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Body language rules biz travel

Learn from the politicians -- the masters of good body language.
Learn from the politicians -- the masters of good body language.

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(CNN) -- Its not just sports personalities and politicians that worry about body language. If you are away on business then you too need to be conscious of the signals you are giving out.

You may have an MBA from Harvard, qualifications coming out of your ears or even be a director of your company, but it in business it may not matter.

How you shake your client's hand and whether or not you make appropriate eye contact is what could swing the deal -- and it is so easy to get it wrong.

There is a debate as to the percentage that body language makes up in the mix of communication skills, yet no one doubts it is the most important.

"Body language [is] a crucial element in good communication, use it well and it can really enhance your message. But use it badly and it can have the opposite effect," Liz Banks, a body language expert told CNN.

"It can help to convey what you're thinking and feeling to your audience. But it can also be abused and subconsciously we get into these bad habits. We send signals out to people about how we're feeling that we don't want them to know," she reiterates.

Make friends not enemies

The ability of a person to touch a chord in human interaction is likely to be critical to any business trip away.

According to a statistic researched by Trade Partners UK, a government organization providing support services for British companies trading overseas, as much as 94 percent of communication is through body language.

And their message is quite clear: If you are without some knowledge of the local culture and language you could -- quite simply -- be making enemies, not friends.

In certain countries people are much more subtle with their body language. A series of recent television commercials for a worldwide bank reiterated this.

Viewers where shown that exposing the soles of your feet in public in Thailand can be rude and that giving the thumbs up in Turkey has completely the opposite meaning in the UK.

Aside from very specific signals, which you are likely to become aware of right away, there are some general rules about what can work for most situations.

Bad body language: patronizing touches, signs of impatience and nervousness, pen and finger tapping, crossing arms, as well as invading personal space can all lead to a downward spiral in communication.

Some behavior can even be misconstrued as flirtatious, aggressive, or drunk even when you do not realize it.

Whereas positive body language: good posture, eye contact, genuine smiles and sincere nods can go a lot further to cementing the deal or developing a relationship.

In business people have to be more analytical about their body language and the signals they are sending out.

"You have to be controlled, but without being mechanical. It has to be clear, precise but natural as well. So enough expression to make you look animated and interested in what [people] are saying," Banks told CNN.

Positive gestures can also have other benefits when traveling for business, such as scaring off pickpockets.

Recently, Detective Cedric Mitchell of the Metro Transit Police Department in Washington D.C. told USA Today newspaper that confident body language and eye contact was likely to scare off pickpockets.

And if you are still not making the body language grade then analysts say watch and learn from your resident experts -- normally your CEO or experienced and well-traveled executive.

-- CNN's Richard Quest and Meara Erdozain contributed to this report


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