How good are you at nonverbal communication?

Nonverbal gestures -- The Hot Mess Press

In a previous post I underscored the importance of learning eye language in this time when we all go about our daily tasks wearing masks. However, nonverbal communication and understanding body language have also become essential if we cannot read the language of facial expressions. Most importantly, we should not only learn how to read the body language of others. Remember, other people will also study you to get more clues than those reflected in your eyes.

Woman eyes only
How good are you at reading eye language?
Image Credit: pxhere.com

Your body language allows nonverbal communication. It involves the way we react, look, move and listen. People will look for how well you listen, whether you care, and whether you are truthful. Therefore, if your words do not match the signals you communicate nonverbally, others may be confused enough to mistrust you. Similarly, such confusion could cause tension, often unjustified.

The different roles of body language in nonverbal communication

You can accentuate the importance of your verbal communication by pounding your fist on the table. Similarly, repetition can strengthen your message. However, if you are not careful, your body language can contradict your verbal statements. A mere look could substitute verbal communication, but you must know when and how to use such a substitution. You could use nonverbal actions to complement your spoken words. For example, praising an employee might seem more sincere if you complement it with a pat on the back.

Source: The Importance of Effective Communication, Edward G. Wertheim, Ph.D.

Nonverbal frustrated man
Aggression can be communicated nonverbally
Image Credit: UiHere

Understanding how body language can improve nonverbal communication

Up to the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic, our facial expressions spoke a universal language. Regardless of where in the world you are, anger, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise and happiness are evident in facial expressions. However, we can no longer rely on facial expressions’ cues, but here are some tips for using body language to communicate nonverbally.

Eye Language Emoji
A perfect image of eyes communicating without the need for words
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Eye language is more essential now than ever

How you look at another person can show interest, hostility, attraction or affection. Similarly, you can gauge the other person’s response and interest by maintaining eye contact.

Man gesture OK
The OK hand gesture is offensive in some non-English speaking countries
Image Credit: UiHere

Gestures are not a universal language

We use gestures throughout our lives, often without even thinking about it. For example, we point, wave and beckon. Similarly, we use our hands in animated speech or arguments. However, gestures are not as universal as facial expressions. For example, throughout English-speaking countries, people use the “OK’ hand signal, but in some countries, it is an offensive gesture. If you use it in countries like Germany, Brazil and Russia, your innocent “OK” gesture might cause misinterpretation.

Man in hoody
Body posture can say a lot
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Mind your posture and body movement

How people hold their heads and how they stand, walk or sit affects your perception of them. In like manner, other people perceive you by watching your posture, body movement and any of your subtle signs. Those are all essential aspects of your nonverbal communication with the world.

Two men shaking hands
People can judge you on the firmness of your handshake
Image Credit: UiHere

Touch is more telling than you may think

A mere handshake can help you form an opinion about a complete stranger. For example, a weak handshake or a patronizing pat on your head is telling. You will recognize controlling people by the way they grip your arm. Similarly, a bear hug that is warm and sincere can project a thousand nonverbal words.

Woman talking on cell phone
People focus on tone of voice when talking on the phone
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Nonverbal voice communication is about how you say something

Think of the voice aspect of nonverbal communication like a telephone conversation. The person on the other side will focus on a whole lot more than the words you say. The pace at which you speak and the timing of your words convey clues about you and your message. The other person will note the tone, inflection and loudness of your voice. Coupled with those, the sounds you use unconsciously like “uh-huh” and “ahh” will add more substance to your message. Most importantly, do not lose sight of the fact that sarcasm, confidence, affection and anger are all noticeable in the tone of your voice.

Nonverbal communication Bear hug man and woman
The need for personal space is often determined by the relationship between people
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Personal space is crucial

We all need our personal physical space, although it may vary from person to person. You will know if you are too close to someone if they step away to create more space. If that happens, respect their need for space. Similarly, it also varies by culture and the nature of the relationship. It might be surprising that the use of space can deliver nonverbal messages. For example, space could indicate dominance, aggression on the one hand, or, on the other hand, affection and intimacy.

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