Get Big Results with Small Talk–Get NOSE-y

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a networking event and observed two well-dressed business men talking. Even though I was across the room and couldn’t hear what they were saying, I could tell the conversation was going badly. An older man with a neat, salt-and-pepper goatee was talking and shaking his head from side to side while jabbing into the air with his index finger. He reminded me of the Uncle Sam “I Want You” poster. His gestures were aimed at a 40-something George Clooney look-a-like. This younger man appeared to be merely enduring the conversation and had his arms crossed and his body turned slightly away. He looked to be controlling his expressions with his “game face” on, save for a brief rolling of the eyes. I didn’t have to hear what they were saying to determine that they were not going to come to an agreement anytime soon. Their body language spoke volumes.

Numerous studies show that the non-verbal aspects of communication convey 50 percent or more of your message. It’s not what you say sometimes, but how you say it! How you use body language (posture, position, movement, gestures, eye contact, facial expressions, etc.) will either harm or help your relationships. Using the Small Talk, Big Results NOSE-y method will enable you to connect with people more quickly and to be remembered as a great conversationalist!

The acronym NOSE stands for:


Open body language


Eye contact

In short, the idea behind the NOSE-y method is to use body language to come across as a person who is receptive, non-critical, friendly and trustworthy. The acronym NOSE-y also is meant to convey having an attitude of interest toward other people (being “nosey” in a good way).

When you walk into a room, which of these two attitudes do you have? “Here I am!” or “Ah, there you are, Old Friends!” Both can be useful, however having the second attitude, one of anticipation and friendly interest toward others, is critical. In order to think, “Ah, there you are, Old Friends!” you first need to adjust your attitude before you walk through the door. One technique that I’ve found helpful is to mentally leave my negative thoughts like so much baggage in a corner of my brain before I enter a room through the magic door of opportunity. I can pick up my negative bags later, when I leave, if I really need to! I try to think, “Hello, Old Friends!” as I look around the room. After all, all friends were once strangers.

You can learn effective body language, but if you don’t have an “Ah, there you are, old friends!” attitude, it will be very difficult to apply. Your attitude will show in your body language. Trying to mask a negative or disinterested attitude is difficult and may lead to small incongruencies in body language that people pick up on subconsciously.

However, changing your body language can change your attitude—it goes both ways. Use a little bit of the “Here I am!” attitude when you first walk in to adjust your body language. Stand tall, chin up and put a pleasant expression on your face—a slight smile, the kind that engages your eyes.

Picking out whom to approach and how to approach them, is another blog topic, so I’ll just jump right into using the NOSE-y techniques in conversation. A caveat: as my experience is largely in American culture, some of the techniques may not translate well into other cultures. For example, in some countries nodding your head up and down means no, and shaking side to side mean yes.

1. Nod

It never ceases to amaze me how long I can sustain a conversation with a talkative person by merely looking interested, nodding and making occasional, um-hmm murmurs of agreement. Once in a blue moon I do it just to see how long I can go without actually contributing much to the conversation. About a year ago, my husband and I had dinner with a prospective business partner and I spent the whole evening seated next to the man pretty much just nodding and um-humming. Not once did he ask me anything about my life or my interests. That set off warning bells, which I, unfortunately, ignored. The business relationship has not gone well.

Nodding indicates that you are in agreement with what the other person is saying and generally are an agreeable person. You can also use nodding while you are talking to help persuade a person to come to your way of thinking. For example, you say something like, “Isn’t that a great idea!” and nod while and after you say it. If you have developed rapport with the person, they will subconsciously want to agree with you and may even nod along with you. They have mirrored your actions and are internalizing the agreement. If you and your conversation partner are “in-sync” you will begin to mirror each other’s body language and vocal expression. Use this knowledge to your advantage to connect more quickly by subtly mirroring the other’s body language. Some people like big gestures, others don’t. You can tell by how they gesture and mirror them. Subconsciously, the other person will see you as someone more like themselves. We tend to like people who are like us.

2. Open body language

Body language encompasses posture, position, movement, gestures, eye contact, facial expressions and more. Several books have been written on the subject, so I will just touch on some body language to avoid and some body language that is effective: Avoid:

o Folding your arms. This indicates a defensive attitude.

o Putting your hands in your pockets.

o Fidgeting with any part of your body or clothing/jewelry

o Touching your face. This indicates discomfort.

o Licking your lips. This can indicate lying.

o Running your fingers through your hair. This can indicate nervousness.

o Leaning away or angling your body away

o Getting too close. Closer than arm’s length is probably too close.

o Hunched posture. This makes you look like you lack confidence.

o Watching the clock or looking at your phone.

o Tapping your foot/ drumming fingers. This indicates impatience or nervousness.


o Open with a firm handshake

o Consider your attire and grooming (another blog topic!)

o Face the other person, with your hands visible

o Lean in slightly to indicate interest

o Have appropriate facial expressions to show empathy

o Pay attention to the other person’s body language

o Mirror the other person’s stance, gestures and more

3. Smile

Combined with appropriate eye contact, a genuine smile is the most important tool in your body language tool box! Nothing says “I’m friendly, open and non-critical!” like a smile. Most people do not smile enough. Smile more. Smile almost to the point of feeling like you are being excessively cheerful. In conversation, unless the topic is a somber one, instead of keeping your mouth in a neutral position (which actually looks more negative than neutral), try to keep a small half smile ready to burst in to a bemused grin or even an open-mouthed laugh.

Because a smile is so important to conveying an open and friendly attitude, you need to make your smile the best it can be—get your teeth straightened, get cosmetic dental work, use whitening products, brush and floss regularly. Your smile, your relationships and you are worth it!

4. Eye contact

Have you ever watched TV with the sound off? Try it sometime and watch the actors’ eyes. Eyes are very expressive. The way you look at someone can convey many different things: honesty, compassion, interest, confidence, affection, hostility, boredom or disdain. Not only do eyes express emotion, but the use of eye contact is critical to the flow of conversation. We use our eyes to obtain feedback on how the other person is responding, so we can adjust our own response.

One piece of advice I found helpful in increasing initial eye contact is to start noticing the eye color of the people you meet.

A lack of eye contact can indicate low self-esteem, dishonesty, lack of interest or disrespect. As a mom, annoyed at my children’s apparent disrespect, I’ve sometimes said to them, “Look at me when I’m talking with you.”

You can make too much or even the wrong type of eye contact. If you have unwavering eye contact, that can appear to be staring or glaring, especially if your face is serious. You need to adjust your eye contact (occasionally look away) to the person you are speaking with.

Your eye contact is noticed! The number one negative body language complaint I received in an informal poll of my Facebook friends was “not really paying attention.” Eye contact that is an unfocused, vacant stare is not good eye contact. The number two complaint was “rolling the eyes.” Rolling the eyes indicates a disdainful attitude. It especially pains me to see a wife or husband roll eyes at a spouse.

Some body language speaks so loudly we can’t hear the words. It really is not so much what you say, but how you say it! How you use body language can either enhance your relationships or endanger them. Using the Small Talk, Big Results NOSE-y method you can convey a friendlier, more engaging persona. Be a NOSE-y conversationalist!


About Diane Windingland
I speak for organizations that want their people to have better, more profitable conversations.

2 Responses to Get Big Results with Small Talk–Get NOSE-y

  1. Pingback: How to Start a Conversation with Someone You Don’t Know at a Networking Event « Small Talk, Big Results

  2. Pingback: From Geek to Guru: 14 Networking Tips for Shy People | Small Talk, Big Results

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