Don’t underestimate space and body language

301 words by Corinna-Rosa Falkenberg

I still remember how, during my time in investment banking, I understood that negotiations are conducted differently by men and women, in particular on an unconscious level. That was my first job after graduation and I was the only woman among many men in our meeting room. Some of the “biggest” floor traders were in the room. Definitely a lot of testosterone.
I noticed how the men clarified their ranking shortly after entering. This was done through gestures, facial expressions and literally taking a lot of physical and mental room.

I was flabbergasted and had to think how I once witnessed a cockfight in Java which was organized by the men of a village. The strong stings the weak. During our meeting, most of the negotiation was also based on the hierarchical levels established in the first few minutes. In this way, competence, power and status were conveyed.

Two points, however, I took with me at the time:

1) The effect through “space” engaging behavior
2) The meaning of body language.

If I want to be perceived as competent and powerful, I sit at the negotiating table with my legs elegantly crossed and my hands on my lap instead of speaking with legs apart and elbows on the table. Do I allow direct eye contact I show strength and that is a different sign than tilting the head down when speaking. And if I go into the room when entering it instead of standing at the doorframe, even to walk towards the person opposite when speaking, if necessary, brings with it a special perception of power.
This insight became a form of mindfulness to me as well as a valuable lesson of life that small behavioral changes can have a huge impact on how I am going to be perceived!

About the author
Corinna-Rosa Falkenberg is an attorney who specializes in economic issues. Prior to that, she worked in the investment banking department of an internationally operating bank before founding the non-profit association, Stella Bildung Bewegt e.V., which to date has been able to provide educational opportunities for more than 5000 children and young women worldwide. In her private life she loves to dance barefoot in nature or to express herself artistically – this is also how her first book „Crazy for Life: In Love with Life“ was recently published. 

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