There’s so much more to communication than simply talking.
While words convey information, your gestures, posture, appearance, and eye contact can all convey meaning as well. We outlined a few basic points about nonverbal communication in a previous post, so be sure to read through that information if you haven’t yet seen it. In today’s post, we’re going to continue our discussion about what nonverbal communication is, why it matters, and how you can actively integrate these tips into your life.
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Three More Elements of Nonverbal Communication
Also known as paralinguistics, the way in which you say something can convey more than the words themselves. As an example we’ve all probably experienced, think about the last time a friend, colleague, or significant other told you “I’m fine” with an inflection that conveyed something completely different. When said with a sunny, energetic inflection, the words convey a more positive and optimistic message.
On a related note, volume can often be just as important as tone. If you’re bringing up a point in an important meeting, saying it loudly and in a confident tone will convey that you believe in what you’re saying. A shaky, quiet utterance of the same words communicates something different, and you may not see the same results.
As we briefly mentioned in our previous post, eye contact is a key component of nonverbal communication. Studies show that eye contact is one of the most prominent ways we communicate with others, and it can convey anything from confidence and compassion to hostility and deception. Steady eye contact is generally between four and five seconds, and holding a gaze with someone else generally builds trust and rapport. Constantly looking back and forth or casting your gaze downward can convey that you aren’t telling the truth, or that you aren’t interested in what the speaker has to say.
If you find it hard to maintain eye contact due to anxiety or nervousness, try looking at the tip of someone’s nose or at the space between their eyes. They won’t be able to tell the difference, and you’ll feel more comfortable and confident.
While we’ve listed this point last, it’s certainly not the least important. Most of us implicitly recognize that our appearance communicates information, but you probably don’t think about what you’re communicating on a daily basis.
While the ways in which your appearance communicates information to others deserves a series of its own, we’d like to quickly note that psychological studies have found that certain colors can evoke different emotions. Bright colors like red and yellow convey energy and excitement, while cooler colors like blue and purple tend to be more soothing and relaxing. Black is a very interesting color, as it can convey mysteriousness, power, authority, and elegance. Black can also be used to complement other colors, or it can stand on its own. If you want to convey confidence, try wearing bold colors in combination with black!
The next time you’re picking out an outfit, think about what the colors you’ve chosen convey and if that message is appropriate for the context.
How You Can Use Nonverbal Communication
Now that you understand what nonverbal communication is and how you can deploy it, we’re going to turn our attention toward a few different contextual roles that nonverbal cues can play:
- Repetition: Nonverbal cues can repeat and bolster the message you’re verbally communicating. Eye contact and confident body language, for instance, could be used to show confidence and enthusiasm in an interview.
- Undermining: As we mentioned in our last post, nonverbal cues can undermine and/or contradict your words if you’re not careful.
- Substitution: In many cases, you may not have to use your words at all. As just one example, seeing several confused expressions might be all it takes for a professor to realize that they need to slow their lecturing speed.
- Strengthening: Nonverbal communication can be used to accent or strengthen a verbal message. An enthusiastic “Well done!” along with a pat on the back might be just what it takes to make a child feel confident about their homework. In less positive situations, running your hands through your hair in a difficult or stressful time conveys irritability.
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We hope that this two-part series will help you have better conversations and develop better relationships. We have an extensive catalog of helpful resources and tips, so be sure to look through the rest of our blog page for even more interesting information if you found today’s post insightful!
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