You may prefer the phone, but when you meet with a prospective borrower in person, you have an advantage. By reading a person’s body language, you can tell what’s on their mind, if they’re truly engaged, and if they understand the information you’re providing.

From our eyes to our feet, our bodies offer clues to what we’re thinking and how we’re reacting to one another. These “micro-expressions” or “tells” indicate how receptive we are to thoughts, ideas, and products. Here are five body language cues loan officers should be looking for:

  1. Facial expressions. Generally, we all know what a smile means. Smiling and nodding indicates engagement. Signs of tension, concern, or questioning are revealed by a crinkled nose, wrinkled forehead, raised eyebrows, pursed lips, frowning, or continually breaking eye contact.
  2. Eyes. Want to know what a prospect is thinking? Watch their eyes. Are they focused on you or what you’re showing them? When the eyes’ pupils are open wide, they’re actively engaged. When pupils narrow, it’s a cue to find out what’s on their mind. Constant eye contact, though, may indicate a desire to intimidate. If they’re looking at their watch, their phone, or the door you’re likely losing them.
  3. Hand and arm gestures. We know that when an individual crosses their arms that they are in a defensive stance. If they’re fidgeting with things, leaning, and looking away from you, they may be bored, frustrated, or have a desire to leave. Finger-pointing can also indicate an effort to intimidate. When a client’s arms are relaxed and at their side, and their hands are open and still, you’ve got their attention.
  4. Shoulders and torso. If your client is sitting up straight with shoulders squared, they’re listening attentively. If they slump in their chair, they may be bored or have a question and are just waiting for you to stop talking.
  5. Legs and feet. If your prospect is sitting slumped with legs stretched out in front of them, it may not be bad posture. They may be bored or have already shut down. Tapping and bouncing legs can be a sign of nervousness or impatience.

Remember, your body language is important too. Start by welcoming a borrower with a firm, but not overwhelming, handshake. Maintain eye contact, but don’t intimidate. Relax. Assume an open, confident posture with arms at your side and hands open. Be sure your phone is off and, if possible, that your computer is closed. Give your potential borrower your full attention and watch for those body language cues that tell you they’re engaged in a meaningful and productive conversation.