Say “I disagree” as you make yourself as small as possible in your chair. Now, say it while you’re standing up with both hands on your hips. Which delivery would make you convincing? Which makes you feel powerful? Even without us noticing, our body language influences how others see us and how we see ourselves. In communication, our nonverbal linguistics is an essential part of our interaction with the world and with ourselves.
Speech is unique to humans. The rest of the world speak in the ruffling of feathers, coordinated dance routine, the fanfare of colors, and various vocalization, just to name a few. However, speech constitutes just a fraction of how we interact with others. Like animals, we speak through body language. In day-to-day interactions, nonverbal communication can sometimes convey more about what we say than the very thing we articulate. It is a non-linguistic manifestation of a message transmitted from a source to an audience. Even in silence, you are speaking loudly through the twitch and twinkle of your eyes, the curvature of your lips, the tone of your voice, your posture, even the rolls and waves you absent-mindedly make with your hands.
Non-linguistic messages can make the right or wrong impression of you. You also unconsciously judge others based on how they are acting in front of you. Nonverbal communication influences how others perceive us.
In online chatrooms and chatboxes, emoticons can change how are messages are received by the recipient. However, things become so different when you are interacting with a real person in real life. You can’t hide behind the screen anymore. While it may not cause a problem when conversing with a long-time friend, not being aware of your nonverbal language may cost you that college scholarship, sales pitch, or project proposal.
In job interviews, for example, we can be so pre-occupied with nervousness and wanting to do things right that our body language reflects our uneasiness in the situation. Instead of projecting confidence and enthusiasm to our potential employers, we are hunching over and squirming in our seats. We are radiating this nervous energy, which can be distracting for the person interviewing us. Instead of showing them why they need us in their company, we rely on our words to convince them. That doesn’t usually end in our favor.
Mind over matter. Can our bodies influence the psychology of the mind? Research says yes, and it has everything to do with your hormones. Leaders are said to possess high levels of testosterone and low levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. When the research participants were made to lead, their hormone levels followed such a pattern. This was observed with male participants because testosterone fluctuations aren’t as observable in women.
Another study investigated the influence of power posing on how a person would perform during a job interview. In a few minutes, such a small gesture delivered positive results. The ones that assumed a high power pose felt more confident, while the other end was more susceptible to stress.
The findings maintained that we can program our minds to think that we are more powerful than we normally think.
Practicing helpful nonverbal language during situations can help you and the people you interact with. While what you are saying is still important in what you say, how you present yourself whether you are talking or not is a nice addition.
Another person’s impression of you before you open your mouth can influence your career and everyday life. Your self-esteem and how you value yourself is also visible in how you present yourself to the world. Verbal and nonverbal communication works together to deliver an effective message. Whether you are preparing for a speech or you just want to better yourself in interacting with others, improve your nonverbal communication with the following tips.
Before anything, you should pay attention to the things you’re doing unconsciously. You can ask your peers to point out things about you that you may be oblivious to. Look out for the actions or gestures you notice in others when they speak and consider the effect on you. Were you distracted? Compelled? You can also watch videos of speakers during TED talks or similar. Did the speakers captivate you to listen until the end? List down the things what not to do the next time.
How unnerving would it be interviewed by someone barren of facial expression? When you are talking with someone, provide feedback through displaying the facial expression appropriate in the context of the conversation. Although this feedback manifestation in our nonverbal linguistics come naturally in most people, you might be one of the individuals who deliver their messages void of expression. Although it is not a grave fault, you might want to consider working on this part to train your communication skills.
Maybe the other person isn’t comfortable with physical contact or you are invading someone else’s personal space. It could be that the other person is not okay with the conversation. Take a break from your train of thoughts and notice the signs of discomfort the person is displaying. The signs may be too obvious, and you are just too into the topic to notice them. Ask if you are making them uncomfortable and make the necessary adjustments.
Whether for a formal speech or day-to-day conversation, there is a certain truth to “It is not what you said, it’s how you said it.” In relationships, the tone of your message can provoke quarrels. You may also be prone to misunderstand more the messages sent via text and chat since the message does not come with tone. Sarcasm is one of the things you cannot generally convey over the phone. Emojis are your best friend here. In face to face communication, the tone of your voice can change the context of the message. Therefore, you should be aware of the loudness, intonation, and timing of your words.