“Actions speak louder than words.” We’ve all heard this phrase, and when it comes to face-to-face communication, this adage holds true. Research shows that approximately 80-90 percent of the meaning of a message lies not in the words said, but what has been conveyed during a conversation through nonverbal communication.
All face-to-face communication consists of three parts: the words said, the tone of voice used, and the physical behavior displayed while talking, often referred to as nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication includes body language, eye contact, gestures, and even the distance between the two speakers. By effectively utilizing nonverbal communication, you are better able to influence and motivate your team members and can even improve your team’s productivity. Try these tips to use nonverbal communication to your advantage during conversations.
- Stand tall and take up space. Appear more confident by keeping your posture erect and your shoulders back. Hold your head up high. If you’re sitting, try putting both feet flat on the floor and widening your arms away from your body.
- Widen your stance. Standing with your feet close together can make you appear hesitant, but widening your stance helps you look more confident. Relax your knees and center your weight in your lower body.
- Maintain positive eye contact. In the United States, Europe, and Australia, it’s expected that you maintain eye contact 50-60% of the time. For introverts and people with different cultural backgrounds, this may be difficult. Here’s a simple technique to help with this – whenever you greet a business colleague, look into his or her eyes long enough to notice what color they are.
- Talk with your hands. Incorporating gestures into conversation improves verbal content and leads to less hesitant speech, reducing fillers such as “um” and “uh”. Brain imaging studies have shown that a region called Broca’s area, important for speech production, is active not only when we’re talking, but also when we wave our hands. This link means that integrating gestures into your speech leads to clearer thoughts and more confidence while speaking.
- Perfect your handshake. If your handshake is too weak, you can be perceived as a wimp. If your handshake is too strong, you seem like a bully. The right handshake can give you instant credibility. There are cultural variations when it comes to the ideal handshake, but in North America, you should face the other person squarely, make firm palm to palm contact with the web of your hand, and match hand pressure as closely as possible. A great handshake is important for everyone, but it is especially key for women; studies show that their confidence is evaluated by the quality of their handshake even more so than man.
- Reduce nervous gestures. All of us use gestures when nervous or stressed. These include things such as rubbing our hands together, bouncing our feet, twirling our hair, playing with our jewelry and more. Unfortunately, these gestures lead to loss of credibility in what we are saying. When you catch yourself doing these things, take a deep breath and steady yourself by placing your feet firmly on the floor and placing your hands in your lap or at your sides. Stillness sends a message that you’re calm and confident.
- Smile. Did you know that we can spot a smile at 300 feet – the length of a football field? Smiling not only makes you happier, it also signals to those around you that you are approachable and trustworthy. It also directly influences how others respond to you – when you smile at someone, they will almost always smile back. This returned smile can even positively change that person’s emotional state!
The Front Line Leadership Program includes a module on communication effectiveness in which leaders develop and practice nonverbal communication skills. Learn more about Module 5 - Communication Effectiveness here. For more information about how the Front Line Leadership Program can transform your organization or for pricing information, contact Robert Winter at 832-483-5535 or fill out a contact form on our contact page.