“Often you would open your hands and show your palms, and that tends to be a trusting gesture. Studies show that when you use your hands naturally as you talk, people like you,” says Melinda Marcus, with whom I’m sharing an early supper.
“You also turn your hands down when you make a point, which creates authority. Watch Bill Gates or Bill Clinton. And, you lean in, which is good, because it shows you are engaged and interested. But one thing I would coach you on is that you tend to hunch over, which creates a feeling that you are not confident. It’s called a turtle when you bring your shoulders up and neck in, like you are trying to hide. Somebody who feels confident holds their head up, shoulders back,” she says.
Marcus sounds like my dad, always telling me to put my shoulders back. She’s right on the money. Body language is something we develop early in life, and if we want to get promoted or get into an elite graduate school, we might want to work on it. I just want a good interview.
Marcus calls herself a decision catalyst, an expert in the science of influence, combining persuasive psychology, body language, and strategic messaging in what she defines as the Marcus Method of Influence. “I show executives how to influence decisions before they lose big opportunities,” she says.
Hospitals hire Marcus to evaluate resident physicians, to weed out ones that interview well but won’t fit the culture. Corporations hire her to consult on how to “open doors and close deals,” attract new customers, and grow loyalty with current ones. She’s done a TED Talk, regularly conducts persuasive communications seminars for corporations and associations, and shows executives how to fast-track building trust in relationships, which leads to sales. She’s helped clients win $60 million dollar contracts and she estimates her consulting clients have grown their revenues by more than $279 million.
“Melinda has helped us grow exponentially,” says Dr. Jeffrey Whitman, president and chief surgeon of the Key-Whitman Eye Center. Whitman never considered TV commercials and marketing until Melinda came along. Now, Whitman is high-profile in Dallas, and a national expert on eye issues. Key-Whitman has grown from one office to six, now employs 150 people, and bills $40 million annually.
Glamour magazine once named Melinda Marcus one of the Ten Outstanding Young Working Women in America. Beginning in the late 1970s, she became a superstar in advertising, winning more than 100 awards, even producing a Super Bowl commercial for Hagar Slacks. She was the first female creative director for the national branding agency, The Richards Group. Eventually she formed her own company, Influence Advisors.
“One of the values of understanding how to read nonverbal signals is that when there is a disconnect between what is said and what is shown, you should always trust what is shown,” Marcus says.
People can fake a smile, but what they can’t fake is a micro-expression that betrays true feelings, she says. “If you see me smiling, but the muscles in the top half of my face are not engaged, it’s not real,” Marcus says. An unconscious micro-expression may last only an instant, but with training, you can see it. Marcus got her training from Joe Navarro, a former Special Agent who trained the FBI and became an international expert in body language.
“We all want to believe that decisions are made on logic,” she says. “But, every study shows that decisions are made on feelings, not facts. Judgments are made on whether I like you or not, whether I trust you, whether I believe you are an authority. Lasting first impressions are made in less than six seconds.”
“Sometimes it’s more about listening than talking,” says Lindsay Wilson, interior designer and executive managing principal at Corgan, the national architecture and design firm that renovated Love Field and designed the new Toyota headquarters and Parkland Hospital. “I’m fascinated by the science behind it, and I’m a skeptical designer. Melinda is one of the most highly rated speakers we’ve ever had. She knows how to put great ideas into action to grab attention and convert indecision into a win, which is an amazing skill.”
Marcus’ book, “Read The Room,” will be published in 2018.