How to Read Body Language and Understand Resistance to Improve Your Influence – Episode 077

LFL 77 | Read Body Language


Having the skill to read body language is extremely beneficial in sales, or when you’re trying to influence others to see from your perspective. Susan Ibitz, the Owner of the Human Behavior Lab, joins this episode to provide clarity on the common myths surrounding body language. Learn as she explains why it’s only an indicator of what’s to come and why you should still keep your ears open to verbal communication. With the rise of social media platforms, influencers can be seen everywhere you go, and Susan defines the difference between an influencer and actually having influence. She also shares her wisdom on leadership development as a key factor to gaining influence in order to actually be able to do your work properly.

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How to Read Body Language and Understand Resistance to Improve Your Influence

If you’re in a leadership role or a sales role and you’re curious about ways to increase your influence, this is an episode you’re going to want to read. My guest is Susan Ibitz. She’s the owner of a company called Human Behavior Lab. From an influence standpoint, her work is in the area of understanding body language and micro-expressions, being able to read those things in terms of increasing our ability to understand other people. In this episode, we’re talking about leadership, whether you’re selling an idea, a product, a service, or it’s simply getting somebody to say yes to your request. The more information you can have and the more educated you can be in all of those areas, the better and more effective you are going to be in ethically influencing others to get where you want to go. That’s what this episode is going to be about. It is a preview into the webinar that we’re going to do on this topic as well.

Susan, thanks again for being on the show. This would be a good opportunity for us as we are preparing to do a webinar together on a range of different topics around influence, whether it’s influence versus influencer body language. How people can be more effective in terms of getting others to say yes to their request is one of the things that I’m thinking is going to be valuable. In this episode, we could maybe hit on some areas from your perspective where you think it’s going to be valuable and why it’s important that people understand how to develop and influence skills on a higher level.

When you propose the idea of the webinar, I jumped and says, “Yes, let’s do it.” I’ve been studying for some time how influencers work in the media. Everybody’s crazy about like, “This person has 150,000 likes, have 2.8 million followers on Twitter and we don’t have that.” There’s a difference between an influencer and have influence. There’s a difference on a yes, a maybe, actually and no in a negotiation. Those are the factors that people oversee and overlook on how to interact with others and be more influential.

We’re going to be on board. We’re going to talk about misconceptions on the media. We’re going to be talking about when you’re negotiating face-to-face with someone, what are the facts on the body language, on the language, and on the micro-expressions that can determine if the person is engaged, is open to move forward or it’s a no-no? We need to change and adapt all the time. If you keep doing the same craziness and you expect a different outcome, this is the perception of madness. We need to stop the madness to try to keep doing the same things and we need to adapt.

Susan, it’s funny when you say sometimes it’s good to hear a no. It reminds me of a lot of the sales training that I used to go through. We used to talk about that in terms of saying, “If you don’t hear no, you’re not selling yet.” Give me an example of somebody that’s trying to get influence or trying to gain a request from somebody. What are some of the things that somebody can try and cue in on in terms of body language? Maybe that’s demonstrating that somebody might be resisting where they want to go. Are there certain things that maybe as a sales rep or as an influencer would want to try and key in on?

If you keep doing the same craziness, and expect different outcomes, this is the perception of madness. Click To Tweet

The first thing I’m going to tell is a myth that I don’t get bored to emphasize. When somebody is crossing their arms, it doesn’t mean that the person is not engaged or is not open to doing the business. Some people cross their arms when they think because it’s a soothing situation. If somebody is crossing arms and nodding head to the side, that is a sign a person is comforting themselves and is thinking. Why? Because all the organs that are vital to survival are in the chest and the abdomen. When we cross the arm, we protect those because we’re going to comfort our self.

When the person is ready to make the decision, you’re going to see that person open their arms. That’s when you need to make the final decision. When is crossing the arms a negative sign? If I cross my arms, cross my legs, and I do my turtleneck. Turtleneck is when your shoulders get higher and your neck gets smaller because the neck is a sensitive part of your body too. If I’m crossing my arm in front of my chest, protecting my organs, I protect my neck, cross my legs, and most importantly, pull my body away from you, that’s when you have a negative sign.

That’s when something is going on. If you add to that factor that the person is angry, surprise, disgust or dislike, you have a problem. You still can save that situation if the person hadn’t verbalized the no. Why? People don’t pay enough attention to the words. I’ve been fighting in trainings when people say, “No, I don’t care what they say. It’s about the body language.” No. The body language and the micro-expressions are giving you an indication that there is a probability that the person is not going to accept your negotiation.

Until the person doesn’t verbalize no, you still have time. Come back with more questions. “Is there maybe anything that I haven’t addressed? Are there any questions that maybe because of my long presentation, you haven’t had the chance to do? Is there any other information, expert or feedback that you maybe need to make a decision?” If you say, “You need to make a decision,” you’ve given the other person the cue that, “I need more information to make the decision.” If I say maybe, it’s like, “I need more information. I don’t need more information. I’m going to make the decision.”

It’s simple once you get it. It’s complex to change the mindset on the selling. Selling is an emotional situation. When I train people who sell insurance, I say, “You’re selling the future.” If I tell a father who has three kids in college that that’s the insurance you need. Why? “If something happened to you, your kids are not going to college. Your kids are not going to have the life that you expect to.” It’s an emotional selling. You need to connect to the emotional point of what is going on with that person in their life. You need to connect. That’s where your knowledge is important, Patrick because you work with empathy. I’m not a good empath. I’m a fixer. You have developed empathy. Now you tell me how you’re going to talk about empathy.

LFL 77 | Read Body Language

Read Body Language: When somebody is crossing their arms, it doesn’t mean that the person is not engaged and is not open to do business. Some people cross their arms when they’re thinking.


As you were talking about listening or words, immediately from an empathic standpoint, I went to four-way listening, which I know is something we’re going to speak to as well. It’s the importance of four-way listening where we listen with our eyes, which is where you’re talking about micro-expressions, body language, folding arms, what are people doing and being aware of that. Listening with our ears, the words, the tone of voice that somebody might use. Even the word choice can be important to cue in on certain words that are being used. I would agree that it is something that needs to be respected. It’s space for the amount of words. From an empathic standpoint, it’s trying to listen in a way that if I was on the other end of this, I would want to be listened to.

That to me is the empathic part. It’s trying to put myself in the buyer’s shoes of trying to understand. When we talk about the model around resistance, the great model which I know will come up around, what are the five reasons why people may resist? One of those is around goodwill. If I feel like what you’re asking me to do is only serving your own best interest, but you haven’t demonstrated any care or concern with its impact on me. Naturally, I am going to resist. I’m not going to want to go where you’re asking me to go because I feel like you’re only interested in yourself. What are you going to get out of this? The environment that I came from prior to going out on my own was in the bio-sales or biopharma area. That was very much an industry that was filled with suspicion where you’re dealing with practitioners and physicians asking them to use certain treatments. Oftentimes, they’re looking and saying, “Are you concerned about my patients getting the best treatment or are you making sure that you get the sale for the treatment that you represent?” There’s a huge difference there.

When I train sales people, one of the problems of the younger ones is that they don’t have the experience to relate to others. When a doctor threw that question to you, you need to be fast in your feet and talk about the experience. Charles Bukowski says, “When something happened to a writer, it’s a book on the happening.” Experience, failing, and success is what makes you good in what you do because now you can shift shoes. I have a friend who’s a psychologist who says, “My life being so messy gives me such an empathy channel with my patients, because now I can understand what they’re feeling and what they’re going through.”

If you haven’t had a friend who may have an illness and you need to sell a medication who similar, or you haven’t talked to patients to know what they are going through. If you don’t ask the right questions to come out with the right way to approach it, it’s never going to happen. Some people call it empathy. I’m calling it having open conversations, depending on what your group is and the way you need to address it. Stories sell more than facts. Even with people who need facts, they’re going to need the story to support those facts.

We might be talking about products here. Leadership is very much the same way. When we talk about empathy, how I will oftentimes relate to leadership work that I do is to remind myself what it was like to be an employee and to report to somebody else. What were those things that motivated me? It’s almost like putting on my employee hat when I’m doing work with leaders to help them recognize what the other side of this situation they’re dealing with. If they want to inspire people, you need to have an understanding of what it was like to be an employee.

Experience, failure, and success, it's what makes you good at what you do. Click To Tweet

Your first customer is your employee. I think it’s Oracle. I read an article about how their employees are replicating in the media the experience they have as an employee. They have better strong media replication through the employees than the Marketing and PR Department. They’re talking all the time about the experience, the training they have, how happy they are to come to work. They’re taking pictures of the desk. People are relating to, “Those employees are happy. It must be a good company.” Another thing that concerns me is 60% of managers that I talked to, and I found a replication on that study too, is they are put on the position and they have never given any skills to manage that. Some companies do, “This is the best sales rep we have. He must be good enough to be a manager. Let’s put him on the manager position.”

That person hates it because you take away the adrenaline rush to be on the street. Second of all, you didn’t give him any soft skills, any communication or any leadership command. The only thing he knows is selling. He keeps selling himself. He’s selling to the team that he knows what he is doing. He doesn’t have the knowledge to keep the door open to have people to come to talk to him for learning the one-on-one experience. That is extremely dangerous. There are a couple of studies that came up that soft skills are going to be more important than hard skills. Hard skills are being an engineer. You need to be an engineer to produce a product.

If you’re not creative or if you cannot communicate with the other engineers on your team to develop a product, what is the meaning of being intelligent if you cannot have empathy, creativity and leadership? We are in an era where things are changing. Sometimes companies are looking more to have a PhD from Harvard. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still extremely important for some position to have the leadership and the knowledge to know how to manage your team, communicate with your team, to have a better environment of working. People don’t leave companies. They leave that management. If 60% of that management don’t know what they’re doing, you’re going to lose good people in your team.

It’s just a shift. There’s not enough support probably for managers to take on those roles. It’s shifting who the customer is or allowing them to understand who used to be their customer, their new customers, the people that report to them, and giving them the skillset. Oftentimes, I would agree with you that you can have managers that then come in and think, “I was successful doing it this way. Everybody else should do it the same way.” You lose that ability. More than each of your customers are probably a little bit different. You had to approach them differently to get what you were hoping to get out of that relationship. You have to treat it differently.

You will often hear me talk about from a leadership perspective. Leadership should be part of onboarding. There should be some component to leadership development as an onboarding component when you bring employees on because it doesn’t cost a lot. It allows the organization to level set in regards to what are the behaviors here that are going to be important. We started this conversation out talking about influence from a standpoint of maybe selling a product. There’s very little difference that you will find in terms of leading people as it relates to influence. That’s one of the valuable things that will come out of the webinar as well. We’ll be able to talk about what are the things that create resistance within a team or an employee that your behaviors or your being able to read situations will impact your ability to influence better.

LFL 77 | Read Body Language

Read Body Language: Body language and micro expressions give you an indication that the person is probably not going to accept your negotiation. Until the person doesn’t verbalize, “No,” you still have time.


Companies are afraid of the cost of training. When they say, “It’s going to cost us too much logistic to train the team.” How much money are you losing? How much money are you avoiding to make because you don’t want to invest? You are approaching this in the wrong way. You’re not spending money. You invest in. Why? You don’t kill your capital. You live on the interests. Now you’re killing your capital. Start putting the capital to make money and live on the interest. I have news for you, 90% of the people check online before they’re going to make a decision. Even if they’re going in person to buy a car or work with a realtor, they’re still going to look for the brand. How much influence you have? How your reviews online work, 90% of the time.

Now we don’t have influence only with one-on-one. You have online influence. You have influencers. If we do our webinar once a day for 30 days, we’re still going to have things to talk about because it’s crazy. You and I agree that one of the most difficult thing was what part of influence we’re going to be talking because this can be crazy. We can talk for five hours and keep bringing the topic because influence is everything. It’s how you talk to your kids to do their homework, how you talk to your wife where you’re going to go on vacation, how you talk to your customers to buy training, how to have the influence of media, and how other people are influencing you. I talk about the evil, the good and the ugly of influence can be good and bad.

To me, the term ethical influence will be thrown out there. I do believe that Bernie Madoff is somebody that understood all of the principles of influence but use them for the wrong reasons. That’s it. The influence tools themselves, the principles behind it or the research isn’t good or bad. It is what it is. The best thing that you can do is understand it from both perspectives. One is to understand how to leverage it more to be successful ethically, but also to be able to recognize when maybe you’re being influenced in an unethical way yourself.

I always say, “You can have a hammer and kill someone and you can have a hammer and save somebody who’s trapped.” I would say it’s the person using the tools. It’s not always the tool. It’s your intentions and what you do that makes the difference. You can use bad things done in history and make good things with that.

To set the stage for what’s to come, what would you tell individuals that want to jump on this webinar? What are they going to walk away with?

When you train people, you’re not spending money, you’re investing. Click To Tweet

We’re going to talk and we’re going to have live Q&A. We’re going to be taking questions as they come in. It’s going to be a conversation where people can jump. I love that. The good news is as soon as the webinar ends, we’re going to have the webinar on demand. We’re going to send you to a website where you can go and watch the webinar any time you want. You can still make Q&A. Every time you make a question on the webinar on demand, those questions are going to go you and I and we can answer the people. It’s like having a life connection with you and me for a month. It’s a new way to interact with people. I’m going to bring some cases about the false influence and the mystified, how some people think there are influencers on the media, it doesn’t work. Sometimes 151 likes don’t mean that it’s going to be monetized or you’re influencing people in the market. Tell me your side, what are you going to bring to the webinar?

LFL 77 | Read Body Language

Read Body Language: You can have a hammer and kill someone, and you can have a hammer and save somebody who’s trapped. It’s the person using the tools, not always the tool.


We initially talked about what are the reasons why people resist. I’ll be talking about the five reasons why people generally resist saying yes. How to piggyback off of what you’re speaking to in terms of being able to read those resistors are? How can you tease those out so that you can overcome those? My experience and belief is we hear a lot of conversation around how do you get people to say yes. My own experience and belief is that all yes need to travel through no first. When we understand the noes, what those are, we’re able to more effectively get to a yes and getting somebody where they need to be.

The good point is you know that through experience. You’re going to talk about what happened in your own skin. Without experience, you are not able to tell people.

This is where research and theory meet the real world.

The conversation with Susan was about understanding the difference between being an influencer and influencing. How to leverage understanding the word somebody uses, their micro-expressions, their body language? How all of those things play into more effectively read other people and get them to say yes to your requests. Again, I use that ethically. I hope you’re able to jump on the webinar that we’re going to have. You’ll get to learn more about how you can lead like no other and in the process, learn to rise above your best.

 Important Links:


Susan Ibitz from Human Behavior Lab and I discuss how to leverage the understanding of body language and the origins of resistance to ethically improve gaining agreement with others. Attached is the link to our complimentary webinar on February 5, 2020 at 7pm Central time.
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