Good communication is the key of any successful relationship, but it’s our nonverbal communication that ultimately speaks the loudest. Mastering it is an extremely powerful tool and can play a pivotal role in the process of connecting with others, expressing what one really means and hence, building better relationships.
1. What is Nonverbal Communication and Body Language?
When interacting with others, one continuously gives and receives wordless signals.
All nonverbal behaviors are invested of strong messages, messages that don’t stop when one stops talking either; even when one’s silent, he’s still communicating in a nonverbal way.
Quite often, what comes out of one’s mouth and what he actually communicates through his body language are complete opposites; faced with mixed signals, a listener will have to choose between one or the other, and in most cases, the nonverbal will prevail, because it’s perceived as being more natural and unconscious, portraying one’s true feelings.
2. Why Does Nonverbal Communication Matters?
When one’s nonverbal signals match up with what’s being said, aspects like trust, clarity and rapport naturally increase; when not, tension, mistrust and confusion are certain to settle in.
3. Types of Nonverbal Communication
There are numerous types of nonverbal communication, but these are the most important.
3.1. Facial Expressions
Our face is hugely expressive, and unlike other forms, facial expressions are universal.
3.2. Body Movement and Posture
It’s a given that the way one sits, walks, stands-up or holds his head, sends a clear message to others, transmitting a ton of information and playing a major role in the way others perceive us.
Gestures are innate and part of our daily lives, happening in a unthought way. Nevertheless, the meaning of gestures can be extremely different across cultures and regions, so it’s key to tread carefully and avoid being misinterpreted.
3.4. Eye Contact
It’s usually said that the eyes are windows to the soul, and that’s spot on! Eye contact is one of the most important types of nonverbal communication, expressing a multitude of things, such as interest, affection, hostility, or attraction.
We communicate a great deal through touch. Just think about all the messages sent by a weak handshake, a timid tap on the shoulder, a warm hug, a reassuring pat on the back or just a controlling grip of one’s arm.
Ever felt uncomfortable because the other person is standing too close or invading your space? Everybody needs their space, although it may differ depending on the culture, the situation and the closeness of a certain relationship.
It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. When we speak, others “read” our voices, besides listening to our words. Pace, loudness, tone, inflection, sounds that can convey understanding, etc. Just think about how someone’s tone can indicate sarcasm, anger, affection or confidence.
4. Nonverbal Communication Can’t Be Faked
The number of “tricks” that can be used to project confidence or assert dominance is countless, but they’ll only work if one actually believes in it; it’s virtually impossible to control everything and the harder one tries, the more unnatural it’s perceived.
5. How Can Nonverbal Communication Go Wrong?
What’s being communicated either through body language or nonverbal signals affects how others see us, how they will likely respect us, and whether or not they’ll trust us. Unfortunately, mixed signals are frequent, and when that happens, things can go wrong.
Establishing solid and trusting relationships depends on how one uses and interprets signals.
6. Setting The Stage For Effective Nonverbal Communication
In this fast paced back-and-forth process, concentration and attention to detail is key. If one’s planning what he’s going to say next, daydreaming, or just thinking about something else, it’s certain that nonverbal cues and other subtleties will be missed in the process, so being focused and in the moment is the only way to go at it.
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