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Interview with the Nation newspaper

Experts make the case for businesses to encourage their staff to acquire the skills

UK-based body-language expert Mike Carter believes body language is an important factor that can have a huge impact on one's life.

"Eighty per cent of all human communication is non-verbal. That's why it's so important to get it right," he said.

There are two ways to benefit from body-language competencies: to make sure that you project the persona that you want to portray, and to observe whether other people are liars or dishonest or can be trusted, and so on, Carter said during an exclusive interview with The Nation.

The visiting British expert has been a business partner of Alisa Lohitnavy, founder and principal image consultant of Image Matters, a pioneer in the image-consulting business in Thailand.

"Always keep your hands on view," is one suggestion from Carter as a basic rule of body language.

"[Because] it gives you credibility. Liars hide their hands," said Carter, who besides his body language consulting business, is involved with theatre and is also directing his first feature film, "Connected", due to hit screens around the middle of this year.

Alisa said US President Barack Obama never puts his hands in his pockets in public.

Another common rule is maintaining eye contact. During a conversation, the listener must maintain eye contact almost all the time, while a speaker can break it once in a while to think, said Carter.

"It's fine to break [the eye contact] to think. I notice in Thailand people blink or close their eyes to think," he said.

Notably, Carter said one should not be too concerned with the rules if one is behaving naturally.

Alisa said body language differed around the world but a few expatriates would be trained to understand body language. It is also beneficial to learn facial expressions because people do not always say what they really feel or think.

"Thais, when we say 'no' or 'yes', both could mean 'no'," she said, with a grin.

On the other hand, as the world is getting "smaller" and more foreigners come to be the bosses here, it is important for Thais to learn the body language of other nationalities, said Alisa.

Carter said most of his body-language consulting work is concentrated in the UK. Thailand is his first overseas business, thanks to his business relationship with Alisa. Western firms understand well the importance of body language. Roche Diagnostics, for instance, flew him to Switzerland, to train its sales staff for two hours.

Alisa said Image Matters has already attracted 12 client companies, which altogether have sent 1,300 staff to her for training since January 2011. All of them are Thai companies, including Bangkok Bank, TMB Bank, Ayudhya Allianz CP and Bangkok Airways. She is about to provide "voice coaching" to Ayudhya Allianz CP, which has 20,000 insurance sales staff.

"Voice is the only thing you can't hide," said Alisa, explaining why it is important to learn this topic, especially for telesales staff who never meet clients face to face.

Body language is one component in Image Matters' "Ideal Representative" course, tailored for sales and other mid- to senior executives. The two-day image-training programme covers eight modules: image and first impression; emotional intelligence and self-image; physical aspects of inducing self-confidence to build your image; colour theory and colour analysis; grooming for both men and women (including men's fashion, make-up and hair consultation); "Executive Presence" (greetings and handshakes, body language, facial expressions, posture, eye contact, personal space); emotional intelligence in social and business etiquette and dining etiquette.

Alisa firmly believes image can contribute enormously to one's success because, "People want to do business with people they like."


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