Interview with Sara Canuso, speaker, author, personal branding expert.
Sara is the founder of A Suitable Solution: Elevate Your Power, Influence & Income. She coaches clients on how to build their personal brand through non-verbal communication.
You have worked primarily with lawyers, helping them improve their image through non-verbal cues such as posture, body language and attire. How did this come about?
I used to be a high-end clothier; many of my clients were lawyers. When I visited their offices, I started to wonder, “Is every day casual Friday?” So many lawyers seemed unaware of how their body language, as well as their clothing, affected how they were perceived. I reached out to the Legal Intelligencer and started writing a regular column about how to project a professional image. Soon law firms started to bring me in to coach their attorneys.
What are some common body-language cues that work to our disadvantage in business relationships?
Body language is, in fact, a language. We are speaking it all the time, whether we are aware of it or not. Moreover, we are hard-wired to read body language. People formulate an opinion about you within seven seconds of meeting you. They decide how smart you are, how confident, how reliable, and whether or not they like you. That’s an awful lot to give away before you speak a word.
Your posture is the most important indicator of how you perceive yourself, and thus how you will be perceived by others. When your shoulders are back, your chin is erect, and you look people in the eye, you are perceived as powerful. When you are speaking in front of people, extend your hands with your palms toward you; this is a welcoming gesture, bringing people toward you. If your palms face outward, this repels.
Tell me about how you have helped someone transform their image.
I once worked with a lawyer who argued real estate cases in front of the zoning board. He had no public speaking skills, and the most terrible body language I’ve ever seen. He walked like he had no sense of purpose, and argued like his case was already lost.
They key to transforming how you are perceived by others is to change how you perceive yourself. Your self-perception telegraphs itself to the world through your body language. So we worked together on transforming his self-image.
I worked with him for sixth sessions; on the day of our final meeting, he was standing outside the office waiting for me, and I totally failed to recognize him. He had so increased his self-confidence that he seemed like a different person.
Is it possible to come across as TOO self-confident, bordering on cocky? What kinds of postures or behaviors tend to turn people off?
Cocky people tend to walk with a bounce in their step. (Note to self: uh-oh.) They will also not smile as much, or make a sincere effort to connect with others. If someone is cocky, it shows on their face.
What advice do you have for creative entrepreneurs who want to project a professional image while still expressing their originality?
If I’m going to hire someone for a creative job, such as web design or marketing, and they show up in a gray suit, I’m going to think they don’t know what they’re doing. There’s no one size fits all when it comes to your personal style; creative people should demonstrate their creativity by dressing with flair. At the same time, someone who is too casually dressed will not hold enough authority. That’s why I advise all professionals to wear a jacket, particularly when meeting with a prospective client for the first time. It doesn’t have to be a suit, but your arms need to be covered. Jackets project authority.
(Note to self: shopping for jackets with flair is in my near future.)
Tell me about your current programs.
Right now I’m offering a wonderful half-day VIP program which offers one-on-one coaching to hone your image, develop your personal brand and increase your income. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to my website for more information!