The Bible states “In the beginning was the word…” and it is no different with our communication. Words are powerful tools to open up communication channels. Words are conscious. We choose the words themselves and how to structure them together. Your vocabulary can make or break you. Being able to articulate your ideas is crucial in creating strong relationships. And yet as important as the words are, they only tell a small part of the story. While you are saying all the right things, the part of you that acts on an unconscious level may be sabotaging your efforts to communicate persuasively. Your posture, gestures, physical movement and facial expressions, what we call your non-verbals, may be telling an entirely different story than the one you are attempting to convey.
Your words may be strong and powerful and yet your stance and extraneous movement may come across as being nervous. Your facial expression may denote fear or a gesture as simple as flicking your hair to the side may show discomfort in the moment. Make sure your non-verbals are in support of your actual message. While you’re at it, it’s a good idea to be able to read the non-vebals of others as well. Especially if you wish to become a truly great communicator.
There are many books written on body language and it is certainly a very interesting field to study in order to become a more effective communicator and achieve better relationships. There are some things to be aware of before you begin. In order to know when someone is deviating from their norm, you must first establish what their normal is. What is their baseline? Secondly you need to look at the situation as a whole. Is the person with folded arms cold or are they being closed down and defensive?
You also need to examine more than one non-verbal. Body language is deciphered in clusters. Let’s take our example from above. If someone folds their arms all at once, we want to start to watch for other signs of closing down. Do they turn their body away from us or begin to look down or seem disinterested? Together these would be signs for us to change our tactic and bring them back to an open position. On the other hand, the folding of the arms alone may just indicate the person is cold as we previously stated.
Again the key is to look for deviations from the norm. Watch for micro expressions that flash across the face rapidly but denote a change has occurred. Watch to see if the person faces you or moves their body away from you and watch to see what they do with their feet. People unconsciously stand with their feet pointed towards people they feel comfortable with and pointed away from those they don’t. Feet rarely lie.
Your ability to navigate quickly between a person’s baseline and their micro expressions and non-verbals can have more of an impact to successful communication than the words you actually speak. Arming yourself with a powerful vocabulary and the ability to decipher the nuances of body language gives you an incredible edge in communicating. Strong, long lasting relationships are the key to success in business today. Make sure your arsenal includes the tools to achieve them.
Debbie Darling, ©2013 The Presentation Pros