Salon Owner’s Summit

Keith Barry: Beyond Words – Harnessing the Power of Non-Verbal Communication

8 min

Keith Barry: Beyond Words – Harnessing the Power of Non-Verbal Communication

Irish mentalist, entertainer and subconscious mind specialist, Keith Barry, gave an incredible performance at the Salon Owners Summit 2024. With mind-bending live demonstrations, he had even the most sceptical audience members leaving the room believing in the  supernatural powers of telepathy and mind-control.

Keith, however, has never claimed to be magic. He defines himself as a scientist, first and foremost, keeping on top of the latest research in the field of neurolinguistics. His powers of perception and influence, he says, are nothing more than being acutely tuned into non-verbal cues. Referencing Albert Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 rule of communication, Keith shared with the audience that only 7% of the way we communicate with others is via the words we speak. The other 38% is the tone in which we say it, and the largest share, 55%, is through our body language and mannerisms.

Interspersed among impressive live demonstrations, Keith shared actionable ways that salon owners can begin harnessing the power of non-verbal communication to positively influence relationships with their teams and clients to achieve better business outcomes.

Imagine being able to read the minds of your team and your clients, and influence their decisions. Let’s look at some of the tips Keith shared.

Tactics for Building Instant Rapport 

Pacing and Mirroring 

Image captured by Jon Chu, Director, on the set of ‘Now You See Me 2′

Keith shared this image of himself and Morgan Freeman on the set of the movie ‘Now You See Me 2’, where Keith was the chief magic and mentalist consultant. The moment this photograph was taken was the first time Keith and Morgan met. Morgan challenged Keith to read his mind in an on-the-spot test of his abilities. Building an instant rapport with Morgan was extremely important. To do so, Keith used mirroring techniques to win him over.

A fundamental need people have, Keith says, is to feel seen, heard and understood. If you can fulfil this need for people, you can build instant rapport. By mirroring their mannerisms, you become like them. They see themselves in you and you in themselves. They feel seen, heard and understood. Mirroring also helps to settle the limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for emotional response and stress. You need to do it carefully, however. 

Three is a magic number

Keith recommended mirroring someone three times, or in three different ways, over the course of a conversation. This is the optimal number to change their mindset and to cause a positive change in their limbic system.

Mirror their movements, but not exactly

Overt mimicking can have the opposite effect – it can feel weird very quickly and turn people off. If they fold their arms, for example, it’s not recommended that you fold yours. Instead, mirror them very subtly. Change your body language to match theirs. Notice them. If they make large gestures when speaking, Keith recommended to begin using slightly larger gestures. If the person you’re speaking to is more introverted, making slower gestures, you should make some slower gestures, too. In the above image, because Morgan put his hand to his head, Keith also put his hand to his head, but in a different way. 

The ‘RSVP’ rule for voice mirroring

When mirroring someone’s voice, remember the ‘RSVP’ rule – there are four elements of speech that you can mirror – rhythm, speed, volume and pitch. People understand language best when it is the same rate and speed at which they speak it. Giving an example,  Keith explained that when he performs in America he often slows down the pace of his voice, because Americans tend to speak a lot slower, whereas in the UK, he speeds up.

‘Slight of mouth’ – mirroring language

Becoming an intent listener involves repeating back to people one to three words that they have said to you. By using their language, people feel seen, heard and understood, and will be far more likely to buy whatever it is that you’re selling, or to make whatever decision it is that you want them to make. Keith went deeper into this topic by outlining the ‘VAK systems’.

Three Thinking Systems – Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic

There are three core systems in which we think, known as the VAK systems – visual, auditory and kinesthetic. While we fluctuate between the three systems, everyone has a preferred or predominant mode of thinking. 

If you listen carefully to people, you can pick up on what their predominant mode of thinking is. They tend to use language that correlates to their predominant mode, for example:

Visual thinkers use phrases relating to sight, like:

  • See
  • Look
  • View
  • Appear
  • Appears to me
  • Short-sighted
  • That looks right
  • The way I see it
  • Clear as day

Auditory thinkers use phrases relating to hearing,  like:

  • Focused
  • Clear
  • Upfront
  • Hear me out
  • Listen
  • I hear you loud and clear

Kinesthetic people use phrases related to touch,  like:

  • Get a feel for
  • Fall into place
  • Can you handle it
  • Tap into
  • Feels great
  • I’ll be in touch

By listening out for the language people are using, you can shift your modality of thinking and  your language patterns to match theirs. This can help with building that rapport, putting people  at ease and building trust. These can help in the business negotiation process  – whether upselling a client or motivating an employee.

For each type of thinker, Keith shared some phrases you can use to speak directly to their predominant way of thinking:

Visual phrases include:

  • Let’s look at this together
  • As you can see…
  • Picture this…
  • Can you visualise…

Auditory phrases include:

  • Sounds good
  • I hear you
  • Can I call you?
  • Let me tell you…
  • Let’s discuss it 
  • Let’s talk about it
  • Can I ask you…

Kinesthetic phrases include:

  • Get a feel for it
  • Boils down to 
  • I get a feeling that…
  • Open up
  • Let me pull some strings
  • Can you handle it

Tactics for Negotiation

Micro-Expression Analysis

Everyone is bleeding information all the time through their body language. Your job is to learn what to look for, so you can use it to your advantage in a negotiation situation – whether that be a salary review with an employee, a price negotiation with a supplier, or dealing with a difficult customer.

Get a baseline

First of all, you need to learn how to get a “baseline” of the person you’re communicating with. That happens during general chit-chat at the start of a negotiation. How is a person behaving? What are they saying  during truthful speech? These questions should be asked during general small-talk about topics like the weather, the traffic, or their kids. You’re looking out for what they look like when you know, for sure, that they’re telling the truth. 

Look for clusters

Once you have the baseline, you can start to look for ‘clusters’. These refer to ‘red flags’ that stand out from the person’s baseline. When you start to get into a negotiation or a difficult conversation, note how are they behaving differently to the baselining period, and question; what does that mean?

It’s important to remember that it usually means nothing if you see it once. If you see them touching their nose, for example, maybe they just have a scratch. But if you see the person you’re engaging with touch their nose three or more times in the course of the conversation, that becomes a pattern – and a red flag. 

Nose scratching

There are thousands of nerve endings in our nose, and everyone’s nose, without exception, will become engorged with blood when they are lying. The blood rushing to their nose when they are lying will cause it to become itchy, and so if they haven’t scratched their nose during the baselineing period, that tells you that their nose is becoming engorged with blood.

This tells you one of two things:

  1.  If they’re speaking during those moments when they touch their nose, usually you can assume that they are trying to deceive you. 
  2. If you are speaking and you notice they start to itch their nose multiple times, it means whatever you are saying is making that person feel uncomfortable. 

Once you understand this, you can choose what to do with the information. You can press harder on the topic, or lean out, change the course of the conversation to settle them down, but then loop back to what it is that you’ve said and explore it further.

Asymmetrical lip movement

Most microexpressions happen in about one sixteenth of a second, so you have to tune your brain to look out for these things. It won’t be easy at first, as you begin to tune your brain in, you’ll never be able to unsee them.

An asymmetrical lip movement is simply one side of the lips moving out of sync with the other, or one side of the lips going up or down. It means the person is having a hormonal response in their body. And if you’re talking at the moment you notice a cluster of asymmetrical lip movements, you can assume that you’re saying something they’re not agreeing with. 

And that’s an important cue to move the conversation along and change tact, but always loop back. Allow the person you’re speaking with to settle, build up their trust again (with the rapport building tactics above), and then probe further to understand what they’re not onboard with. 

Asymmetrical shoulder shrug

This is very similar to the above analysis of asymmetrical lip moving, but refers to a very faint shrug of the shoulder. The same rules apply in terms of training your eye to catch it, and switching the conversation when you do.

Pacifying gestures

Pacifying gestrures are small movements you’ll notice someone doing to pacify or calm themselves. These include things like rubbing their ear, stroking their hands and fingers, or rolling their tongue inside their mouth. 

When you notice a cluster of these, you’ve likely said something that has set off your conversational partners’ autonomic nervous system – and not in a good way. Again, noticing these cues is a good way of knowing it’s time to step back and allow them to settle down. Or, if they’ve been speaking to you and start to show pacifying gestures, generally it means they’re trying to shield a lie from you. 

Incongruent head nod

The easiest way to spot when someone isn’t being honest with you is through an incongruent head nod – that is, a head gesture that is at odds with what the person is saying. For example, if someone is saying no, but nodding their head, or saying yes and shaking their head, it usually means that they’re delivering a lie.

Subliminal ‘Yes-Set’

Keith ended his talk on the topic of ‘Yes Setting’,an extremely powerful tool in negotiations, which can increase your chances of the negotiation going in your favour by about 20%.

To set up an effective ‘yes set’, you need to extract as many truthful ‘yeses’ out of the person as possible before you get into a negotiation. Doing this lulls them  into a ‘yes mode’ of thinking. Find things that you know they’re going to agree with. For example, if you know that they’ve gone on a holiday, you could say, ‘looks like your holiday was great’? Yes. ‘Weather was good’? Yeah. And so on.

They don’t even need to say yes out loud. You just need to know they’re saying yes in their head. What this does, said Keith, is fire up their ‘yes neurons’. 

Going even further, Keith explained that can add in an ‘anchor’ for those yeses, which refers to using a visual, auditory or kinesthetic stimulus to subconciously “lock in” the dopamine hit of saying ‘yes’. For example, each time they say yes, you could touch your chin or click a pen. This generally goes unnoticed by them, but they subliminally connect the stimulus with the act of saying yes. 

Then, when you get to the part of the conversation or negotiation where you want that person to agree to something, before they get time to think, you click the pen, or you drum your fingers, or you touch your chin (whatever your anchor stimulus was). This fires off the ‘yes neurons’ that you’ve anchored through the course of the conversation, and they will be overwhelmed with hormonal responses, compelling them to repeat a ‘yes’ in agreement.

This, of course, is not an exact science. But, as Keith says, he has signed enough deals in his life and in business using these techniques. And from the live examples demonstrated throughout the course of his electric performance at the Summit, there wasn’t a single doubter in the room. Try these for yourself and let us know how you get on in the comments below or on our Instagram, @phorestsalonsoftware!

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