by Allen J. Sheinman | October 01, 2012
Last summer, when the boutique Affinia hotel chain decided to up the ante on its care and treatment of guests as part of its Tender Loving Comfort (TLC) program, management reached out to an expert to train staff on the signs, obvious and subtle, that people communicate via the way they walk, talk and just twiddle their thumbs.

Patti Wood, CSP, is the expert, and since 1982 she has conducted workshops and delivered keynote speeches on body language (visit for details). Her newest book is Snap -- Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma (New World Library). As Wood showed the staffs at Affinia's properties (in New York City, Miami and Washington, D.C.), people fall into four categories in the way they express themselves physically.

Drivers. "These are people who walk very quickly, head down, always in a rush," says Wood. "They want to be served right away and with no nonsense. I advise staff to match their pace, speak up and get the job done."

Influencers. "They are very upbeat, smiling, like to get close physically, are engaging and want to be engaged. Hotel staff should smile back, stand close, keep eye contact and be ready to laugh at an amusing story."

"These are very analytical people, puzzle solvers. They tend to be quiet, want to do the right thing and expect everyone else to, as well. They know all about coupons and discounts, so you should, too. You likely need to ask specific questions to meet their needs."

Supporters. "They want to feel loved, are shy and take things slower than others. Be extra polite and empathetic, and present a warm aura that says 'welcome home.'"

Wood also notes different physical approaches to take with the sexes. "I point out to front-desk personnel that to assist a male guest, it helps to come out from behind the counter and stand beside him to figure out a solution as a teammate; with women, it's more effective to stay put, go face-to-face and, if need be, say, 'Let me look at my screen here for the answer,' which in effect asks for permission to disengage for a moment."