"Few realize how loud their expressions really are. Be kind with what you wordlessly say."
- Richelle E. Goodrich, Making Wishes
Do you appreciate it when you are telling a story and your listener sneaks a peek at their watch? How about when you ask your child for help with a chore and they mumble a begrudging "yes" while dramatically rolling their eyes?
Communication is a nuanced endeavor.
Whether you're using hundreds of words or simply standing in silence, you are in constant communication with those around you. Experts estimate that a minimal amount of communication happens through the exchange of words, while up to 93% occurs through tone, expression, and gestures.
Nonverbal interactions are our primary mode of communication (coming so naturally, even the smallest child has it mastered), and it is difficult to "fake." Nonverbals usually tell the truth, even when our words are lies.
Be a Better Communicator in Your Professional Environment
Here are four interesting strategies to use nonverbal communication to your advantage.
1. Break the Tension
In moments of high tension, people feel more defensive when they sense you are trying to "win."
Nodding your head during a conversation communicates that you are listening and making an active attempt to understand an opposing point. Nodding can also win people over to your viewpoint, as people subconsciously mirror the body language of those around them. When you nod while speaking, it adds authenticity to your words and makes people more likely to compromise with you in heated situations.
2. Understand the Relational Bonds in the Room
Sometimes the quickest way to grow trust in a group is to figure out where loyalties lie.
One trick is to watch for eye contact. When a group of people laughs, members of the group can't help but make eye contact with the people they feel close to.
Another clue is the direction of a person's feet. In group conversations, if the feet of the listener are pointed at the person speaking, it conveys interest and respect. If the listener's feet are pointed away, it often shows they are disinterested or disconnected.
3. Communicate Confidence Even When You are Nervous
If projecting confidence can determine the outcome of your conversation, how can you add weight to your nonverbals?
Confidence is something you can practice before you enter a room. Research shows that the use of "power poses" (placing your hands on your hips, standing tall with your chin raised, or raising your fists above your head), can trick your brain into feeling more confident. Do this for 30 seconds before a meeting, and you'll walk into a room with more natural confidence, resulting in a smoother conversation and a more poised disposition.
4. Increase Influence Without Saying a Word
Sometimes the biggest distractions in a conversation are the fillers.
To establish trust while listening, avoid needless "noise" like pacing, tapping your foot, or fidgeting with your hands or pen. When you ask a question, and someone is slow to respond, resist the urge to jump back in. Remain silent for a few extra beats to show you respect this person's thought process and that you're confident in moments of negotiation. Quieting your impulses also helps you come across as competent and in control.
A Springboard for Success
These tips won't make you a communication ninja, but streamlining these natural cues can help you better understand the relationships of those around you.
Intentionally sharpen your nonverbal skills, and you will build your network and streamline a path to success!