Do You Walk the Talk?

Nonverbal communication in the workplace is critical in building your personal brand! Is this what you project to others about life or work?

Or do you walk in stride with your head held high?

As children, we go by more of what we hear, not what we see; however, as adults, we go by more of what we see and not what we hear. We have learned that not everything that comes out of one’s mouth is the truth.

I titled this blog, “Walk the Talk!”, because it exemplifies how nonverbal communications can help impact your message because it represents your integrity. I love Sid Kemp’s, (life coach, mystic, engineer) explanation of this, so I have inserted his answer on, What’s the meaning of “walk the talk?

“The two phrases I know of are: “Walk the walk and talk the talk,” and “Walk one’s talk.” They have opposite meanings. To “walk the walk and talk the talk” means to put up a good front, to be good at being phony and appearing in a way that impresses people. The meaning is about insincerity and faking your way to success. Another phrase from Hollywood evokes this well, “Sincerity is the key to success in Hollywood. Once you can fake that, you can get anything.”

In contrast, “to walk one’s talk” is to live with integrity. Whatever one’s own talk is – whatever we believe and say – we do what we say. A classic story of Mahatma Gandhi illustrates this. When Gandhi was older, he was famous all over India. People would line up for hours just to ask his blessing or to ask him one question. He always gave a wise, polite, and encouraging answer. 

One time, a mother brought her child. She had waited hours. She asked Gandhi to tell her child to stop eating sweets because they were ruining his teeth. Gandhi asked her to come back in two weeks, and he would do it. Everyone was shocked – he had never done anything like that before.

Two weeks later, the mother came back, and Gandhi wagged his finger and said to the little boy, “Stop eating sweets! They ruin your teeth.” The woman thanked him and then said, “If I may ask, my dear Gandhi, why didn’t you just say this two weeks ago.”

Gandhi smiled and answered, “Two weeks ago, I was still eating sweets!”

If you “walk the talk” then you walk with truth and integrity. Your body will happily support that message; however, if you don’t “walk the talk” your body will negate the spoken message and others can see through that. Some are more obvious than others. But the body will “speak the truth”.

As he mentioned that when you “walk the walk” or “talk the talk” it is not coming from truth and your body will eventually tell the real message. What do others read from your nonverbal communications, concerning your body language? Nonverbal communication is not just about body language. It is also about what I call “Body Positioning.”

For example, one of our clients were being bought out by another bank. They did not know if they were going to still have a job when the transaction took place. When our clients went to the buyers hi-tower office boardroom, the leaders of the buying bank allowed the other leaders to sit in the power seats. (head of the table) Did they give up their power? No.

They were nonverbally saying that we are in control and we don’t want you to feel threatened during this process. We have to work this out. I know this because that is what they told our client when they asked them why they did that. It was very obvious apparently.

Another example. One of our General Managers (GM) of a major cable company had just hired a young, new marketing director. Several weeks into his new role, the GM asked him to ride to lunch with him and the CEO who was visiting that day. As the men approached the car, the GM was driving and the young  man went directly to sit in the front seat, making the CEO ride in the back seat. That, according to the GM, was a very uncomfortable ride. Can you imagine?


Nonverbal communication is also about environmental factors. Things such as lighting, furniture type and placement, to flowers, wall art, and room colors, they all say something about you nonverbally to others. Think about your office now. If others saw it for the first time and did not know you, what would be some of their assumptions be about you?

What assumptions can you make about the offices below? See commonalities or differences. Does your office support your personal brand? Or negate it?



When working with Delta’s Field Service Managers we toured their offices. It was very interesting because each manager sent a different message just by their office décor and arrangements, and the colors they selected. Some were brightly lit, while others had low lights and candles.

Others were formal, while others were more informal. The décor helped set-the-tone for how that manager might want to communicate. One would have a sitting area to make the flight attendants more comfortable, side-by-side, while others had his or her desk between the two chairs, keeping anyone who came in at a distance.

Let’s look at our nonverbal communications in terms of our body language. Why does it play such an important role in the communication process? Because it is the primary way that we as humans communicate our attitude. We use three primary channels to communicate: body, tone and words.

Dr. Albert Mehrabian, a highly respected psychologist from UCLA conducted a study where he found that the body played a larger role in communicating one’s attitude than their tone of voice or the words they actually spoke. In fact, he said that the body is 55% percent of the message, while tone, how something is said, contributes 38% to the message and words having only a 7% impact.

The key word is “attitude”. If you believe or are passionate about something it is then that your tone and words naturally support your body; however, if you do not really believe in what you are saying then the body more than likely will negate the spoken word; therefore, not supporting your message.

When referring to the body, Dr. Mehrabian was talking more about facial expressions; eyes, eyebrows, smile, and face positioning. Your face can help show excitement, interest, trust, and even help regulate conversation. In fact, it is the best way to communicate your true feelings. But you also must remember that your face can also show disinterest, discontent, lack of enthusiasm and lack of trust.

So, if you say you are excited about a particular project, when you really are not, your facial expressions oftentimes will negate your spoken words. The point is simple; facial expressions are critical in communication. But remember, you cannot take one nonverbal cue and draw a conclusion. Utilize other parts of the body to support your facial expressions; body posture and hand movements. Here is an example that I will never forget. It has stuck with me for years!

I received a call one day from a young female corporate attorney who had been outplaced, fired to be exact. She could not get a job. Not knowing her needs, I booked an appointment to see how I could help her. When she arrived at the office, the receptionist called my office to let me know my client was waiting in the reception area. Here’s what happened.

As I was walking down the hall, I saw a very attractive woman in a periwinkle colored, skirted suit. She sat very poised and erect. She had blonde hair that was up in a bun on the back of her head. From a distance, she seemed to be a ballerina.

As I approached her, I introduced myself offering her a handshake. As she arose from the chair she responded to the handshake, to which I then said, “What just happened here?” Coming from a woman that had the look and poise of a ballerina, her handshake caught me off guard.

She didn’t understand and was somewhat defensive when I asked her that question. I looked at her and said, “You basically just drew an imaginary line in the sand and dared me to cross it.” She asked me how.

I told her that she squeezed my hand tightly and slightly pushed me back a bit with her handshake. I went on to say that what she was nonverbally communicating to me was that she was not a team player, that you wanted to be the leader and not a follower and that you were going to be a pain in my side.” But I continued with saying, “But come on back, and let’s do the interview anyway, since I am obligated to do so.”

I instantly made light of the situation, saying that that there were some areas where I could coach her, helping her to get back into the interview game. And WIN!

So, how could her handshake hinder her during the interviewing process? For starters, her handshake was sending the wrong message. Her handshake is what is called a “cruncher”. This type handshake typically means that someone else needs to be in control, they want to lead and not follow. When, in reality, we all know what it is really about,  being insecure. But that’s another blog within itself! Although all of this may not have reflected her true profile, to me, the perceiver, it was my reality, therefore, that is how she was.

Then there was something else that came out of the coaching session. As we were talking, I realized that she didn’t smile a great deal. She seemed very “closed-off”, not letting me “see” her. Again, another nonverbal message that potential employers were probably feeling as well.

It was then I found out that the length of her hair was down past her knees and that when she put her hair up in a bun, she had to pull it tight and put bobby pins in to hold it in place. Literally her skin was pulled so tight she was not able to give me a sincere smile. I know that it sounds like I am making this up, but I am not. In fact, she sat and walked “methodically” because she was not wanting her hair to come down. Her hair was causing a distraction from giving a great interview.

I recommend that she adjust her handshake, and to cut her hair to a length that was more manageable. I suggested to her that perhaps these things were hindering her from getting second interviews. By the way, she never had one call back in 6 months. I felt that she was coming across defensive and unapproachable and that was what was holding her back. I didn’t believe it to be her skill-sets, abilities and experience.

We worked on her body langue and verbal communications during our first session. About a week later, she came back into the office to get some material that I had left for her. When the receptionist called me, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Here hair was cut shoulder length. She moved with so much ease. Her smile was bright, her whole energy had shifted. She couldn’t believe how those few things were keeping others from her. It was quite a transformation.

Can you see how nonverbal communication can enhance your communications or impede it? Being aware of all the nuances of nonverbal communication will enhance your personal brand!

To read more blogs on the topics of Communications, click here. Keep in mind that we are constantly adding new blogs so be sure to check back!

You can also submit any question concerning this topic or other personal branding topics by submitting your questions here. Our “ASK! the image guru” will try to answer your question(s) in a blog!