I could tell whether this person was happy or not happy, and what could possibly happen.

So paying attention and as you might imagine, she really didn’t know who she could trust growing up and other things happened to her as a child also. And so then, when she grew up, she knew she wanted to go into a helping profession and she ended up getting a Master’s Degree in Psychology and she has studied with heavy hitters, very well respected professionals in the non-verbal world, as well as a detecting deception world. And she has just combined the two and voila, here she is.

So the second part of the question is impact. And industry, every single industry, every facet of life, no matter if it’s a personal or professional relationship and acquaintance, somebody you meet at the bus stop or in the grocery store, it’s about body language.

When you go into a store and you’re both reaching for the same item, you’re using body language, you’re trying to figure out, well, can I grab this or does that person have it first?

So it’s everything. When you’re on a telephone, when you just hear voice, how that person is talking, how they’re projecting their voice.

Do they sound happy?

Do they sound confused?

Do they sound angry?

It’s everything and everywhere body language touches. You cannot communicate without some level of nonverbal communication. And if you think about it, even babies when they come out of the womb, they do not know how to talk, it takes a while for children to learn how to talk, however they’re communicating, they’re communicating through their cries and they stop crying when parents attend to their needs, this is done non-verbally, this isn’t done with words. So it’s just innate, it’s part of who we are.

Keys for Mastering Customer Experience When Using Body Language

Me: So basically, body language affects everyone. Now, let’s bring it to customer service Blanca, because as you know, our audience is all about improving the quality of their customers’ experience. People have a lot of nuances, body language refers to your facial expressions, as you mentioned, your walk, your hand gesticulations, body movements, anything that can definitely send a signal to someone else that would indicate whether their intention for you or against you. And so, in the Caribbean, I don’t know if you’ve been to the Caribbean before, but in Jamaica, for sure, we’re extremely expressive people and we have this saying locally that says, “It’s not what you say, but it’s how you say it.” And that comes over in your body language and your facial expressions, and all that kind of stuff. But if you really want to be someone who masters body language, especially if you’re a customer facing person, what are some key things that you would need to do to ensure that when people come into your presence, even before you speak, they feel welcomed?

Blanca stated that that’s a great question. So she will start with that part first. It’s your body language, because people are picking up your vibes.

So let’s say you’re in a bad mood that day, and then you try to fake it, you might not get away with it as well as you think you can. Because what happens is your body will leak an emotion, you try to hide not feeling well, or just not being into work that day.

But people are going to be able to see some type of leakage in your face and what she’s talking about are micro expressions. So this is with an involuntary facial expression that you make when you’re trying to hide how you’re really feeling but your body, your face is going to leak the true emotion.

And these micro expressions occur within like 150 seconds, so like within a blink of an eye and people, they might not be able to recognize exactly what they saw but they’re going to sense that, they’re going intuit it, and they’re going to say, “Hmm, this person isn’t quite as happy, maybe I don’t want to talk to them, I’m going to talk to a different customer service rep.”

So you have to pay attention to your own body language. So you want to have open body language, so what that means is you don’t want to stand behind a counter, you stand behind a counter, you actually have a physical object between you and the other person. So subconsciously, people are going to see that as an obstacle, it’s so much better when you walk around the counter, and it’s you and that person face to face and you have a nice big smile on your faces, you’re welcoming them, or asking them how you might be able to help them, you want to make sure that your hands are free, you’re not holding any objects when you’re initially meeting somebody.

And when you’re talking, you want to have your hands out in front of you and present, you want your palms up, when you have your palms up, you’re sending a nonverbal message that you’re being friendly, you’re being straightforward, you’ve got nothing to hide, because people can see your palms. And then you want to make sure that your body is facing towards them and this includes your feet, your feet takes you in the direction where you want to go. If your feet are facing towards the customer, that’s very welcoming, if your feet are slightly turned either to the right or the left, even though you might have your upper body facing the person, they’re still going to perceive that you’re not quite into that interaction.

Me: So you want to be aware of how you’re positioned. Do you think culture impacts how people just manage their body language or how they interact?

Blanca stated absolutely yes. There are cultural differences everywhere because like Yanique was saying in Jamaica, there’s a certain phrase that you use, I think you said, it isn’t what you say, but how you say it. Or phrasing here.

So, let’s say there’s somebody from a different country, but that’s not as common there. So right there, you have a cultural difference, it doesn’t make one right and the other wrong, it just makes it that it’s different. And in order to understand people and get on people’s level, you have to adapt to what they’re showing you and you have to adapt to their culture, that doesn’t mean you need to become a cultural expert in their country or their culture. But what it does mean is that you need to have some sensitivity. So the best way to handle this when you’re not sure of cultural differences is to meet the person where they are. What this means is, she gives a good example.

What this means is, let’s say their energy level or their animation, or their excitement is at a level 3, but you’re at a level 9, there’s a big difference there from a 3 to a 9, so if you come in at a 9 where you’re like really excited, “Hey, it’s so good to see you, I’m so glad you walked into the store, Baba, Baba Baba.” And they come in a little lower key, that’s going to be a turnoff to them.

She likes to make these analogies to dating. So it’s like if somebody comes across too strong, too much, then you pull back, you’re like, “Whoa, where’s this coming from? This is too much too soon, too fast.” So that’s why you adapt to the same level that they are, the level three and the example that she’s giving and then together you can move up that scale. Because what that means is that you have the same energy level, and the same tone of voice and mannerisms as them, go down to the level 3. And then as they get comfortable, and as they start to get to know you and feel comfortable in the interaction, then you can move up together, but it’s something that’s done simultaneously and it comes across more natural, and it’s very sensitive to where they are, and then they feel understood. And when people feel understood and validated, guess what? They end up liking you more.

Me: Agreed. In terms of the example you gave just now, I remember I was watching a video a few years ago, and there was a term that they use called mirroring, would the example you gave in terms of matching that person as to where they are be similar to mirroring?

Blanca stated that it is. And so mirroring, it’s essentially the same thing, she’s just use an example instead of using the word mirroring. So she’ll give you specific examples of mirroring. So let’s say you’re talking to somebody, and you notice that they adjust their watch. So then a few seconds later, you don’t want to do it immediately, but a few seconds later, then you might adjust the sleeve of your shirt. So it’s that similarity. And the reason mirroring works so well, is because and she always say this, “Like, likes, like.” Saying that again, “Like, likes, like.” What that means is people like people who are similar to them. And so, when people feel that you’re similar to them, and it’s what she was talking about earlier, when they feel like you get them, you understand them, you validate them, and they can’t help but like you, it makes them feel good. It makes them feel like there’s a commonality between the two of you.

So mirroring absolutely does work. So for example, let me give another example. Let’s say they lean on the counter, then you want to wait a few seconds and then you might want to lean on a chair, if a chairs nearby if you’re standing up. But the thing as she keeps talking about that timing, you want to wait a few seconds, because if it’s like they do something, you do something immediately after, that comes across as creepy, and you don’t want to come across as creepy and inauthentic and that’s why you wait a few seconds and someone might go, “Wait a second Blanca, you’re talking about creepy and inauthentic. If I’m mirroring isn’t that action really creepy and inauthentic?” No, it isn’t, at first it’s going to feel that way but you have to think about your intent, your intent is to make this person feel comfortable, your intent is to establish rapport with this person, your intent is to help develop trust in this customer service situation. So if the intent is pure, then it isn’t creepy or inauthentic, it might feel that way at first. So it’s like with any skill, the more you do it, the better you get, the more comfortable you are with it.

Body Language – The Most Important and Greatest Impact on an Interaction

Me: So Blanca we spoke about just how it is that you can adjust yourself as it relates to body language. In terms of let’s say, for example, you are trying to improve on your body language. What do you think of all the different components, you would have mentioned examples of hand gesticulations, walking, how you move your hands, facial expression, if you were to maybe give a weighting to the different types of body language, which do you think is the most important and can have the greatest impact on an interaction?

Blanca stated that this is a fabulous question, and it isn’t one over the other, it’s all of them in unison. Because if you think about it, our body works together, our muscles are all interconnected in our body, even though you may not realize it. You might have a shoulder pain that’s really connected to a lower back problem. All muscles are connected. So it’s the same thing with body language. If you want to just focus on facial expressions, and you want to come across as more engaging and happy so you have a smile on your face but then you have tension in your shoulders, that’s a disconnect, that’s not going work.

People are going to think that face that you’re making of being happy, it’s fake and phoney, you know what they’re going to focus on the tension in your shoulders. People are going to believe the negative before they believe the positive. That’s why it all needs to work together as a symphony of body language.

Me: So then, in order for it to work as a symphony, what are some of the things that you would need to do maybe exercise, eat properly, surround yourself with positive things, do those things help to enhance your body language in a positive way?

Blanca stated that it helped enhance you as a person because it keeps you healthy, it keeps your energy up when you’re taking care of your body, so that helps exude positive body language. The best thing that you can do is pay attention to your own body language and although we do not walk around with a mirror with us, and we can look at ourselves all the time when we’re interacting, what you do have is how somebody responds to you, that’s your mirror. So, if you think you’re actually being happy, and you’re being engaging, and you’re being friendly, but yet somebody isn’t responding, and kind, then you have to think a couple of things. Is it the vibe that you’re putting out? Or maybe there’s something that’s off for them in that given moment? So you have to think about that.

And another tip that she would have for people is to record yourself, use a camera, you can use your phone, put it off to the side, have a conversation, practice a pitch, practice how you might interact with somebody and then go back and watch it. Now, the only problem with that when you’re doing it by yourself, you might come across a little stiff or awkward on film, or on camera, because you’re really talking to yourself, so then practice with a friend or family member or somebody. So that way, it’s more of a real interaction and then you can go ahead and eliminate any awkwardness or stiffness that you might see on the replay.

Me: And this would be applicable for salespeople as well.

Blanca agreed. Yes, for anybody when you’re dealing with the public, speakers, before you go on stage you practice and video, that’s how she coaches people who want to be speakers. She’s evaluating them, pointing out what they’re doing great, areas that they need to work on. And then she gives them suggestions on how to make themselves better, but then they also see themselves and they do self-evaluation, that’s really important to be self-aware of yourself. Seemingly important. That gives you insight and then you’ll see things that you don’t even realize about yourself, because we don’t walk around with a mirror, staring at ourselves all the time. The video really helps.

Me: And it’s good too, because one of the recommendations I give to participants, especially those who has to deal with customers daily, but they need to remember to smile and they have the ability to afford having a mirror at their desk, I recommend, especially if they’re working our call centre, for example, that they put a mirror at their desk that helps to remind them that for each caller, they need to maintain a pleasant countenance or at least sound welcoming enough, because you may come off the phone with someone who just really rattled you completely. But it doesn’t mean that that energy from that telephone call should transfer into the next call because that person doesn’t know what you’re coming out of and they’re expecting somebody welcoming and approachable.

Blanca agreed. Absolutely and she’s glad that Yanique brought that up because if there is a bad call, and let’s say they’re going to be jumping on the next call, what they should do is stand up, move around, shake it off, like physically shake it off even if they have a next call coming in, then sit in the chair, and just move because what you’re doing is you’re getting out of that negative energy that you’re feeling at the moment.

It’s a way just to make it dissipate, just to make it go away before you jump on the next call. And the idea of the mirror is perfect, particularly when you have a tough call, watch yourself because what happens is you may not even realize that you’re rolling your eyes as you’re helping the person. You may not realize that you’re giving a look of disgust and disgust as if you can imagine smelling something that’s like rotting that just smells bad, like super bad, like diarrhoea or vomit and your nose automatically crinkles, that is a look of disgust. And a lot of people will do that.

Another facial expression people make that you can see yourself in it and if you’re not in a very pleasant conversation with somebody and you’re watching yourself in the mirror, the look of contempt. And the look of contempt is the only facial expression that’s unilateral that occurred on one side. And what it looks like is just the corner, one corner of your mouth, it slightly goes up and what that means is moral superiority.

So imagine if you know you’re right, as the customer service rep and this person who you’re talking to, a customer is really giving you a hard time, you might make that look of contempt and that is something that you should be aware of. And the reason it’s so important, is because the negativity that you’re feeling in this conversation can carry over to the next person. And also, if this is how you respond when someone’s giving you a hard time or when something isn’t going well, then you’re going to be transferring that body language, those facial expressions when you’re meeting someone in real life and then they can really see it.

App, Website or Tool that Blanca Absolutely Can’t Live Without in Her Business

When asked about online resources that she can’t live without in her business, Blanca stated that it’s Clubhouse. So for those who are not familiar with Clubhouse, it’s only available right now for iOS. This is an audio app, this is where you can connect with people and make connections. And you are actually talking, you’re in a room with a lot of other people from all around the world that have similar interests, or people who are learning about a new topic and you’re talking just like you and I are talking right now, it’s fascinating. She cannot tell you how many people she has met that she would never have met otherwise. She lives on the east coast in the United States. So people from the west coast all the way to abroad, it is fascinating. She loves it. She absolutely loves it, cannot imagine not having that right now.

This is how she and Yanique reconnected, through the Clubhouse app. True.

Me: Very true. It’s a really, really good app. But it’s been my experience that you have to manage yourself with it because it can run away and your day gets caught up in Clubhouse and you don’t actually achieve your goals. So one of the things I’ve done to manage myself with is I’ve turned off notifications, because it can be extremely distracting. Every time there’s a new room that opens up and it’s they’re notifying my phone and I’m doing something and I stop and I go, “Oh, this topic looks interesting.” And then you just get derailed completely. But I do agree with you, it’s a wonderful application, whoever was the brainchild of it in terms of having audio where people could go in and have live conversations, you can definitely learn and gain a lot of knowledge and insight and as you said, connect with people who you’d have never had the opportunity to connect with otherwise.

Books That Have Had the Greatest Impact on Blanca

When asked about books that have the biggest impact, Blanca shared that for her, it’s not a particular book, it is the genre of the book. So for example, this is a particular book Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss is an excellent book. He is a former FBI, a hostage negotiator and he has made a book or written a book I should say, about how to negotiate and she loves it because it’s a skill that we all need. So for genres for her, it’s like understanding people. So psychological books that really help you understand people and help you understand yourself. She thinks that is such an important skill to have because we will always have people in our lives, we will have people who come into our lives and stay and we will have people who leave our lives. But every touchpoint, every person who we have a relationship whether it’s personal or professional, makes an impact on us. And we can learn from every one of those interactions and relationships. And so, that’s why she goes back to the genre. So there isn’t a particular book, it’s just the subject.

What Blanca is Really Excited About Now!

Blanca stated that she is really excited to share that she is putting the polishing touches on an ebook, Emotions Behind the Mask is the title of this ebook because everyone is wearing masks, how do you read facial expressions when the majority of your face is covered by a mask?

So it’s important because we’re going to continue to wear a mask and it looks like it might be until the next year into 2022. But how can you still make a connection? How can you still understand some nonverbals of somebody else in our social distancing world? That is so important nonverbal communication. So she’s super excited about that.

And then she has created a programme how to help people be rock stars on camera, whether they’re booked for a TV segment, or whether they’re creating their own videos for video marketing, for themselves, their products, their services or their company. So those are two big things that she has going that she loves. She’s very passionate about people having better lives.

Again, going back to the beginning of the conversation, she didn’t have a very happy childhood or adolescence. And so it’s important for her that people have healthy relationships, that they can get along and know who to trust and who has their back. People need happiness, part of your happiness in life are the people who you select to be in your life and that’s where she can make a big difference for people.

Where Can We Find Blanca Online

Website – www.blancacobb.com

Clubhouse – Blanca Cobb

Instagram – @blancacobb

Facebook – Blanca Cobb

Twitter – @BlancaCobb

YouTube – Blanca Cobb

Quote or Saying that During Times of Adversity Blanca Uses

When asked about a quote or saying that she tends to revert to, Blanca shared, “You’re stronger than you know.”

In times when we have extreme stress, when we just rethink why am I even getting up in the morning because it’s going to be the same day nothing has changed, you have a lot of stress, you have children or spouses who are counting on you, or you’re not sure what’s going to happen with your job. When you feel like you just want to get into the corner and cry, that’s where you have to really pull deep within yourself and understand you’re stronger than you know, get out of bed. You can do this, even when you feel the whole world is against you. You’re stronger than you know.

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