How the Best Salespeople Read Body Language

Carol Kinsey Gorman on How the Best Salespeople Read Body LanguageBy Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

Being aware of what customers and clients are really feeling, and knowing how to react effectively, can transform a good salesperson into a great one.

The best salespeople are experts at reading body language.

Here’s why this is a crucial sales skill: When you are interacting with a prospective client, you are both communicating on two levels – one verbal, one nonverbal. And while the verbal interchange is obviously important, it may not be the most important when negotiations get tricky or subtle personality complications arise.

During any kind of sales presentation, the most informative body language signals to monitor are your prospect’s engagement and disengagement behaviors. The former indicate interest, receptivity, or agreement with what you are saying. The latter show resistance, defensiveness, disagreement, and even hostility. All of these signals are revealed in a combination of eye activities, facial expressions, head movements, hand and arm gestures, torso positions, and leg and feet movement.

While it may sound like an impossible task to spot these nonverbal signals while keeping track of a complicated verbal negotiation with someone you may never have met before, remember that you’ve been reading and reacting unconsciously to body language cues all your life. What’s different now is that you’ll be taking conscious note of these signals, using them to gauge how things are going, and then making appropriate adjustment to ensure the best possible outcome.

So to begin with:

  1. Watch the eyes 

Having presented your prospect with two written options, you observe that his gaze lingers longer on one than on the other. If, in addition, you see his eyes open wide or his pupils dilate, you know for certain that he has a much greater interest in this option.

In general, people tend to look longer and with more frequency at people or objects they are drawn to. A person may be trying to appear uninterested, but his eyes will keep returning to the object that attracts him most.

The same holds for eye contact. Research suggests that maintaining eye contact between 60-70 percent of the time is ideal for creating rapport. And in a negotiation setting, when people like or agree with you, they automatically increase the length of time they look into your eyes.

Disengagement, contrarily, triggers less than normal eye contact. People tend to look away from things and people they don’t like. A prospect who is bored with you or feels restless may avoid eye contact entirely by gazing past you, defocusing, or glancing around the room. And, instead of opening wide, eyes that are signaling disengagement will narrow slightly. Eye narrowing may also be observed when people read various parts of a contract or proposal. When this occurs, it is almost always a sign of their having seen something troubling, or problematic.

Researchers have known for years that eye pupil size is a major clue in determining a person’s emotional responses. The pupils are a part of our body we have practically no control over. Therefore, pupil dilation can be a very effective way to gauge someone’s interest. Pupils dilate for various reasons, including memory load and cognitive difficulty, but pupils also dilate to express positive feelings about the person we’re talking to or the object we’re looking at. When someone is less than receptive, however, his or her pupils will automatically constrict.

  1. Notice facial expressions

Typically, someone who is in agreement with you will smile and nod as you speak. Disagreement shows up in compressed or pursed lips, lowered eyebrows, a tense mouth, clenched jaw muscles, or a head turned slightly away, causing an awkward sidelong eye contact.

  1. Learn what gestures are saying

In general, the more open the position of your customer’s arms, the more receptive he or she will be to the sales process. Watch for expansive, welcoming gestures that seem to flow naturally. When someone reaches toward you or uses a lot of open-hand gestures, it is usually a positive signal of interest and receptivity. By contrast, people who are defensive or angry may protectively fold their arms across their chests, clench their fists or tightly grip their arm or wrist.

As the negotiation progresses, hand and arm movements are one of the best indicators of changes in emotions. For example, when you start the conversation your prospect’s hands may be resting openly on the table. If they pull away or withdraw to under the table, it’s probably a signal that something unsettling or unwanted just happened. In contrast, if someone is about to make a sincere disclosure, they will usually show their hands — placing both hands on the table or gesturing as they speak.

  1. Notice shoulders and torso

The shoulders and torso play an important role in nonverbal communication. The more your customers/clients like and agree with you, the more they will lean toward you, or the more closely they will stand before or beside you. On the other hand, when you say or do things they disagree with or are uncertain about, the more they will tend to lean back and create additional space between the two of you.

When you see people turn their shoulders and torso away from you, you’ve probably lost their interest. In fact, orienting away from someone in this manner almost always conveys detachment or disengagement, regardless of the words spoken. When people are engaged, they will face you directly, “pointing” at you with their torso. However, the instant they feel uncomfortable, they will turn away – literally giving you “the cold shoulder.” And if someone is feeling defensive, you may see an attempt to shield the torso with a purse, briefcase, laptop, etc.

People who are in agreement tend to mirror one another’s behavior. One will lead and the other will follow. If you notice your prospect has assumed the same basic body orientation as yours, move slightly and see if he follows suit. If he does, you know you’ve made a positive connection.

  1. Read feet signals

Feet and legs are not only our primary means of locomotion, they are also the main indicators of our “ “fight, flight, or freeze” survival strategies. And they are programmed to respond faster than the speed of thought. Before we’ve had time to form any conscious plan, our limbic brain has already made sure that, depending on the situation, our feet and legs are primed to freeze in place, run away, or kick out in defense.

If someone is sitting with ankles crossed and legs stretched forward, they are probably feeling positively toward you. But when you see feet pulled away from you or wrapped in a tight ankle lock or pointed at the exit or wrapped around the legs of a chair, you would be wise to suspect withdrawal and disengagement.

Other signals from feet include:

  • High-energy heel bouncing almost always indicates that the party involved has “happy feet” – and is feeling pretty good about his bargaining position. And if your seated opponent rocks back on his heels and raises his toes – he probably thinks he has the upper hand.
  • In the opposite case, bouncing legs that suddenly go still is probably a sign of heightened anticipation – the equivalent of holding your breath.
  • Crossed legs send their own set of cues. If the foot on the leg that is crossed on top is pointing towards you, the person is most likely engaged. If the opposite leg is crossed so the top foot is pointing away, the person may be withdrawing.

In conclusion

Be observant without making it obvious, Trust your instinctive reactions but improve your accuracy by consciously analyzing the nonverbal signals being sent. And remember, you are already much better doing this than you may know. Successfully reading body language has helped the human race survive for the last several million years. The best salespeople have simply turned a survival skill into a savvy technique for success.

About the Author: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is a global speaker, leadership presence coach, and media expert on body language in the workplace. She’s a leadership contributor for Forbes and author of “The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help – or Hurt – How You Lead.” Reach Carol by email:, telephone: 510-526-1727, or through her website: 

Executive Briefing 11.2.15 – Body Language of Women Running for President; Public Relations Research; Coexistence of FINRA and Social Media

CommPRO-Executive-BriefingIn today’s Executive Briefing we take a look at The Body Language of Women Running for President with Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.  Also included is a Short Story: The Coexistence of FINRA and Social Media by Jeff Mard, Vice President, HMG Company.

As we celebrate the fifth anniversary of CommPRO, I’d like to take a moment to thank our loyal readers and partners for their continued support. We hope our new readers enjoy CommPRO and welcome your feedback and suggestions so we continue to provide a unique and relevant service. You can reach me at:

Click here to view today’s post.




Does Your Body Speak the Language of True Executive Presence?

Denise Dudley, Author, Work It! Get In, Get Noticed, Get Promoted

You know to pay close attention to the words you choose, but what about how you look when delivering your messages? Your body language is like a huge sign around your neck—written in a language that’s easily decipherable—revealing all sorts of things about you. And without knowing it, you could be inadvertently undermining your personal credibility with something as seemingly innocuous as a quick frown, or a momentary shoulder shrug—placed at exactly the wrong moment.

Let’s examine some simple, direct, and instantly integrable things you can do as a leader to appear more powerful, in charge, approachable, and charismatic (yes, “charismatic” consistently makes it onto the lists of “traits of successful leaders). 

Open facial expression, combined with leaning forward (just slightly) when listening.

Open facial expression means that you deliberately look like you’re giving your undivided attention to others, that you’re taking in what they’re saying, and that you are not making any dismissive judgments as you’re listening.  The best way to develop this expression is to practice in a mirror until you can sense what it feels like. Why? Because some people unconsciously frown or look worried as they’re listening, which can shut down communication. By cultivating an open facial expression, people will be much more relaxed and receptive around you.

By leaning forward, you signal that you’re interested, engaged, and actively listening to others. We often do this naturally when we’re truly “present” in a conversation. It encourages the other person to open up—and people tend to like and trust leaders who appear to truly listen to them.

Assertive eye contact.

It’s important to look people directly in the eyes when you’re interacting with them. There are actually two times when it’s essential: when you’re giving instructions, and when you’re sharing information. But even in general, to connect with others, you must look at them. By doing so, you’re showing that you’re engaged in the conversation, you’re interested in what they’re saying, you’re confident about your role as leader, and you’re an open, friendly person. Incidentally, it’s also important to break eye contact just a tiny bit, or you’ll appear intimidating. So ideal, assertive eye contact involves looking directly at the other person (mostly), and breaking eye contact (just a little).

Powerful posture.

Studies show that people with good posture are seen as more successful, harder working, and more reliable—all desirable traits in a world-class leader. Relax your arms at your sides (or on your lap or desktop, if sitting), bring your shoulders back, and place your feet slightly apart when standing, or directly on the floor when sitting. With your arms at your sides, rather than in your pockets or folded over your chest, you look open and non-judgmental. (And always avoid playing with your cuticles, jingling the keys in your pocket, or any other form of fidgeting.) Putting your shoulders back signals that you’re comfortable with yourself, able to “own your own space,” confident, and unafraid. Standing with your feet slightly apart (but no exaggerated “block and tackle” stance, or you’ll look menacing) makes you look stable and competent. And placing your feet directly on the floor when sitting signals that you’re in charge of both yourself and the people around you. 

Subtle mirroring.

Mirroring means reflecting what another person is doing or feeling right now. It often happens automatically with highly empathic people, and truly great leaders use this technique consistently. If mirroring is done the right way, the other person will unconsciously feel that you and they are similar, that you understand them, and that you are trustworthy. In a nutshell, you want the other person to identify with you.

Mirroring is best done in very understated, simple ways. And a word of caution: don’t copy everything another person does—if you’re too obvious, it may seem like you’re mimicking them or being duplicitous. Instead, subtly adopting just a few of their postures and gestures will show that the two of you are on the same wavelength.

Warm smile.

In every culture around the world (including those that have been isolated via geographical barriers), smiling is the universal signal for friendliness. There are countless studies on the positive effects of smiling: lowered cortisol levels, increased serotonin levels, lowered blood pressure, and increased blood flow to the brain—for both the smiler and the smilee. What’s more, smiling is literally contagious: it’s nearly impossible for someone to look at a smiling face and not smile themselves. In short, smiling makes you and everyone around you feel better. But what does smiling do for you as a leader? Plenty. A smile can help you disarm an opponent, negotiate a contract, connect with a client, lighten tension in a difficult situation, encourage workers to go the extra mile, and make you appear relaxed and comfortable in your position of power and authority.

In conclusion, positive body language can help you come across as more believable, trustworthy, reliable, credible, and likable. It can help you do your job better on all fronts (including customer satisfaction and profitability), and can make your workers more likely to willingly follow you—and isn’t that what being a great leader is all about?

Denise DudleyAbout the Author: Denise Dudley, author of the book Work It! Get In, Get Noticed, Get Promoted (SkillPath Publications) is a professional trainer and keynote speaker, author, business consultant, and founder and former CEO of SkillPath Seminars. She is a regularly featured speaker on the campuses of many universities, including Cal Poly, USC, UC Irvine, and UCLA, and the author of Nightingale-Conant’s best-selling audio series, “Making Relationships Last.”  Denise speaks all over the world on a variety of topics, including body language, management and supervision skills, leadership, assertiveness, time management, stress management, communication, business writing and personal relationships.  Her website is

The Power of Language in the Campaign for Reproductive Choice

Emma Beck -By Emma Beck, Account Executive, LEVICK

From the 1965 U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing birth control for married couples to India’s recent introduction of an injectable contraceptive, the road map to enabling women to her reproductive rights has been, and continues to be, a long and winding path. Introducing family planning as a solution to global economic woes helped position a woman to where developed countries view her as today: an independent being with a right to her body, her sexual health and, as a work in progress, her reproductive choice.

With the global population numbering more than 3 billion in the 1960s—a 1 billion increase from the 1930s—experts believed rapid population growth would lead to economic turmoil and natural resource depletion. It was within this climate that government-led family planning policies emerged in the international political arena. Reproductive choice offered a viable counter to overpopulation in a solutions-based dialogue centered on assuaging societal vulnerabilities.

The first United Nations Population Conference in 1954 convened experts touting the benefits of “contraception” in offsetting overpopulation’s looming threat. Reference to the controversial “birth control” was dropped; “women’s rights” had yet to enter the fold. By the late 1960s and into the 1970s, the women’s liberation movement had gained widespread momentum across developed countries. The rise of mainstream feminist thinking served an important backdrop amidst the urgency among international players to respond to rising population numbers. Together, these factors would reconfigure the platform in which solutions were presented. For the first time, the 1974 UN World Population Conference in Bucharest addressed family planning as a “woman’s choice” critical to “women’s health.” By the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, reference to “family planning” as part of “female empowerment” transformed the dialogue from an academic lens to activist approach.

Over the past sixty years, family planning efforts have nimbly skirted religious undertones and cultural sensitivities by softening the semantics grounding the messaging. Abortion rights, for one, have historically reflected a point of contention. (The 1994 Cairo conference would formally exclude abortion from its definition of family planning.) “Choice” and “empowerment”—and even today’s accepted “birth control”— would have missed the mark in the movement’s early days; through the series of UN Population Health conferences, terminology such as “safe motherhood” and “women’s health” overrode references to “birth control” and “abortion” to unite those who agreed on the broader benefits even if they disagreed on the specific means to achieve them. The messaging established a flexible baseline—acknowledging the norms of the time while offering room to evolve as cultural beliefs also shifted.

The population health conferences from the 1950s onward cemented a broad consensus we have since reached on the value of reproductive choice; family planning allows a woman to safely time and space her pregnancies. It supports female empowerment by giving her the tools to make her own decisions, and it lays a ripe foundation that encourages education, promotes gender equality, and supports workplace participation. The gains are not only for her. They support us all.

Continued efforts to expand family planning resources remain underway around the world. In Nigeria—Africa’s largest democracy in which abortion access remains heavily restricted—women’s reproductive health organization Ipas has partnered with the Nigerian police force to train officers to serve as allies for women seeking pre- and post-abortion care. Niger has launched “schools for husbands,” in which spouses learn about family planning options, a means to both debunk the myths and leave husbands with the factual information as they, per their culture, assess their wife’s options. In India, the nonprofit Pathfinders International is working alongside local Indian health providers to introduce injectable contraceptives as an alternative to the traditional mass sterilization processes. In the U.S., advocacy groups maintain active challenges to policy proposals threatening women’s abortion rights. Yet despite the progress, 225 million women and girls lack access to modern contraceptive methods and 47,000 die annually from unsafe abortions. The movement has come too far to slow down now.

The campaign for reproductive choice played to the times to arise to a place where we can address women’s rights outside of the strict dynamic of economic benefits. The movement’s evolution underscores the importance of understanding the climate in which you operate to establish messaging that resonates. As change makers within the communications field, we dig into these emotional chords to create language that connects will to heart. We dexterously challenge the status quo while heeding the line between revolutionary and extreme. Language has a powerful ability to influence public opinion and shape policy direction. With the evidence of a movement that ultimately established family planning as a fundamental human right, we understand that it’s not only the advocates that incite change, but the semantics behind the platform that work in tandem to make the difference.

About the Author: Emma Beck is an account executive at LEVICK, a global strategic communications agency. 



5 Unorthodox Truths about Goals

Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

Working with clients in the past as a therapist in private practice, and currently as an executive coach, I’ve learned some valuable, but unorthodox lessons about goal setting:

 Don’t focus on building up your areas of weakness. Talents overlooked may atrophy, and weaknesses — regardless of how much effort is put into trying to improve them — will never match your natural abilities. Of course, learning is a lifelong process (especially as we pivot to be successful in changing work environments) but focusing on your weaknesses can be self-defeating. Instead, focus on your strengths and place yourself in positions where those strengths can make you even more successful.

 Learn to embrace failure. Appreciate that growth and development comes as much from failure as it does from success. Understanding what doesn’t work may be at least as important as understanding what does, especially when these failures are acknowledged early on and are swiftly examined for the lessons they contain.

• Find your tribe. I don’t care how smart or talented you are, no one can reach their goals alone. What really distinguishes high achievers from the rest of the pack is their ability to build relationships, to maintain and leverage large, diversified networks that are rich in experience and mutually supportive.

 Don’t set goals. Create action plans. Anybody can write a wish list. The secret of achieving your goals lies in forming the habit of doing those things required to succeed. I have no complaint with those who write down their goals and visualize the achievement of their ambitions. (In fact, I do so myself.) But please don’t stop there. Jumping into action is what will turn dreams into reality.

• Go for it! The biggest obstacles to reaching 2022 goals may be that you lack the courage or confidence to leave your comfort zones and embrace new experiences. Helen Keller once said, “Security is mostly a superstition. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

Happy New Year! I hope you reach your goals, but even more I hope you stay open to the unpredictable and exciting opportunities life has in store for you. If your year is filled with daring adventure, you will have succeeded – perhaps more than you can now even imagine.

About the Author: I am an international keynote speaker (in person and virtually) on Body Language and Leadership Presence at corporate, government, and association events. I offer specialized programs for Women Leaders and Sales Professionals. For information on my speaking fees, contact me by phone, 510-526-1727 or email You can download my brochure on  my website:

My award-winning book is available on multiple websites and in bookstores. Here is its link on Amazon: STAND OUT: How to Build Your Leadership Presence.

My best-selling LinkedIn Learning video course is here: Body Language for Leaders

Do Men and Women Lead Differently Under Stress? Science Says Yes.

Do Men and Women Lead Differently Under Stress


Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

When generalizing about any population segment – especially such large and diverse segments as “male” and “female” – there is bound to be inaccuracy and stereotyping. And yet, science has discovered some major gender differences in brain function, evolutionary predisposition, and communication style that can have a profound effect on the way men and women lead during times of stress. Here are a few of them . . .

When it comes to brain research and gender, it’s not a question of better or smarter. But is a matter of difference. For example, men have approximately six and a half times more grey matter related to cognitive functioning in the brain, and women have nearly ten times more white matter related to cognition than men have. White matter connects brain centers in the neural network, whereas grey matter tends to localize brain activity into a single active brain center. Because of this difference, men tend to compartmentalize more brain activity and prefer to focus intently on one task at a time, whereas women’s ability to integrate and assimilate information (aided by the fact that the female brain also has a larger corpus callosum joining the hemispheres), gives them the edge in making crucial connections between seemingly disparate elements.

Evolution programmed the male brain for hunting – which accounts for a man’s narrow range of vision and the ability to focus on a single source. Women have developed better peripheral vision, helping them take in multiple signals. Both genders stay alert for signs of danger – but, again, do so in their own unique ways: When entering a room, men automatically look for exits to estimate a possible escape, while women pay attention to people’s faces to sort out who they are, how they feel, and if it is safe to remain in their company.

Even women’s propensity for crying has a partially neurological basis: The chromosomal development of prolactin in the female body and brain results in larger tear glands. So even in cultures where male tears are acceptable, women will produce more tears and cry more often.

For decades, psychological research maintained that both men and women reacted to stress in the same physiological ways; meaning that when confronted with stress, individuals would either respond with aggressive behavior or withdraw from the stressful situation. Neuroscientists, however, have exposed a flaw in that assumption. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, studies from University of Pennsylvania and the University of Trier in Germany discovered that men and women react to stress in very different ways. In male brains, increased blood flowed to the left prefrontal cortex did indeed suggest the activation of the “fight or flight” response. However, in women, stress activated the limbic part of the brain, which is associated with emotional responses. Women, they found, were more likely to manage their stress with what scientists have termed a “tend-and-befriend” response. When threatened, fearful or stressed, women are more likely to protect and nurture others and to turn to family and friends for solace. This difference in giving and seeking social support during stressful periods seems to be the principal way men and women differ in their coping methods. But it is not the only difference.

Researchers at the University of Southern California, also looking at the divergent ways men and women’s brains respond to stressful conditions, found a striking gender difference in brain function and how people evaluate emotions when under stress. The gender difference appeared in the brain regions that enable people to simulate and understand the emotions of others. According to the research, stress seemed to increase the capacity for empathy in women, while in males stress reduced it.

Louann Brizendine, professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, also found that, while another person’s emotional pain activates mirror neurons in both genders, a second system (the temporal-parietal junction, or TPJ) quickly takes over in the male brain – which in turn activates his “analyze-and-fix-it” circuits. So, while the female brain is locked in emotional empathy, the male brain (having quickly identified the emotion) is busy searching for solutions.

What does all this science mean in today’s organizations? It means, for example, that in dealing with stressful challenges (like those we are facing with this pandemic), it shouldn’t surprise you if men on the leadership team tend to isolate and withdraw (working on possible solutions) while female leaders focus on addressing employees’ concerns and distress. And, while neither response is necessarily the “best” in all stressful situations, these findings do suggest that a male-female balance on a leadership team would probably prove to be optimal in most stressful situations.

About the Author: I am an international keynote speaker (in person and virtually) on Body Language and Leadership Presence at corporate, government, and association events. I offer specialized programs for Women Leaders and Sales Professionals. For information on my speaking fees, contact me by phone, 510-526-1727 or email You can download my brochure on  my website:

My award-winning book is available on multiple websites and in bookstores. Here is its link on Amazon: STAND OUT: How to Build Your Leadership Presence.

My best-selling LinkedIn Learning video course is here: Body Language for Leaders

Trust, Leadership, and the Power of Stories

Trust, Leadership, and the Power of Stories


Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

TRUST. Every leader needs it. Trust is the foundation for successful collaboration. It is the glue that bonds team members and builds organizational commitment and engagement.

But there is a problem. We learn what is important to leaders by the behaviors we see modeled by those leaders, and too often there is a “say-do” gap in the area of trust: We hear leaders asking for participation and then using exclusionary and dismissive body language that clearly shows they are uninterested in our opinions. We read organizational values statements that highlight the importance of knowledge sharing, but we see leaders being anything but candid and forthcoming.

I could make a bullet point list of reasons why trust needs to be aligned with leadership behavior. Instead, let me tell you a story . . .

During a company conference for a select group of people, a man wearing shorts, T-shirt, and sandals sat at the back of the room, taking notes about the meeting on his laptop and sending those messages out for the rest of the company to read. His name was Mark and he had been invited to the meeting not because of his rank or title, but because he was a frequent user of the new collaborative technology that senior leadership was promoting.

About midway through the meeting, one of the organizers approached Mark and asked him to stop sending out notes on the meeting. When Mark refused, the organizer emphasized that the request to stop came from the top of the organization. Mark then countered by saying he’d appreciate hearing it personally.

A few minutes later, a break was called, and Mark found himself face-to-face with the head of the company; the chief executive officer. Here is how Mark recalls the conversation:

Mark: Hello, sir.

CEO: I understand that you have been posting notes from the meeting. I have to say that I haven’t read them, but are you sure that is such a good idea?

Mark: Do you trust me?

The CEO broke into a big smile, nodded slightly, and nothing further was said about Mark’s continued reporting of the events.

BTW: This happened over 20 years ago, but the story is still told as a model for leadership behavior throughout the organization today.

About the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is:

Is Your Virtual Team Tuning Out?

Is Your Virtual Team Tuning Out


Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

Love them or loath them, virtual meetings are here to stay.

For many leaders, conducting meetings online is familiar and comfortable, especially for international teams that always met virtually or industries where frequent videoconferencing was routine.

But if you found the switch from in-person to virtual meetings to be a major challenge, you are not alone. Various studies have shown that it is more difficult to get virtual teams to bond, harder for informal leaders to emerge, tougher to create genuine dialogue, easier for misunderstandings to escalate – and yes, easier for participants to tune out.

As an international keynote speaker, the transition from face-to face programs to webinars and virtual keynote speeches wasn’t natural for me and it wasn’t easy. But after eighteen months I’ve become more effective in this medium. Among the many lessons I’ve learned to date, here are five to keep in mind as you prepare to lead your next virtual meeting.

1. Don’t get so caught up in the technical side that you forget about people

Charles Eide is the founder of Eidecom, one of the largest event companies specializing in virtual events. He knows that a basic laptop probably doesn’t have a microphone that’s nice enough to supply completely clear audio, so he suggests a high-quality headphone with a built-in microphone. Rather than relying on natural sunlight, he advises you have some basic lighting items like a ring light that’s placed slightly above your screen to give your audience a bright view. (Eide’s tip that I adopted immediately was to avoid WiFi drops by plugging my computer directly into the modem through an ethernet cable to ensure stable internet connection.)

But, as crucial as it is, mastering technology isn’t the main challenge for online meetings. Eide says the largest obstacle for leaders is creating meaningful connections to your team members online. I agree.

In my face-to face presentations, I loved the personal connections I made with audience members by having informal conversations before or after the event. It was during these “offline” interactions that people asked important questions and shared success stories. I also gathered valuable feedback from reading body language cues – the eye contact, smiles, nods, or puzzled looks that let me know if the point I just made was clear or needed further explanation. Going from such a rich communication medium to a leaner, virtual one made it harder for me to remember that I was still dealing with people.

The risk for all leaders is to overlook the importance of basic communication skills, such as showing empathy, ensuring inclusion, active listening, telling stories, asking open questions, co-creating guidelines for team interaction, breaking into small discussions groups, and all the other attention-enhancing strategies that can get overlooked when staring at a computer screen.

2. Keep your meetings short

My previous in-person seminars were full-day programs. As I moved to online webinars, meeting planners requested 2 ½ – 3 hours, maximum, and my 90 minutes keynote speeches were edited to be delivered in half that time.

In Eide’s experience with large events, he has seen the same time issue, and he shares this insight for all meetings: “Whether it be a huge annual conference or a small meeting, you must understand the needs of a virtual audience. Your team members tuning in on their laptops will simply not have the same attention span as they would for an in-person meeting. Shortening the length of your meetings will provide the right balance for engaging your team virtually.”

3. Project virtual presence

Because my areas of expertise include body language and leadership presence, I understood from the beginning that projecting presence virtually would be significantly different for me than it was in face-to-face presentations.

This is true for you as well.

While in-person meetings allow about 7 seconds to make a first impression through your walk, stance, facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, and tone of voice, on a computer screen it’s only your visual image that sets that initial impression. And it does so very, very quickly. A study at the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging that discovered it takes the brain just 200 milliseconds to gather most of the information it needs from a facial expression to determine a person’s emotional state. That’s why you can’t wait until you’re on camera to “warm up.” You’ve got to appear already expressing the facial expressions and emotions you want to project.

In most cases, the expression that serves you best is a smile while making “eye contact” with the dot on your screen. A genuine smile stimulates your own sense of well-being and is inviting. It signals that you are approachable, cooperative, and trustworthy. In addition, smiling directly influences how other people respond to you. When you smile at someone, they almost always smile in return. And, because facial expressions trigger corresponding feelings, the smile you get back actually changes that person’s emotional state in a positive way.

Also, pay attention to your gestures. On stage or at the front of a meeting room, large gestures are fine, but on screen you are more effective when you keep your gestures close to your body and within the frame of the camera. Sweeping gestures that continually go out of sight are annoying and counterproductive. Smaller, slower gestures will enhance your credibility and help the audience more easily understand your message. To do this, you’ll need to back away from the camera so we can see your arms and hands, and so you aren’t just a talking head. The more of your body we can see, the more trustworthy you appear.

4. Build virtual trust

Trust is the foundation for any successful collaboration. It is the glue that bonds team members and builds commitment and engagement. With collocated teams, trust grows out of mutual work experiences and personal interactions – usually extended over time. Virtual teams don’t share this context. Members often have no idea of the work environments of their counterparts, nor do they have insights into a teammate’s work ethic, past performance, or personal life. That’s why it’s helpful to take a few minutes at the beginning or end of a meeting for “small talk,” so that participants can build or deepen personal relationships.

5. Nail your ending

A final tip for keeping your team from tuning out comes from Eide: “It’s always tough to craft your meeting’s ending but try to do what you can to avoid the generic, ‘does anyone have any questions?’ phrase. Provide a conclusion slide that recaps the presentation and includes a call to action. Whether you’re proposing some new solution to a problem or have a branded message to pass along, include something that speaks to the emotions of your team. As a bonus, consider including a surprise at the end, such as a downloadable video, research paper, or statistics sheet that reinforces your message. This gives them something to think about well after the presentation is over.”

5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is:

Projecting Leadership Presence in a Teleconference


Projecting Leadership Presence in a Teleconference


Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

In a famous 2002 experiment, a Stanford University professor made audiotapes of physicians and their patients in session. Half of the doctors had been previously brought to court for malpractice. She then played the tapes for her students, who were able to determine which physicians had been sued.

But here’s the catch: The recordings were “content-filtered.” All the students could hear was a low-frequency garble. But based on the intonation alone, they could distinguish one group from the other. The doctors who had been sued had a dominant, hostile, less empathetic style, whereas the other group sounded warmer.

I use this example when I coach business professionals to remind them that whenever they are speaking to an audience (whether customers or colleagues), people won’t only be evaluating their words, they will be “reading” their voices. Listeners will be searching for clues to possible hidden agendas, concealed meanings, disguised emotions, undue stress – anything, in short, that will help them determine if they can rely on what they’re being told.

The voice conveys subtle but powerful clues into feelings and meanings. Think, for example, how tone of voice can indicate sarcasm, concern, or confidence. Or how an increase in volume and intensity grabs attention because of the heightened emotion (passion, anger, assertiveness, certainty) it signals.

The effect of paralinguistic communication is so potent that it can make bad news actually sound palatable or, conversely, take all the joy out of a positive message. I’ve seen managers give unflattering feedback while still exhibiting warm feelings through their tone of voice – and those who were being critiqued still felt positively about the overall interaction. I’ve also seen managers offer words of praise and appreciation in such a flat tone of voice that none of the recipients felt genuinely acknowledged or appreciated.

Blame it on the limbic brain, where emotions are processed. It also plays the primary role in processing vocal cues. Researchers from the University of Geneva in Switzerland discovered that they could tell whether a subject had just heard words spoken in anger, joy, relief, or sadness by observing the pattern of activity in the listener’s brain.

Paralinguistics are important in any conversation, but they are most crucial when your communication is limited to an auditory channel — as it is on any phone call. Here are six tips to keep in mind to exhibit leadership presence in your next teleconference:

First Tip – Breathe Before You Begin

Look straight ahead with your chin level to the floor and relax your throat. Take several deep “belly” breaths. Count slowly to six as you inhale and expand your abdomen, then count to six again as you exhale. This simple exercise will help you sound focused and in control.

Second Tip – Modulate Your Voice

Vary your vocal range and tone – avoiding a monotone delivery that sounds as if you are bored. Remember to enunciate and speak clearly. Vary your volume, but always make sure you are speaking loudly enough to be heard. And here’s a tip I learned from a speech therapist: Before you start talking, let your voice relax into its optimal pitch by keeping your lips together and making the sounds “um hum, um hum, um hum.”

Third Tip – Stay Focused

Focus your eyes and attention on one place. If you shuffle papers, check email or let your gaze wander around the room, it detracts from your concentration, and that distraction shows in your voice.

Fourth Tip – Stand

Stand, if possible, when you want to convey greater confidence. Standing, or even pacing, will give your voice more energy and conviction.

Fifth Tip – Smile

Smile while you are talking – doing so will transmit energy and enthusiasm. If your voice sounds inviting, it will draw people in. And, as my husband (whose was an actor and voiceover professional) reminds me, a key voiceover technique is being able to speak “with a smile in your voice.”

Sixth Tip – Match your listeners

One of the most intriguing aspects of vocal behavior is speech convergence – the way people adopt the speech patterns and voice qualities of those with whom they admire and want to be like. Speech convergence can also be used as a technique to help people understand your message. The more adept you are at altering your speed, volume and tone to match that of the group you are addressing, the better they will hear and accept what you have to say.

You may never be sued for the sound of your voice. But then again, I haven’t heard you speak.

5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is:

How Women Escape the Impostor Syndrome Trap

How Women Escape the Impostor Syndrome Trap


Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

I give speeches and seminars on “The Power of Presence for Women Who Lead,” and after one of my sessions, I was asked by the head of Human Resources to coach Sandra. Introduced to me as a talented business professional with exceptional leadership skills, Sandra was being groomed for a top executive position, and she sounded perfect for my favorite kind of coaching assignment. I love working with accomplished women who are looking to become even more successful.

It should have come as a shock when, at the end of our first session, this talented woman turned to me and said, “I want you to know how nervous I was meeting you. I was afraid that you wouldn’t find me worthy to work with.”

It should have been a shock – but it wasn’t — because I’d heard this before — but only from female clients.

I blame the Imposter Syndrome.

The Imposter Syndrome is the fear of being exposed as a fraud, of feeling unworthy of your success, of not being as capable as others. Both genders experience the Imposter Syndrome, but women are more susceptible to it and more intensely affected by it.

A female’s self-doubt can negatively impact her career when, as studies show, she pushes less often than her male counterparts for a raise or a promotion.

The good news is that if you have fallen into the Imposter Syndrome trap, there are strategies to help you escape. From my book, STAND OUT: How to Build Your Leadership Presence, here are three of my favorite:

1. Keep a success log

On a daily basis (preferably at the end of the day) write down all of the things you are proud of — goals you achieved and situations that you handled well. You’ll see how even small successes, when recorded and reviewed on a regular basis can make positive changes in the way you evaluate yourself

And stop downplaying your achievements. No one gets to your level without talent and hard work. Even if luck played a role in your career, it was no accident or quirk of fate that prepared you to take advantage of the opportunities presented. So the next time someone praises you, don’t brush it off. Simply smile and say “Thank you.”

2. Turn your inner critic into an inner coach

Of all the negative feedback you may receive, I’ll bet none is as damaging to your self-confidence, as what you tell yourself. Or as one of my clients admitted, “If I talked to my friends the way I talk to myself, I wouldn’t have any friends.”

Your inner critic notices the things you do wrong, or poorly. It takes to heart – and dwells on – any critical comment you hear from others. It magnifies your weaknesses and ignore your strengths.

Instead of automatically criticizing yourself, think of how a supportive coach would react. While your inner critic might say: “You are never going to be a good presenter, you might as well stop trying” your inner coach would tell you: “Every time you speak, you learn something that makes you a better presenter the next time. Stay with it and your speaking skills will get better and better.”

3. Fail forward

Recently, when I asked a CEO how she handled setbacks, Suzy replied, “I don’t believe in setbacks. I try to fail quickly, learn from it, shake it off, and move forward.”

That’s what I call the “3 Rs technique”:

The first R is Review: Acknowledge the situation by examining what happened.

The second R is Redo: Think about what you learned from this experience and make a clear mental image of what you would do differently the next time you were in a similar situation.

The final R (which is often the most difficult) is Release: Let it go. There is nothing more of value that this failure has to offer – so release it and move on.

These are my three strategies to escape the Imposter Syndrome trap. Which one works best for you?

5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is:

If You’ve Got a Brain, You’re as Biased as I Am

If You've Got a Brain, You're as Biased as I Am


Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

Whenever we meet new people, our brain automatically and immediately begins to categorize them in some way – male or female, same or different, friend or foe – in order to predict what is likely to happen next. As leaders, we need to be aware that we are always evaluating others just as they are evaluating us.

Here are seven biases that influence our judgements:

1. Confirmation bias.

We make judgements about people in the first few seconds of meeting them. Because we don’t have the mental agility to consciously perceive and process all the factors needed to make these calculations, we rely on unconscious estimates. (By the way, this is why body language is so important. In such a short time, what we are assessing – and what others are assessing about us – includes clothing, posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand gestures and tone of voice.)

Once we’ve made these evaluations, confirmation bias comes into play as the powerful bias we have to look for evidence that confirms these instantaneous and unconscious decisions, and to discount evidence that is contrary.

2. In-group/out-group bias.

It is far easier to trust and believe someone who comes from the same background or have similar interests. Even relatively small similarities, like rooting for the same sports team or attending the same seminar, can create a bond. That’s because of a well-known principle in social psychology that people define themselves in terms of social groupings: Any group that people feel part of is an “in-group” and any group that excludes them an “out-group.” We think differently about members in each group and behave differently toward them.

Similarities make us feel comfortable. We assume we know what in-group people are like – they’re good people, like us! Differences make us a little wary. When we see people as part of an out-group, we are more likely to judge any negative act as typical of their character and to attribute any positive actions as “the exceptional case.”

3. Appropriate behavior bias.

We all have a tendency to make judgments about another person based on our ideas of appropriate behavior. This shows up in lie detection when we believe that we know how we’d act if we were telling the truth – and that other truthful people would/should behave the same way. In reality, there is no universal behavior that signals deception or honesty. People are individuals with their own unique set of verbal and nonverbal behaviors.

4. Attractiveness bias.

Unfair though it may be, and even if we proclaim otherwise, we judge people by their appearance. And we automatically assign favorable traits to good-looking people, judging them to be more likeable, competent, and honest than unattractive people.

5. Gender bias.

Stanford University communication professor, Clifford Nass, conducted research to see if students would apply gender stereotypes to computerized voices. In one study, half the subjects were tutored by computers with male voices, and half by computers with female voices. When the material being taught was about “love and relationships,” students rated their female-voiced tutors as having more sophisticated knowledge of the subject than those who had the male-voiced tutors – even though both voices had given identical lessons.

6. Facial features bias.

Did you know that there are facial features that we innately trust or mistrust? By studying people’s reactions to a range of artificially generated faces, researchers in Princeton’s psychology department found that faces with high inner eyebrows, pronounced cheekbones, and a wide chin struck people as trustworthy. Conversely, faces with low inner brows, shallow cheekbones and a thin chin were deemed untrustworthy. Of course, you and I realize that eyebrow shapes and cheekbone prominence have no relationship to someone’s character or honesty, but unconsciously we override our rational minds and make an instinctive judgment.

7. Bias by stereotype.

When we are deciding whether or not to trust someone, the category we’ve instantly and unconsciously assigned them to – and our past experiences with others from that group or how we have seen them represented (in the news, movies, etc.) most frequently — lead us to stereotype people and be more skeptical of some and more trusting of others.

There are three steps we can take to confront our biases

1. Become conscious of the unconscious

 The first step is to recognize that these unconscious evaluations are taking place. The minute we take an unconscious process and bring it into awareness, it begins to lose it’s power.

2. Pause to take control

Once we realize how our unconscious bias can influence our evaluations of others, we need to pause to consider how vulnerable we are to a variety of judgment traps. The act of pausing gives us time to check some of our assumptions to see how we might have jumped to the wrong conclusion.

3. Assume positive intent

When I speak to international audiences (so far in 32 countries), I have made more than my share of cultural mistakes, but they have always been graciously forgiven. As one client told me, “It’s okay, Carol, we know your heart’s in the right place.”

We would all be wise to adopt the same attitude.

About the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is:

This is What You Say When You Talk with Your Hands


Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

The body language question I’m asked the most when people are preparing to make a presentation is: “What should I do with my hands?”

My answer? “Use them.”

Research shows that audiences tend to view people who use a greater variety of gestures in a more favorable light. Studies have found that people who communicate through active gesturing tend to be evaluated as warm, agreeable, and energetic, while those who remain still (or whose gestures seem mechanical or “wooden”) are seen as logical, cold, and analytic.

That’s one of the reasons why gestures are so critical to a leader and why getting them right in a presentation connects so powerfully with an audience.

Unless you are about to make a presentation, chances are you don’t often think about your hand gestures — but in practice you naturally use them with great efficiency and sophistication to cover a surprisingly wide range of communication.

To increase your influence and impact skills, it’s helpful to be aware of how your movements are most likely being perceived. Here are some common hand gestures and the messages you may be sending:

Hidden hands – Hidden hands make you look less trustworthy. This is one of the nonverbal signals that is deeply ingrained in our subconscious. In our prehistory, when someone approached with hands out of view, it was a clear signal of potential danger. Although today the threat of hidden hands is more symbolic than real, our ingrained psychological discomfort remains.

Crossed arms — Although there are cultural differences to take into account, crossing arms is almost always perceived as a closed sign of resistance. (And, by the way, since the human brain pays more attention to negative messages than it does to positive ones, what people unconsciously look for and react to the most, are signs that you are in a bad mood or that something is wrong.)

Emblematic gestures – Some gestures have an agree-upon meaning to a group (which is why there are broad cultural differences) and are consciously used instead of words. Emblematic gestures used in North America include the thumbs-up sign that is commonly understood to mean “good job,” “OK” or “everything’s fine.”

Pacifying gestures – When nervous or stressed, you may pacify with a variety of self-touching gestures. You might play with your jewelry, push back your hair, or cross your arms in a kind of “self-hug.” In a presentation, pacifying gestures make you look tentative, unprepared or insecure.

Hand gestures of enthusiasm – There is an interesting equation of hand and arm movement with energy. If you want to project more enthusiasm and drive, you could do so by increased gesturing. On the other hand, over-gesturing (especially when hands are raised above the shoulders) can make you appear erratic, less believable and less powerful.

Hand gestures of composure – Arms held at waist height, and gestures within that horizontal plane, help you – and the audience – feel centered and composed.

Illustrative gestures – Sometimes gestures are used to physically illustrate a point, as when moving your hands apart when talking about a big issue or pinching your thumb and first finger together to illustrate a small or precise point.

Other gestures are unconscious signals that give the viewer a glimpse into the speaker’s emotions, motivations or attitude. These include . . .

• Open palms at an angle  Gesturing with palms showing (tilted to a 45-degree angle) signals your candor and openness.

• Palms down – Turning your palms down signals power and certainty. This is also a controlling signal – as when trying to quiet an audience.

• Clenched hands – When you clutch an object tightly or curl your hands into fists, it signals anger or frustration.

• Finger pointing  Rather than being a sign of authority, aggressive finger pointing suggests that you are losing control of the situation.

• Hands on hips – This gesture communicates a defiant, super-confident, or independent attitude.

• The fig leaf – Be aware that when you stand with your hands clasped in front of your groin (the classic “fig leaf” position), it is one of the most common signs of nervousness.

• Steepling gestures  When you are feeling confident about presenting a subject you know well, you may automatically use a steepling gesture (like the man in the photo with palms separated slightly, fingers of both hands spread and fingertips touching) to nonverbally signal that confidence.

Gestures help power up your thinking and allow you to connect more convincingly with your audience. So keep talking with your hands — as long as you know, and agree with, what they are saying!

About the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is:

Thriving On Post-Pandemic Change


Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

Change is difficult — and we have plenty of reasons to resist it!

No one likes to contemplate letting go of the skills and behaviors that “got us here.” As individuals, we become psychologically attached to the status quo because it is familiar and comfortable. But even more difficult than fighting off the inertia of comfort, we find it hard to let go of the past because it is there that we’ve experienced personal success.

The post-pandemic world of work, with its various hybrid working arrangements will bring increasing amount of the kind of change that stimulates the prefrontal cortex, an energy-intensive section of the brain responsible for insight and impulse control. But the prefrontal cortex is also directly linked to the amygdala (the brain’s fear circuitry, which in turn controls our “freeze, fight or flight” response) and when the prefrontal cortex is overwhelmed with too many complex and unfamiliar concepts, the amygdala connection gets kicked into high gear. As we continually adjust to whatever the future demands, all of us are then subject to the physical and psychological disorientation and pain that can manifest in anxiety, fear, depression, sadness, fatigue or anger.

It’s no wonder that we need more than logic and data to help us survive. We need personal strategies that strengthen our ability to thrive in changing times. Here are six of them for your consideration:

1. Build your self-confidence

Confidence is the personality trait most responsible for an individual’s ability to deal well with difficult transitions. Confident people are self-motivated, have high self-esteem, and are willing to take risks because they have a deep belief in their own value.

Self-confidence starts with being aware of and playing to your strengths. Lee Strasberg, the famous acting teacher, once said, “I can train people in anything except that for which they have no talent.” Continual learning is a career-long process — but instead of focusing solely on your weaknesses (those areas where you have little or no talent), identify the specific competencies and accomplishments that make you special — and develop your natural abilities to the fullest.

2. Create counterbalance

A definition of the word compensate is “to provide with a counterbalance or neutralizing device.” Change-adept individuals compensate for the demands and pressures of business by developing counterbalancing activities in other areas of their lives. They engage in exercise programs, mindfulness exercises, and healthful eating habits. They cultivate interests outside of work— sports, hobbies, art, music, etc. — that are personally fulfilling, and they have sources of emotional support. Because people with counterbalance have fuller, richer lives, they handle business-related stress better and are more effective at their jobs.

3. Find your personal source of stability

One of the most memorable interviews I’ve conducted was with the CEO of a cellular telephone company: “I’ve got a stabilizing force in my life,” he told me. “It’s my stocking drawer.” I must have looked startled because the CEO continued quickly. “I mean it,” he said. “All hell can be breaking loose at work, but when I open my sock drawer to find everything in color-coded, neat little piles, it does my heart good.”

I included this amusing story in my change leadership speeches for years, and only once has someone taken offense at it. I had addressed the national convention of a real estate firm and the sales manager from another state wanted to book a similar program for his division. “I really enjoyed your talk,” he said. “But when you work with my group, please don’t make fun of the sock drawer.”

I told the sales manager that I would be happy to do as he asked but was curious about the reason for his request. He looked at me sternly. “I don’t want you to make fun of it because it works! I tell all of my salespeople that if they are having a terrible day, where nothing is going right, they might as well stop and straighten out their underwear drawer.”

After thinking about that comment, I had to agree. It doesn’t matter if the source of counterbalance sounds silly to others; change-adept people know what works for them.

4. Keep a positive attitude

With any disruptive change, dangers co-exist with opportunities. When change-adept people are asked for words they associate with the future’s chaotic workplace, they acknowledge the stress, uncertainty, pressure and disruption. But they also emphasize the benefits — opportunity, growth, excitement and challenges that will also be present.

You never know when a seemingly negative situation may turn out to be for the best. If your job radically changes, or even if it disappears, it may also be an excellent chance to learn something new, utilize previously untapped abilities, and meet new people. If you keep a positive attitude, you’ll be more likely to rally your energy toward furthering your career regardless of the circumstances.

5. Stay in the game

In tough times, your first reaction may be to “hunker down.” Nothing could be less helpful. This is a time to become very visible in your organization. Volunteer for key committees and projects, take credit for your success, and speak up in meetings. If you are working remotely, add a photo to your email signature, be one who takes meeting notes and distributes them, ask questions of senior leaders, display confident virtual body language, and send your boss a weekly summary of your accomplishments.

6. Nurture collaboration 

Whatever the future brings, your personal success will increasingly depend on how well you collaborate internally and externally to find innovative solutions to complex problems.

First, create social capital. Capital is defined as “accumulated wealth, especially as used to produce more wealth.” Social capital is the wealth (or benefit) that exists because of your social relationships. Think of social capital as the value created by your connections to others. There is no more valuable commodity in a chaotic business environment.

Second, remember that you can’t command collaboration and you can’t control knowledge sharing. But you can influence people to collaborate and share by creating an environment in which it is safe, enjoyable and beneficial to do so.

Third, build trust. Without trust, there is no true collaboration – and trust is no longer the result of positional power. It needs to be earned. You earn trust when you keep your word, share information, listen, respect diverse opinions and abilities, maintain confidentiality, support others, admit mistakes, are consistent in expressing and living your personal values. You also build trust when you deeply believe that the people on your team are equally trustworthy.

There is no doubt that the post-pandemic world will bring vast amounts of change. If we can remain confident, balanced, stable, positive, visible, and trusting, we will not only survive, we will thrive.

5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is:

We All Need Leadership Presence

Ronn Torossian On How to Lead Team Through Change

Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

You are talented, skilled, and highly competent, with positive business results that have been responsible for your career progress to this point. What more could you possibly need?

At a certain level, the force that will catapult you to more senior positions of leadership may have less to do with the abilities that got you this far, and more to do with the impression you make. You may be knowledgeable, skilled, and innovative, but that doesn’t guarantee that others see you as the talented leader you authentically are.

The good news is that managing this impression doesn’t require you to fake or exaggerate. The goal of leadership presence is to align people’s impression of you with your authentic best self. It’s the art of better expressing those qualities you already possess. (BTW: As a speaker, author and leadership presence coach, I would be highly ineffective at helping people pretend to be something they’re not — but I am very good at helping people discover and project their genuine talents and potential.)

So let me ask you a question: How skilled are you at expressing your authentic Credibility, Confidence, Composure, Connection, and Charisma?

Credibility: Regardless of how credible you are, your communication style can strengthen or weaken people’s perception of your credibility. Attention spans are so short today that you have to be able to make your point in a way that’s both compelling and brief — and eliminate words (kind of, sort of, maybe, um, er, uh) and phrases like “This may be a bad idea, but . . .” or “You probably already thought of this, but . . .” which reduce the positive impact of whatever statement follows.

Confidence: When it comes to looking confident, your body language plays a major part in how people perceive you. To appear as your confident best, remember to stand and sit with good posture — shoulders squared, head straight, arms slightly away from your torso, feet flat on the floor if seated and about shoulder-width apart if standing. Posture is especially important in a virtual environment where your body language makes an instantaneous statement about your authority and personal power. A side benefit is that good posture not only makes you appear more confident, it also makes you feel more grounded and self-assured.

Composure: You may be presented with unwanted interruptions, tough questions, or personal attacks — and all these can be challenging situations for even the most senior leaders. To retain your composure, don’t be blindsided. Anticipate what is likely to occur and prepare to respond appropriately. And when you encounter a situation you’d hadn’t prepared for, remember to stop and take a slow breath before responding. By staying poised under pressure, you appear reliable, capable, and in control — all qualities that people look for in a leader.

Connection: Your ability to connect with others has everything to do with how you make people feel. The goal of leadership today is to get others to willingly engage and collaborate, and that means creating work environments where people feel safe and valued. As one Silicon Valley CEO told me: “There is absolutely nothing wrong with command and control leadership. It’s simply irrelevant in the 21st century.” That’s why your ability to show empathy and make genuine connections is such a powerful element in projecting leadership presence.

Charisma: The fact is you already have charismatic qualities that are waiting to be revealed in order to showcase your unique character and talents. Strengthening your personal brand of charisma begins with embracing and expressing your core values and by appreciating and being grateful for all that you have to offer to your organization and the world.

5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is:

What is the Truth About Lie Detection?


Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

“You’re next in line for a promotion.”

“Let’s have lunch sometime.”

“I’d love to read your report.”

“No, those pants don’t make you look fat.”

We get lied to all the time. People are dishonest with us out of politeness, to avoid punishment, to protect others, or to deliberately mislead us for personal gain. But, although it happens frequently, it’s not that easy to spot a liar.

It’s true that there are behaviors that suggest deception. Some examples are:

• Incongruence between what’s being said and the speaker’s body language (like saying “no” while nodding “yes”).

• An increased blink rate – especially over 50 blinks per minute – or eyelid flutter.

• Gazing downward after asserting innocence.

• Incomplete gestures, like a shrug that uses only one shoulder.

• A decrease in hand gestures, especially those used to illustrate speech – like drawing pictures in the air to help explain what is meant.

• Increased foot movement – fidgeting or kicking out.

• Face touching – especially around the mouth and nose.

• Pupil dilation, which can be a sign of the extra mental effort it takes to tell a lie.

• Discrepancies in timing: When the lie is well rehearsed, deceivers start their answers more quickly than truth-tellers. If taken by surprise, however, the liar takes longer to respond.

It’s also true you are already subconsciously picking up on signals of deception. Your ability to do that is one of your basic survival instincts. In early human’s history, rapidly deciding if someone was dangerous or duplicitous was often a matter of life or death. And consistent among the research is that as the importance of having the lie go undetected increases, the more difficult for the liar to conceal the falsehood.

But, as innate as this ability may be, and as compelling as the scientific research is, it’s not all that easy to catch a liar. Here are four reasons why . . .

1) There is no absolute signal for deception. Most cues, including blink rates, pupil dilation, foot movement, etc., are signs of heightened anxiety and stress. But that observed stress could be caused by lying or by something else. Likewise, incongruence, where gestures contradict words, may be a sign of deceit or simply an indication of some inner conflict between what the person is thinking and saying.

2) Signs of deceit may differ from individual to individual. Take eye contact, for example: Some liars shift their gaze and won’t meet your eyes, while others give too much eye contact. One person may raise her vocal pitch when she lies while another speaks in a flat, unemotional tone.

3) All nonverbal communication is influenced by cultural heritage, and the higher the stress level, the more likely it is that culture-specific gestures will show up. It is extremely difficult to judge nonverbal deception cues in people from another culture.

4) No one, not even with the aid of functional MRIs to track brain activity, can identify sociopaths or other liars who believe the lies they are telling.

5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is:

How to Become a More Collaborative Leader


Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

Lately I have had so many speaking engagements on “Leadership Presence” that I relish the chance to change course and to update my program on “Collaborative Leadership” for a client next month.

For many organizations, “silo mentality” and knowledge hoarding behaviors are wasting the kind of collective brainpower that could lead to the discovery of a revolutionary new process or product or, in the current economic climate, be the key to keeping their company afloat when others are sinking!

And it’s not just corporate profits that suffer when collaboration is low: the workforce loses something too. Individuals lose the opportunity to work in the kind of inclusive environment that energizes teams, releases creativity and makes working together both productive and joyful.

Here are a few points that I will be covering in that upcoming virtual session to help participants build their collaborative leadership skills:

Realize that silos can kill your business. Silo mentality is a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of mentality will reduce efficiency in the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture. Silo is a business term that has been passed around and discussed in many boardrooms over the last 40 years. Unlike many other trendy management terms this is one issue that has not disappeared. Silos are seen as a growing pain for organizations of all sizes. Wherever it’s found, a silo mentality becomes synonymous with power struggles, lack of cooperation, and loss of productivity.

Build your collaboration strategy around the “human element.” In trying to capture and communicate the cumulative wisdom of a workforce, the public and private sectors have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in portals, software, intranets, and other collaborative platforms. But collaboration is more than the technology that supports it, and even more than a business strategy aimed at optimizing a organization’s experience and expertise. Collaboration is, first and foremost, a change in attitude and behavior of people throughout an organization. Successful collaboration is a human issue.

Make visioning a collaborative process. In my seminars, speeches, and coaching I’ve worked with thousands of talented leaders around the world, and one thing I know for sure: Regardless of how creative, smart and technically savvy a leader may be, he or she can’t successfully lead an organization, a department or a team without the brain power and commitment of others.

Today’s most influential leaders guide their organizations not through command and control, but through a shared purpose and vision. These leaders adopt and communicate a vision of the future that impels people beyond the boundaries and limits of the past. But if the future vision belongs only to top management, it will never be an effective motivator for the workforce. The power of a vision comes truly into play only when the employees themselves have had some part in its creation.

Utilize the power of diversity. Experiments at the University of Michigan found that, when challenged with a difficult problem, groups composed of highly adept members performed worse than groups whose members had varying levels of skill and knowledge. The reason for this seemingly odd outcome has to do with the power of diverse thinking. Group members who think alike or are trained in similar disciplines with similar bases of knowledge run the risk of becoming insular in their ideas. Diversity causes people to consider perspectives and possibilities that would otherwise be ignored.

Help people develop trusting relationships. Trust is the belief or confidence that one party has in the reliability and integrity of another party. It is also the glue that holds together any group. Since the outcome of any collaborative effort is dependent upon trusting relationships among participants, not allowing time for this to develop can be a costly mistake. But all too often, in the rush to get started on a project, team leaders put people together and tell them to “get to work.” You’ll get better results if your give your group time (upfront) to get to know one another, to develop a common understanding about the project, to discover each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and to build personal ties.

Watch your body language. To show that you are receptive to other people’s ideas, uncross your arms and legs. Place your feet flat on the floor and use open palm gestures (which is a body language display inviting others into the conversation). If you want people to give you their ideas, don’t multi-task while they do. Avoid the temptation to check your text messages, check your watch, or check out how the other participants are reacting. Instead, focus on those who are speaking by turning your head and torso to face them directly and by making eye contact. Leaning forward is another nonverbal way to show you’re engaged and paying attention, as is head tilting. (The head tilt is a universal gesture of giving the other person an ear.) To encourage team members to expand on their comments, nod your head using clusters of three nods at regular intervals.

Today’s organizations exist in an increasingly complex and ever-shifting ocean of change. As a result, leaders need to rely more than ever on the intelligence and resourcefulness of their staff. Collaboration is not a “interesting” leadership philosophy. It is an essential ingredient for organizational survival and success.

5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is:

What if George Washington Lied?


Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

February 22nd is George Washington’s birthday and I remember a story about his childhood. It’s reported that George chopped down a cherry tree, and when his irate father saw the damage and asked his son if he knew who did the deed, George owned up: “I cannot tell a lie.”

But what if George had lied? What if he’d denied being the culprit? What if he’d insisted that it must have been the act of some other kid with an axe? Would his father have been able to detect the deception?

A frustrated parent asking, “Did you eat that candy?” will have a chocolate-covered toddler answering, “No!” in order to remove the stern expression from a caregiver’s face. Three- and four-year olds tell tall tales and create imaginary friends. By the time they are about seven, children start to lie to avoid doing chores or homework, to get something they want, to protect someone else, and to avoid punishment. And, of course, teenagers lie to cover up sexual activity, drug or alcohol use, and (almost always) about what time they actually got home last night.

When children are telling the truth, they are most often relaxed, with facial expressions and gestures that reflect this. But when lying, they undergo a heightened stress response that can be spotted by an observant parent. (As we grow older, we also grow better at deception – and it is not so easy to discover.)

So if George had responded in the negative when asked about the tree-chopping incident, his father could have watched for signs of a dry mouth (and the lip licking that accompanies it), eye contact that suddenly can’t be held or, conversely, is held too intently, an increased blink rate, face touching, squirming, biting the lips or tightly squeezing them together, head and shoulder movements that are arrested part way into the gesture, and a smile that appears at inappropriate times.

Mr. Washington might also have spotted a telltale “micro expression” (a genuine emotion that flashes across someone’s face in less than one-fifth of a second) or a “suppressed expression” which slips out before realized and is then “caught” and replaced with a preferred reaction.

Another deception cue he might have observed was his son’s rigid posture and lack of spontaneous hand gestures. Many liars “tighten up” and inhibit their natural body language – as if afraid that any movement will expose the falsehood.

George’s dad should also have been advised to note the timing of his son’s verbal response. When a lie is planned (and rehearsed), deceivers start their answers more quickly than truth-tellers. If taken by surprise, however, the liar takes longer to respond – as the process of inhibiting the truth and creating a lie takes extra time. And he should have been on the watch for a variety of stalling tactics fibbers use while trying to figure out how to respond: Liars tend to repeat the question you just asked, make irrelevant statements to divert attention, or try to put you on the defensive.

So – was the George Washington boyhood story true? Maybe. But, if not, I hope his father caught the lie.

5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is:

Why You Cannot Fake Your Feelings


Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

I was once asked by the Senior Vice President of Human Resources to work with a leader whose micro-management was limiting her team’s effectiveness. When I met with the client, (let’s call her Judith), she was effusive with her praise – going on and on about how much she had heard about me and how delighted she was to have me as her coach. I noticed that her smiles, however bright, were seldom genuine.

Smiles are often used as a polite response to cover up other emotions, but these social smiles involve the mouth only. Unless you are expressing genuine pleasure or happiness, it’s hard to produce a real smile – the kind that crinkles the corners of the eyes and lights up the entire face.

Knowing that, I expected to discover that Judith wasn’t as delighted with me as she claimed, and that she was putting on a show for the HR executive’s sake. As time went on, it became clear that was the case. Judith had no interest in working with me (or any other coach), and no intention of changing her management style.

The one area of body language that is identical in all cultures is the seven basic emotions that people around the world express, recognize, and relate to in the same way. Discovered and categorized by Paul Ekman and his colleagues at the University of California in San Francisco, the universal emotional expressions are joy, surprise, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, and contempt. Here is how they can be identified:

Joy: The muscles of the cheeks raise, eyes narrow, lines appear at the corner of the eyes, the corners of the mouth turn up.

Surprise: The eyebrows raise, there is a slight raising of upper eyelids and dropping of the lower jaw.

Sadness: The eyelids droop as the inner corners of the brows raise and (in extreme sorrow) draw together, and the corners of the lips pull down.

Anger: The eyebrows are pulled together and lowered, the lower eyelid is tensed, the eyes glare, and the lips tightened, appearing thinner.

Fear: The eyebrows draw together and raise, the upper eyelid raises, the lower eyelid tenses, and the lips stretch horizontally.

Disgust: The nose wrinkles, the upper lip raises, and the corners of the mouth turn down.

Contempt: This is the only unilateral expression. The cheek muscles on one side of the face contract, one corner of the mouth turns up.

Whenever any of these emotions are felt strongly, their display is intense and can last up to four seconds. Subtle expressions are emotions experienced with a lower intensity, or emotions just starting to show. Micro expressions (facial displays lasting less than one-fifth of a second) can also give an astute observer a glimpse into your true emotional state.

On more than one occasion, I’ve seen a fleeting expression of anger or disgust between colleagues that has spoken volumes about the underlying feelings between the two people. (I tend to watch the eyes. The small muscles around the eyes are often the site of real emotional giveaway – one part of the face that reacts before you even know how you feel about something that’s been said or implied.)

In general, expressions that are not genuine can be identified by the following behaviors:

• An expression that does not use all the muscles in the face typically associated with that expression. One case is previous example of Judith’s smile — which included the mouth but didn’t involve the eye muscles.

• Because all genuine expressions (with the exception of contempt) are symmetrical, any display of other expressions that are asymmetrical, are suspect.

• An expression held for more than five seconds is typically not genuinely felt. Most real expressions last only for a few seconds.

It’s also difficult to hide your feelings because many emotional displays are almost impossible to eliminate. The Adam’s-apple jump (especially noticeable in men) is one such emotional cue – an unconscious sign of emotional anxiety, embarrassment, or stress – often displayed when someone hears something he strongly dislikes or disagrees with.

Even babies know when you are faking. Psychology researchers at Concordia University demonstrated that infants – as early as 18 months old — can detect whether a person’s emotions are justifiable given a particular context. In fact, the infants clearly detected when facial expressions did not match the experience. They also showed empathy toward the person only when her sad face was genuine.

Even if you are successful masking your emotions, an audience will still know that something is “off.” Stanford University’s research on emotional suppression shows a surprising reason why it’s so difficult to hide your true feelings: The effort required to suppress an emotion takes a physical and psychological toll. Subjects instructed to conceal their emotions reported feeling ill at ease, distracted and preoccupied. And this was validated by a steady rise in their blood pressure.

But another, quite unexpected finding showed a corresponding blood pressure rise in those who were only listening to the subjects. When you try to suppress what you really feel, the resulting tension is internally registered with your audiences.

At home, on Zoom, or in the workplace, you constantly express emotions — enthusiasm, warmth, and confidence as well as arrogance, indifference, and displeasure — through your facial expressions. My best advice is to always be as transparent and candid as possible. Doing so will help your body language align authentically to reflect that emotional openness. Remember: If you try to fake how you really feel, your audience (family, team, staff, co-workers, boss) probably won’t buy it.

5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is:

How Santa Claus Will Know if You’ve Been Naughty or Nice: Deception Detection


Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

Have you ever wondered how Santa Claus determined whether to leave you a present or a lump of coal on Christmas Eve? How he knew if you’ve been naughty or nice? I don’t have any hard evidence to back me up, but I’m pretty sure that he must be a first-class deception detector.

And, if so, here is how Santa did it:

He began with a baseline

The first and most important step in Santa’s deception detection was learning your baseline behavior under relaxed or generally stress-free conditions so that he could compare it with the expressions, gestures, and other signals that are only apparent when you are under stress.

He watched you while you were chatting informally and he noticed how your body looked when you were relaxed. He saw your normal amount of eye contact and blink rate, the gestures you used most frequently, the posture do you assumed when you were comfortable, and your pace of speech and tone of voice.

Then, after he knew your behavioral baseline, he stayed alert for meaningful deviations that signaled a stress reaction (and possible deception) as you went through the days.

He saw you when you’re faking

There are seven basic emotions that are shared, recognized, and expressed the same way around the world. Discovered and categorized by Paul Ekman and his colleagues at the University of California in San Francisco, the universal emotional expressions are joy, surprise, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, and contempt.

When you don’t genuinely feel the emotion that you are trying to display, it often shows up in expressions that don’t use all the muscles in the face that are typically part of that emotion. For example, if your smile doesn’t include the eye muscles, it is not a felt smile. Real smiles crinkle the corners of your eyes and change your entire face. Faked smiles involve the mouth only and are often asymmetrical.

In monitoring your emotional reactions, Santa also looked for simulated emotions, where you tried to convince others that you felt a certain way by simulating the facial expression associated with that feeling. He noticed your “terribly sincere furrowed-brow” or your exaggerated display of anger that felt excessive. He knew, too, that any expression you displayed for more than five to ten seconds was almost certainly being faked.

He took note when you verbal and nonverbal messages were – or were not – aligned

When your thoughts and words were in sync (when you believed what you were saying) Santa saw it in your body language because your gestures, expressions and postures fell into natural alignment with your verbal message. But when he saw incongruence, where your nonverbal behavior contradicted your words – such as a side-to-side head shake while saying “yes” or a slight shoulder shrug (which is a sign of uncertainty) as you stated you were “absolutely positive.” Santa knew that often verbal-nonverbal misalignment is a sign of intentional deceit. At the very least, it showed an inner conflict of some sort between what you were thinking and what you were saying.

He looked for clusters

Clusters played a key role in Santa’s ability to spot lies. Your nonverbal cues occurred in what is called a “gesture cluster” – a group of movements, postures and actions that reinforce a common point. A single gesture could have several meanings (or mean nothing at all), but when he saw that gesture coupled with at least two other reinforcing nonverbal signals, the meaning became clearer.

According to research by David DeSterno of Northeastern University (research that he has surely shared with Santa Claus) there is one specific cluster of nonverbal cues that proved statistically to be a highly accurate indicator of deception. The “telltale four” body language signals that are associated with lying are hand touching, face touching, crossing arms, and leaning away.

He judged you as being “good” or “bad” only after considering the following . . .

  • For the vast majority of us, the act of lying triggers a heightened (and observable) stress response. But here’s what complicates matters:
  • Not all people demonstrate the same degree of emotion.
  • Not all liars (especially if polished or pathological) display readily detectable signs of stress or guilt.
  • Not all lies trigger a stress reaction. (Social lies, for example, are so much a part of daily life that they hardly ever distress the sender.)

Santa Claus also knows that truthful (“nice”) people like you can exhibit anxiety for a variety of perfectly innocent reasons including the fear of not being believed or discomfort speaking about embarrassing or emotionally arousing topics.

Santa Claus took all this into consideration, before planning his visit to your house – and that’s why on Christmas morning you will receive nothing but wonderful gifts – which I hope includes a copy of my book  STAND OUT: How to Build Your Leadership Presence


About the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is:

Do You Feel Visible?

Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

In a 2016 study, 240 senior leaders of a Silicon Valley technology company were asked to identify the most-critical factors for success at their level. The group agreed on track record and skills-based factors: a history of delivering results, technical depth of expertise, and the ability to manage a technical team.

However, when asked them to name the most-critical factors for promotion to their level, a new top criterion appeared: visibility. More than technical competence, business results, or team leadership ability — these leaders agreed — visibility was the most important factor for advancement.

How visible are you? Are the senior managers and executives in your company aware of your talents and accomplishments – or are you waiting for someone else to discover how amazing you are?

If you believe that working hard, keeping quiet, and waiting for your talents to be discovered is the path to success, take a tip from Dana Simberkoff, Chief Risk, Privacy and Information Security Officer at AvePoint: “If you want to be evaluated as having leadership presence, then being a legend in your own mind is not enough. Instead, you need to make sure that executives in your company are aware of your work and accomplishments — and you need to do so in a way that is not seen as boasting, but as informative and helpful.

Here are three simple tips to increase your visibility:

1)  Speak up – literally. Not only is public speaking impactful; sharing what you know also serves others.

• Submit yourself as a speaker for breakout sessions or panels at industry conferences.

• After you’ve attended a webinar or training session, offer to present your takeaways from that event in an informal session to anyone in your organization who’s interested.

2)  When participating in a virtual meeting, increase your visibility by . . .

• Making sure to be seen on camera. Don’t hide off-screen behind a name plate or a still photo. You can’t display presence if you’re not present.

• Starting with a smile. A smile is the facial expression we like the most. It’s an invitation, a sign of welcome. It signals that you are friendly, open and relaxed.

• Maintaining great seated posture. It’s a powerful nonverbal signal of confidence.

• Speaking up: Ask questions, offer suggestions, compliment others.

3)  You gain high visibility by doing high-quality work on high-priority projects. Before you agree to join a planning committee, project team, or task force, ask yourself if this assignment will help you get the attention of senior executives and other key contacts you’d like to make.

And when you join an important project, consider being the one who summarizes and distributes the notes of your meetings to senior leadership. It’s a great way to get them familiar with your name.

You can be loaded with leadership presence, but it won’t matter unless you are visible!

5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is: