Human communication (spoken word, tone, body language) is a huge topic…so huge, in fact, that Dr. Albert Mehrabian, one of hundreds of psychologists who has researched these elements, found that body language is the most essential, most relied upon and the most effective form of human communication. Dr. Mehrabian broke down three effective elements of human communication by percentages: 7% – spoken word; 38% – tone of voice; body language – 55%! Apparently, bodies speak louder than words! So, what is your body saying?
While at the workplace, we want to communicate our competency, confidence and trustworthiness to our clients and co-workers. Our faces, gestures, voices and bodies do much of that communication for us without words, without our even being aware of it and, in many cases, involuntarily. Let’s shine some light and consciousness on our non-verbal body language to become more aware of how, and perhaps how we can improve our communication, without saying a word.
Your face is likely the first place someone looks to get a clue about who your are. Make sure your eyes are on the person right away. Look directly into the person’s eye and hold that contact…look so directly in that person’s eye that you know the color of their iris. Practice the “triangle technique” by looking at the iris in each eye, then down to their mouth and then back up again to the iris. Making your eye movement rotational around their facial triangle lets the person know non-verbally that they are the center of your attention…exactly what you want to communicate without having to say a word.
As important in making a connection with someone at work, is smiling at and with them. Genuine, “real,” smiles communicate approachability and trustworthiness and, if laughter is involved, perhaps a sense of humor, which is often a bonus. Real smiles, can be practiced in the mirror…raise the muscles at the corner of your mouth, your cheeks and your eyebrows.
Gestures most always involve your hands. Make handshakes work for you by creating a firm one. I’m not talking about a gripping, squeezing handshake. Instead, one that communicates confidence. And while you’re shaking hands, make sure you’re finding the color of the client’s iris. Many of us talk with our hands naturally…doing so communicates enthusiasm, passion for the subject matter, and animation. Like anything, use your hands selectively to emphasize a point, and not all of the time. Also, a natural gesture is putting your hand(s) on your hip(s). The gesture most often communicates confidence and strength.
Legs and feet are big communicators as well. When sitting, do NOT tap your feet as that tapping conveys nervousness. (I know, this is often an involuntary gesture but by being aware that you do it, perhaps you can control it a bit. Musicians, for example, are told to tap their toes inside their shoes to keep rhythm rather than with their feet so the audience isn’t distracted.) Men can cross their legs ankle to knee; women cannot. Both men and women can cross their legs knee on knee but do NOT swing your leg.
Your voice, not really a non-verbal cue because you use it while talking, is the icing on the cake. If your voice is high pitched, it implies nervousness and powerlessness. Practice speaking with a lower pitch…this takes time but it’s doable…and practice speaking slowly and clearly so people can hear and understand you the first time you speak.
Finally, two things complete your non-verbal cues: good posture (neck long, shoulders back) and cleanliness (hair, nails, beard, clothes, shoes).