We communicate with one another in not only the spoken language but other forms as well such as tone of voice, facial expression, eye contact, hand gestures and posture otherwise known as body language. Long before spoken and written language evolved, non-verbal gestures were used as a way of communication. Over the years, leaders, have realised that if words are not aligned with our non-verbal communication cues, messages might be perceived differently than what was intended. These mixed messages might be “lost in translation” as some might put it.
There is a lot going on with your emotions and mind, and although you don’t always voice what you feel or think, it might be instinctively evident in your movement, eyes, tone of voice etc. You might also argue that the main way to communicate nowadays is through a digital platform like email, Skype etc. thus nonverbal cues might not seem as important as previously. However, there is still a lot of interaction between people, not only in the business world, but in your personal life as well. Business leaders do presentations, have face-to-face meetings, resolve conflict situations, coach and motivate their teams. They have to be an all-rounder when it comes to communicating effectively from listening to learning to aligning non-verbal and verbal messages so that the right message is delivered.
If you are aware of what your non-verbal communication cues reveal about your thoughts and emotions, you will instinctively be more attentive. It will help prevent sending the wrong messages to your co-workers if you look out for these cues:
- Facial Expressions – sometimes you can’t help frowning or perhaps squinting. Your facial expressions reveal a lot of what is going on inside your heart and mind. It can convey all your emotions without uttering a word. Facial expressions are very necessary in communicating effectively, because even an expressionless look might communicate that the person is uninterested or bored. Despite cultural differences, facial expressions are a universal language. People can spot a fake smile, and this might make you seem less genuine. But when a facial expression doesn’t match the verbal message, it might confuse or wrongly influence the listener and their perceptions.
- Eye contact – Ever hear of the expression “eyes are the windows to the soul”? Eye contact or a lack thereof will reveal a great deal of your intentions with your verbal message. A lack of eye contact while talking to someone, might give the listener a reason to distrust you. When doing a presentation but looking at the floor the entire time, might portray the image of an unconfident speaker or even give away your nervousness that you want to hide.
- Hands – Whether it be a handshake or ‘talking with your hands’, your hands reveal confidence, nervousness, stress etc. and people make a lot of assumptions based on the communicator’s hands. Handshakes are a common gesture in western cultures especially to show signs of respect and agreement. Handshakes that are firm and match the strength of that person should also be steady and ‘dry’, meaning not sweaty and jittery. A good handshake builds trust and respect. Open hands while sitting and talking, indicates a relaxed and open-minded person. Job interviewers look at various hand gestures to help them get a deeper understanding of the interviewee. It is good to communicate with hand gestures if it is not excessively.
- Tone of Voice – The communicator’s tone of voice can make or break the message. If you say “come here please” in a soft and friendly tone with the right pauses etc. the listener will automatically be calm and positively inclined. But if you yell the same sentence and your tone is irritated and harsh, the listener will also become irritated and the conversation will start off negative and might result in conflict. If we are communicating a message to the listener, our tone of voice involves the voice pitch, the level and type of emotion as well as the emphasis that you place on the words that you choose. The same sentence will mean something totally different by putting the emphasis and pitch on a simple word because it draws the listener’s attention to that word. For example, putting the emphasis on a word like “my” might indicate possession which might, depending on the context, offend or aggravate someone.
- Posture – Your posture conveys very strong messages of confidence. If you slump around or stand with your shoulders arched to the front you might portray a frail unconfident image of someone who doesn’t feel he is worthy. It shows you don’t believe in yourself or in the message that you want to convey. It might even let people think that they can walk all over you and that what you have to say doesn’t matter.
Collectively communicating through using positive body language like uncrossed limbs, relaxed but confident posture, proximity like moving closer when speaking, friendly and continuous eye contact but without staring, and then also genuine facial expressions like a genuine smile, can positively influence the messages.
Body language helps us read what another is saying subconsciously. It can also be a useful tool in communicating effectively. A person’s body language can help you realize that your message is incomplete or misunderstood. Learning effective communication is very advantageous in business.
The Effective Communication, Presentation and Negotiation Skills interactive training course is designed to provide delegates with the skills, knowledge, techniques and strategies to communicate effectively so that they can get their point across in a confident, clear manner, improving efficiency and productivity.
As employees, it is vitally important to be able to communicate your thoughts and ideas effectively, using a variety of tools and medium. You will need to develop and use this skill throughout your years of employment. But it is often said that most people do not possess the ability to present themselves or their ideas well, when all that is needed is training, coaching and practice. Communicating effectively is an essential skill necessary for the fast-changing environment employees are finding themselves in.
Say the right thing, at the right time, in the right way.