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I am receiving training for an in person sales position. The trainers feedback was that I appeared stiff. I asked him what I could do differently to appear less stiff and he just said "It looks like you have an invisible force field between you and the person you're talking to". This doesn't help me at all. How can I communicate I'm looking for specific, actionable items? Such as I should stand closer when talking to someone?

  • You've already communicated this. You can try again like "I've thought about your feedback that I appear stiff and I still don't know how I should approach improving this. Do you have some specific recommendations?" but a good trainer would have already made some suggestions. – Roland Feb 11 at 8:22
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When you've given feedback you don't understand try to get the person to give you more information. When the trainer tells you:

It looks like you have an invisible force field between you and the person you're talking to.

Respond with:

That's good to know. Thank you for telling me. Please tell me more. What would you do differently?

If I had to guess what the trainer meant by:

It looks like you have an invisible force field between you and the person you're talking to.

I would also guess that you keep too much distance between you and the other person. You may also need to be more animated in your communication (e.g. use your hand or objects to illustrate your point) and relaxed body language (e.g. https://blog.udemy.com/positive-body-language/ for working in the United States).

  • The article you linked to is very good. Funny enough point 1 has "Keep your back straight but not stiff and let those shoulders relax" I still find this hard to know what changes to make. I guess for me having a stiff something is a physical thing, not something people can see. For example just by looking at someone how would you know their back feels stiff? – Bertelem Feb 11 at 20:34
  • @Bertelem I think the idea is that people are social creatures and when we have a conversation, we look at non-auditory cues from the person we're having a conversation with. You can have your back straight, but your shoulders and neck stiff e.g. a soldier standing at attention. However that stance is too "formal" and "rigid" for a typical sales conversation. There's this popular TED talk on body language too: ted.com/talks/…. – jcmack Feb 11 at 22:50
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You could ask him to record a short training session and then give you feedback based on the recording. If anyone is concerned about data privacy, record the session on your personal device and show everyone involved that you delete it after the feedback is given.

Why the recording works:

During the interaction with a customer, you have to concentrate on your role and product knowledge, on the questions and problems of the customer, and on your own guestures and postures. That is too much to be aware of your body language all the time.

The recording gives you the chance to see yourself from a (literally) different perspective. You get to see guestures and postures that seemed so unimportant during the interaction that you already forgot them.

If the feedback is too vague for you to understand, you can ask the trainer to point out specific details in the video.

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