I am currently in the process of buying my first flat in London with my boyfriend. I have come to realise that this process is absolutely terrifying! Forget about the questions of "am I ready to make such a big financial and relationship commitment", "can we afford to buy our own place?", "am I going to bankrupt my parents when I ask for the largest loan known to man?" - those are the easiest to deal with. The worst bit of buying a property is the lack of direct communication with the seller.
In the past in this blog I have spoken about the importance of body language and communicating with others. It is these things that give us feedback in situations that allows us to make judgements as to how we should proceed. These things are taken away in a process where there are a number of intermediaries between you and the seller. Don't get me wrong, so far our solicitor and mortgage broker have been good but the fact that I don't know what the seller is thinking or feeling means that I can't adjust my approach to ensure that they are onboard and we aren't going to get "gazumped" before completion.
I am used to adopting feedback techniques in my everyday life, both professionally and at home. These allow me to adjust my behaviour, tone or message angle when communicating. I think this is something that many people do without realising but having moved into the world of marketing and communications, it has become more obvious to me now.
The three things you should be 'reading' are:
1) Body language (up to 55% of what we communicate)
The below examples will give you something to look out for but be careful that you don't judge someone's body language too crudely. The key is context.
Positive body language:
- Moving or leaning closer to you
- Relaxed, uncrossed limbs
- Long periods of eye contact
- Looking down and away out of shyness
- Genuine smiles
Negative body language:
- Moving or leaning away from you
- Crossed arms or legs
- Looking away to the side
- Feet pointed away from you, or towards and exit
- Rubbing/scratching their nose, eyes, or the back of their neck
2) Tone of voice
Have you ever heard the saying "it's not what you say but how you say it that counts"? Just think about training a puppy. They can't actually understand the words we are using but they can comprehend the tone and sound coming from us. Often when we require an animal to follow an instruction we use strong staccato phrases, such as 'sit', 'stay' and 'fetch' coupled with body language.
In a face-to-face conversation with another person the tone of voice can really change the meaning of a conversation in its entirety. Read the following paragraph. Imagine this is a friendly colleague at work trying to help you out in your first week. She has a calm and sincere tone.
"I would suggest that you look at the other information available so that you can make an accurate estimate. A piece of advice, don't enter any information into the database until you are sure it is correct"
Now read this paragraph again and imagine that this is a patronising Manager who seems to be insinuating you don't pay enough attention. The tone of voice is harsh, patronising and sharp.
Can you see what a difference tone of voice can make? Why not try an experiment by changing your tone of voice to see what sort of a reaction you get.
3) Facial expression
Most people won't give you an obvious signal, such as frowning (although I do know someone who does!), but they may furrow their eyebrows slightly if they don't understand or disagree. Don't be fazed by someone's facial expressions, just use them as a cue to ask more questions, clarify your point or take a step back.
Don't forget that your own facial expression can sometimes give you away too!!
I am hoping that we will be able to complete our flat purchase shortly but in the mean time I guess I will just have to do without the normal communication signals that I have come to rely upon in negotiations.