The interest in nonverbal communication has been around since the late 1800s. The way we communicate is very important and we use both verbal and nonverbal communication when we speak. The nonverbal signals we send are often unconscious and are very subtle. Nonetheless, they are powerful.
There may be times when your nonverbal signals are diametrically opposed to what you are actually saying. This may occur when you are trying to deceive. For example, a friend may ask if you liked their homemade cake, you reply,” Yes, it was delicious!” but, your face is saying, “Yulk!”
- Beware-Facial Expressions can reveal your thoughts. A smile or a frown conveys many things. And since ones face is often seen before we speak, you have already shared your thoughts. Also, beware of cultural differences which may affect nonverbal communication. However, there are universal expressions found throughout the world. For example, happiness, sadness, anger, and fear are easily recognized.
- Body Gestures can add or detract from your message. Make your movements purposeful. Link them to what you are saying to enhance your story or to emphasize the important points. Body movements are a powerful way of enhancing your communication. There are some common gestures such as waving that have a variety of meaning. A wave can mean come here, go away or it can just be a greeting.
- Vocal Variety refers to a tone of voice, loudness, inflection, and pitch. I would like to add that the warmth or brashness of the sound also affects how the message will be delivered. Just think about it, How is it that some people can say the same thing and it is received differently? Consider the powerful effect that your tone of voice can have. In my younger days, when I would be passionately trying to get my mother to change her mind or see things my way she would caution me and say, “Watch your tone!” Indeed, I knew immediately to bring the volume down. The ability to interpret tone is not science but consider all the different ways that the tone of voice can change the meaning of a sentence. Someone asks how you are feeling and you say, I good with an upbeat-cheery tone. Chances are you are having a great day. If you say, “I’m good” with a low tone and your response is slow. There is a chance that things are not going well. Your tone and rate of speed reveals a tremendous amount about how you are really feeling. Why do you think mothers sometimes insist on a phone call instead of a text?
- Body Language and Posture are important communicators. Always remember that your posture conveys a lot of information without using words. A slumped posture, an erect posture, head down vs. chin up, palm of the hand on forehead, hands-on hip, etc. Even the pace in which you walk sends a message.
- Eye Gaze. When people like somthing their rate of blinking increases and pupils dilate. You would think the opposite. Or, is that just my thoought. A hard gaze can be an indicator of emotions including hostility, interest, and attraction. A typical, steady gaze is often taken as a sign that a person is telling the truth and is trustworthy. A person with shifty eyes that are unable to maintain eye contact is thought to be lying or being deceptive.
- Haptics relates to the sense of touch. We can communicate our feelings through touch which is another crucial nonverbal behavior. Touch can be used to express affection, familiarity, sympathy, and other emotions. Ask: What does a touch on the cheek mean? On the shoulder? On the hand? Researchers have found that high-status individuals feel more entitled to invade other people’s personal space and do so with higher frequency and intensity than lower-status individuals. The amount of personal space needed for a casual conversation with another person usually varies between 18 inches to four feet. You find that women are more touch-oriented than men. In our society today, we all need to cognizant of how and who we touch so it not misconstrued.
Always keep in mind that you communicate with your body as well as with your words. To be a good communicator, you must listen as well as speak and you must remember that your body is speaking too. A person’s nonverbal communication may tell you what their words have failed to do. And that goes for you as well. Someone is watching! What are you saying?