Effective communication is the key to building successful relationships, both in our personal lives and at work. But although words are obviously very important, nonverbal communication is also crucial. So how do experts define non verbal communication and what difference do effective nonverbal communication skills make?
Nonverbal communication can be defined as body language. When we talk to a person, the words that come out of our mouth are often a very small part of the bigger picture and research has proven that a great deal of human communication takes place via body language and non verbal clues.
How would we define non verbal communication?
Body language and nonverbal communication encompasses a number of different ways of communication without the requirement of using language. These include facial expressions, tone of voice, posture, gestures we make, even pheromones and body scent. So no matter what your words are saying, it is entirely possible that your body language is telling a completely different story.
Nonverbal communication can be split into a number of different categories:
- Voice: it is not always what we say, it is how we say it. From the tone of our voice to the pitch, inflection, volume and rhythm of the words—these all make a huge difference to how others read us.
- Body movement and posture: how we carry ourselves will provide lots of clues to anyone observing us.
- Facial expressions: humans are blessed with the ability to express a wide range of emotions and feelings and we can all recognise the facial expressions of joy, fear, anger, and surprise.
- Eye contact: how we look at someone will communicate everything from hostility to love.
- Gestures: we often use gestures to underline and enhance what we are saying verbally.
- Personal space: invading someone’s personal space can be very unsettling for them, but it can also communicate messages of intimacy and affection.
- Touch: messages relayed via touch can include reassurance, affection, aggression and control.
Mastering the art of body language can make a huge difference in your personal and professional life and once you fully understand how nonverbal communication can work both for and against you, it is then possible to interact with others in a far more positive manner.
How can improving nonverbal communication skills help?
In the workplace, nonverbal communication skills can have a huge impact on how we perceive the effectiveness of others. In any business, the person who avoids eye contact and appears nervous will create a sense of unease in others, whereas the person who radiates self confidence and is good at reading the body language of others is far more likely to be an effective manager.
Improving nonverbal communication skills can also have a big effect on your interpersonal relationships. Sometimes we inadvertently sabotage relationships by contradicting our words with negative body language, often without even realising it, but by understanding how others might perceive us, we can give more thought to nonverbal signals and improve our nonverbal awareness accordingly. This will in turn help us learn how to communicate more effectively.