The Foundation of Non-verbal Communication
Nonverbal communication accounts for 90% in human communicating, verbal communicating accounts for 10%.
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It's well known that good communication is the foundation of any successful relationship, be it personal or professional. It's important to recognize, though, that it's our nonverbal communication—our facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, posture, and tone of voice—that speak the loudest. The ability to understand and use nonverbal communication, or body language, is a powerful tool that can help you connect with others, express what you really mean, and build better relationships.
What is nonverbal communication and body language?
Nonverbal communication cues can play five roles:
- Repetition: they can repeat the message the person is making verbally.
- Contradiction: they can contradict a message the individual is trying to convey.
- Substitution: they can substitute for a verbal message. For example, a person's eyes can often convey a far more vivid message than words do.
- Complementing: they may add to or complement a verbal message. A boss who pats a person on the back in addition to giving praise can increase the impact of the message.
- Accenting: they may accent or underline a verbal message. Pounding the table, for example, can underline a message.
Types of nonverbal communication and body language
Body movements and posture
How nonverbal communication can go wrong
Nonverbal communication and body language in relationships
Setting the stage for effective nonverbal communication
To improve nonverbal communication, learn to manage stress
How emotional awareness strengthens nonverbal communication
- Accurately read other people, including the emotions they’re feeling and the unspoken messages they’re sending.
- Create trust in relationships by sending nonverbal signals that match up with your words.
- Respond in ways that show others that you understand, notice, and care.
- Know if the relationship is meeting your emotional needs, giving you the option to either repair the relationship or move on.
Tips for reading body language and nonverbal communication
- Pay attention to inconsistencies. Nonverbal communication should reinforce what is being said. Is the person is saying one thing, and their body language something else? For example, are they telling you “yes” while shaking their head no?
- Look at nonverbal communication signals as a group. Don’t read too much into a single gesture or nonverbal cue. Consider all of the nonverbal signals you are receiving, from eye contact to tone of voice and body language. Taken together, are their nonverbal cues consistent—or inconsistent—with what their words are saying?
- Trust your instincts. Don’t dismiss your gut feelings. If you get the sense that someone isn’t being honest or that something isn’t adding up, you may be picking up on a mismatch between verbal and nonverbal cues.