Everyone knows how important communication skills are in the business world, as well as our personal lives. Communication is not just about what we say, but how we say it.
When it comes to effective communication, non-verbal skills are just as important as verbal skills. Whether you need to shine in a job interview, get admission to a graduate programme, or be successful in the workplace, your facial expression and body language will speak as loudly as your words.
People tune in to your body language, eye contact, and facial expressions when you’re talking, consciously or subconsciously. Non-verbal skills will not only help you to advance your career, but they are also important for your personal development. Some people are naturally better at non-verbal communication, but even if you are weaker in this area, these are skills that you can learn with a little effort.
Tone of Voice
Your tone of voice can go a long way to show how you’re feeling. Obviously, if you’re annoyed or frustrated, the pitch, tone, and volume of your voice is likely to reflect this. However, it can be more subtle than this — your tone of voice can also convey passion, motivation, understanding, and a range of other emotions.
Paying attention to your tone of voice can be very powerful. You can deliberately make your voice more expressive in order to communicate enthusiasm, agreement, or demonstrate the severity of the situation.
On the other hand, if you are feeling angry but want to diffuse the situation, try taking a few deep breaths and make an effort not to reflect your annoyance in your voice. A calm tone of voice can be very effective in avoiding unproductive conflict.
Eye contact is another important form of non-verbal communication that can make or break a conversation, interview, or negotiation. Maintaining eye contact shows that you are present, listening, and confident.
Many people struggle with maintaining eye contact when they’re nervous, such as during a job interview. In these situations, always try to look the person you’re talking to in the eye. It makes you appear confident, powerful, and shows you’re paying attention.
At the same time, try to avoid staring. Too much eye contact can be intimidating. On the other hand, too little eye contact can make you look like you are hiding something. Research suggests that genuine and comfortable eye contact should last for around four or five seconds.
Posture and Body Language
If you’ve read any psychology books, you’ll know that people display a lot of their true feelings through their body language. How you stand, how you use your hands when speaking, and how you handle yourself are all important parts of non-verbal communication.
Say you have a job interview or an important meeting with a new client. You’ve prepared for your meeting or practiced likely questions for your interview, but will your body language let you down and leave a bad impression?
Body language is a vast, complex area, but here are a few non-verbals that help you look professional and put your best foot forward:
- Don’t slouch — keep your shoulders back and your spine straight.
- To maintain a relaxed and open posture, sit with your legs crossed.
- Avoid touching your face or fiddling with anything.
- Try not to cross your arms as this can look hostile.
- Keep your hands on the table or on your lap if there is nothing in front of you.
The right body language will give your interviewer the best impression, and help you excel in meetings, client negotiations, and other professional situations.
Have a Firm Handshake
Although handshakes went out of fashion due to hygiene concerns, they’re arguably on their way back. Whether it’s a business meeting or you’re meeting new people in a casual setting, a firm handshake is a must.
A firm handshake means palm-to-palm contact with a strong, but not menacing grip. If your palms tend to be sweaty, wash your hands or wipe them with a tissue before shaking hands.
Hand gestures are also important during an interview or any form of conversation. Never clasp your hands or cross your arms as it can make you look nervous, defensive, or hostile. Keep your hands open and put them on the desk in front of you if there is one.
Another important non-verbal communication skill that can make you look confident and sincere is active listening. It is your listening skills that keep the conversation going. If you want an interview, a presentation, or even an informal conversation to go well, truly listen to others when they are speaking.
Furthermore, you need to show people that you are listening to them as they speak. Do this by maintaining eye contact, making acknowledging gestures such as nodding your head, and use facial expressions to show how interested you are in the conversation. Pay attention to every detail and respond by asking questions. This will not only encourage better communication, but also help you to build strong relationships.
People look at your face when they are talking to you, so your facial expressions can have a big impact on communication. Body language experts tell us that during an in-person conversation, we share around 10,000 non-verbal signs every second.
As you speak, your enthusiasm and excitement are clearly visible on your face. A facial expression is not something you can fake. It comes naturally. Trying to fake your facial expressions will likely just make you appear ungenuine. However, it’s very useful to observe other’s facial expressions — these can tell you a lot about how they feel about the conversation.
Non-Verbal Communication Takes Practice
These non-verbal communication skills have a significant impact on any formal or informal conversation. Like any other skill, they take practice. Try them out when talking to your friends and family, and then try out your new skills in the workplace or at a job interview.