Your Body, It’s an Important Part of Your Effective Communication
Did you know that 82% of how we take in the world is visual? And 55% of all our communication is made up of body language?
We worry so much nowadays about the content of what we’re talking about during our interactions, but with stats like this, it’s important to remember how critical it is that we use our bodies and visual cues appropriately if we truly want to communicate effectively.
How we physically appear, behave and interact with others can impact their responses, interpretations and understanding of who we are, what we really think and what we are actually communicating. Reading their communication and reactions is also critical as it helps us to adapt and respond accordingly, allowing the interaction to keep flowing in the right direction.
Although non-verbal cues are situational and indeed subjective to the person and environment there are a few body language signals that are positive in most, if not all situations, which I would like to share with you now.
This is one of the most important initial non-verbal cues, as it sets the tone for the remainder of the conversation. Getting the correct level of firmness, length and eye contact, along with a smile, is vital for communicating the appropriate message. A handshake that’s too weak indicates a lack of energy, strength or interest, while a death grip can make you appear insecure, over keen or unaware of social etiquette.
Your eye contact.
It’s important to keep your gaze on the person in the conversation who’s talking. Eye contact is important to communicate interest, confidence and attention, however, it’s important to remember not to stare so intently that you forget to blink or look like you are staring at someone in a hostile or intimidating manner.
If there are multiple people in the meeting, then this helps to naturally break up the eye contact, however, if there are only two of you, you can glance away occasionally – for instance, to pick up your glass of water, or make a few notes.
If you’re in a meeting with numerous people, glance around at all of the participants to ensure that you are being inclusive and not inadvertently “leaving anyone out”. Although simple, this is a great way to make people feel included, valued and interested.
Your hand gestures.
Communicating with your hands is a great way to reflect confidence and knowledge – provided it’s done appropriately and isn’t over the top or distracting. A few basic and simple hand gestures at appropriate times are very effective in communication and serve to emphasise your posture, stance and point – making you appear more confident and credible.
Speak, move and breathe slowly.
But not too slow! Hand gestures can often help to moderate breathing as they make you more aware of the rhythm and speed of your sentences. Speak slowly enough that you are clear and audible to everyone in the conversation, without coming across as too loud or arrogant. S
lowing down the speed with which you talk, breathe and move will help to set others at ease. It will also calm your own nerves and will give you more time to think about what you’re saying. All of this further adds to your appearance of confidence and credibility.
Avoid crossing your arms, as this indicates disinterest or disapproval. Simply stand with your hands at your side, lightly clasped in front of behind you, or sit with your hands on a table or in your lap. This help to communicate to others that you are interested, open and ready for proactive discussion.
The key here is to relax. By no means slouch, but stand or sit in a relaxed manner that will put others at ease. Sitting perched at the end of your seat indicates nervous tension, while slumped and slid halfway down the chair indicates boredom and disinterest, so go for a happy medium.
Your immediate space.
Don’t be afraid to take up a little space that you would be naturally afforded. The key here is to be confident in your own space and not to look like you’re trying to take up as little space as possible. Stand with your legs apart a bit and spread your notes and bag out where appropriate. This indicates that you are worthy of space, at ease with yourself and again enhances your confidence and credibility.
These refer to your simple and appropriate responses to various elements brought up in the conversation – nodding, smiling, laughing and pulling expressions. Nothing over the top, but enough to indicate that you are involved, empathetic and interested in their conversation.
With all body language start by noticing what the other person/key people in the interaction are doing, and copy it (without being too obvious of course) – adopt the same stance, use a similar amount of hand gestures, speak and breathe at a similar pace. This is the fastest way to build rapport as it talks to their subconscious and essentially tells them that you ‘get them’.
Once the situation starts to feel more at ease, you can begin to take over the leading of the body language – if they do similar things to you, you know they are comfortable with you, if not let them take back the lead and try again after a few more minutes. Some people may take longer than others to get there, but respect their way of operating in the initial stages of the interaction, and sooner or later they’ll be like putty in your hands!
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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