Good communication is the foundation of any successful relationship, be it personal or professional. And it’s important to recognize that it’s our nonverbal communication—our facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, posture, and tone of voice – that ‘speak’. When we interact with others, we continuously give and receive wordless signals. Even when we’re silent, we’re still communicating nonverbally. Its estimated that we signal and ‘say’ more through nonverbal communication.
This is reason enough to improve your nonverbal communication.
Studies also show that when your nonverbal signals match up with the words you say, they increase trust, clarity, and rapport. When they don’t, they generate tension, mistrust, and confusion.
Nonverbal communication cues can play five roles:
- Repetition: they can repeat the message the person is making verbally. For example, you win a competition. Your friend congratulates you and gives a ‘thumbs up’.
- Contradiction: they can be totally different from a message the individual is trying to convey. For example, you arrive late for a meeting with friends. They say it’s okay but do not smile.
- Substitution: they can substitute for a verbal message. For example, a person’s eyes can often convey a far more vivid message than words do.
- Complementing: they may add to a verbal message. A boss who pats a person on the back in addition to giving praise can increase the impact of the message.
- Accenting: they may underline a verbal message. Striking the table, for example, can underline a message.
If you want to communicate effectively, avoid misunderstandings, bond with others both socially and professionally, it’s important to understand how to use and interpret nonverbal signals.
|Elements||What is to be noticed?|
|Eye contact||Is eye contact being made? Does it give complete attention to the individual, without being too intense? Show respect?|
|Facial expression||Does your face match your words? When you are not speaking what does your face say to others around you?|
|Body Language||Does your body language match your intent? You need to be able to read others body language too!|
|Tone of voice||Does the voice project warmth, confidence, and interest, or is it strained and blocked?|
|Posture and gesture||Is the body relaxed or stiff and immobile? Are shoulders tense and raised, or slightly sloped?|
|Touch||Is there any physical contact? Is it appropriate to the situation? Does it make you feel uncomfortable?|
|Intensity||Does the voice seem flat, cool, and disinterested, or enthusiastic?|
|Timing and pace||Is there an easy flow of information back and forth? Do Non-verbal responses come too quickly or too slowly?|
|Sounds||Do you hear sounds that indicate caring or concern?|
As you continue to pay attention to the nonverbal cues and signals you send and receive, your ability to communicate will improve.