Nonverbal Communication

quality communication Oct 08, 2017

Of the three areas that make up our communication (words, vocal qualities, and physiology), many believe the last is the most important.  They say your body language, facial expressions and gestures express more meaning than your words. 

Professionals who read nonverbal communication regularly to enhance their understanding of people include law enforcement agents, counselors, jury selection consultants and speech analysis technicians.  However, you don’t have to be in one of those careers to have a grasp on the basics of body language.  Recognizing a few fundamentals will help you in reading people as well as effectively projecting your desired message to others.


Standing or sitting with shoulders back and chin up is the most confident posture.  Slouching, tucking your fists into crossed arms, or fidgeting are signs of unease.  While standing, keep your hands out of your pockets and your legs apart a bit.  It is good to steeple your hands where your fingers are touching at the tips but are not crossed over each other.  

When meeting someone, convey confidence by giving a good handshake.  Your hand should be sideways – not one top of theirs or under theirs.  Give their hand a squeeze – enough that they can feel your grip, but not so much you are crushing them or causing pain.  A limp or soft handshake gives the impression of low confidence, not physical weakness.  Other confidence builders are a smile and eye contact. They not only show you are self-assured, they also aid in expressing honesty. 


Vocally, keep your tone steady.  Usually, voices rise when someone is being dishonest.   Research suggests that when someone is lying, they’ll cross their fingers or touch their face or nose – usually with their left hand .  Sometimes, they’ll fidget which could include actions such as playing with their jewelry - spinning their ring or adjusting their watch - or picking at their fingernails.

Expressing interest:

There are a few obvious ways people express boredom: checking one’s watch, resting one’s chin on one’s hand, and looking around the room rather than at the person speaking.  Avoid all of those when communicating with someone.  To express interest (and this will help for you singles in the dating world), position your face and body toward the person in which you are interested.  Lean toward them and keep your arms uncrossed. 

In addition, using mirroring and matching is a way to send subconscious signals that you are similar to them.  It assists in building a bond and understanding.  When someone says, “I like him.  I’m not sure why; I just get a good vibe.”  They are referring to this synchronous behavior and are not consciously aware of it.

Gestures go a long way in aiding understanding.  Don’t be afraid to use your hands to assist you when speaking to a person, a group, or via electronic media.  Facial expressions should match the message you are conveying.  If you are expressing happiness, smile so your face matches your mood.  People get confused when we tell them we are not angry but we clench our teeth or fists, stick out our bottom jaw, squint our eyes or pinch our lips together.   For the highest level of communication success, you want your words and your physiology to be synonymous.

Avoid distractions:

They take away from your communication.   You could stand straight, hold good eye contact and speak confidently, but if you are distracting them in some other way, the things you are doing well could be irrelevant.

Good hygiene is helpful.  If someone is distracted by foul smelling breath or B.O., everything else could take a back seat while your lack of hygiene chauffeurs his or her impression of you.   If bad breath is a common challenge for you, carry breath-mints or gum for when you need them.

Fidgeting of any sort will be a distraction (and sometimes a sign of dishonesty).  Avoid tapping your foot, shaking your leg, playing with your hair, clicking or tapping your pen, scratching your head and pacing.  Fidgeting gives the impression of nervousness, though many times it is really just an outward display of pent up energy.  If fidgeting is an issue for you, here are a couple of simple things you can try:  lessen your intake of caffeine and/or sugar and exercise to expend some of that energy.



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