Wouldn’t it be nice if everything we said came out exactly how we wanted it to in our mind? Where everyone always understood what we meant and there was never any miscommunication?
Well, I can’t promise this all the time, but I can definitely help you achieve this more often. You’ve probably heard of non-verbal communication before, but maybe you don’t realize just how important it is.
The non-verbals you display when you’re speaking make up more than 50% of how your message is received!
That’s right. That means, more often than not, the reason for miscommunication has less to do with the words you’re saying and more to do with everything else. In fact, the three listed below are the main ones that lead to misunderstanding.
Focus on these top 3 non-verbal skills to make an immediate impact in how you communicate.
1. Tone of voice – The tone you use changes the meaning behind your words.
Yes, even a simple phrase can be interpreted in various ways. The tone you use should be mindful of the situation and the reaction you want the person to have. This is especially important at work, with colleagues and your boss. For example, if you use a harsher tone with your boss, they might interpret that as disrespect or insubordination. If you use a soft tone when giving a presentation that may be interpreted as lack of confidence, lack of skill or knowledge on the subject matter.
Be sure when you’re preparing to speak you’re considering the tone you plan to use in your approach.
2. Facial expressions – Your facial expressions help make you approachable.
How do these make you feel: a smile vs a frown, squinting eyes vs wide eyes, raised eyebrows vs a furrowed brow. Your face should match your message and the approach you prepared.
Even when you’re the one listening, your facial expressions matter. Remember, communication goes both ways, so even when you’re listening and waiting to speak you need to be mindful of your facial expressions. Do you look confused, annoyed, uninterested, distracted, unhappy?
A good communicator knows how to manage their own expressions and pay attention to the expressions of the listeners to help make sure there is no misunderstanding. For example, if I’m training a co-worker and they look confused then it’s best to stop and ask questions to make sure they are still on the same page.
As the speaker or the listener, if your facial expressions make you unapproachable then people won’t want to speak or work with you as often, which can hinder your career opportunities.
3. Eye contact – Maintaining eye contact helps with credibility and confidence.
It may feel uncomfortable to look someone in the eye for long periods of time, but it’s a key non-verbal to have. When you’re speaking, if you don’t look people in the eye it can be interpreted in many negative ways. You might come off as untrustworthy, unconfident, unskilled on the subject, lacking knowledge or authority, and so on.
Again, when you’re on the listening side, the eye contact makes a huge difference in your approachability. If you’re not maintaining eye contact then the other person won’t even feel like you’re listening to them. No one likes to feel like they are not being heard – especially depending on how important the conversation is.
This is one that I have to be intentional about all the time. What helps me when I’m listening to someone is to actually turn my whole body towards them, because it makes it easier to maintain eye contact – rather than turning just my head which feels physically uncomfortable to me.
When I’m speaking, to help me hold eye contact as long as possible, I focus on the person’s nose or eyebrows. In a virtual space, looking at the camera lens vs looking at the images on my screen proves tricky and takes practice. I put a sticky note next to the camera to help bring my attention there more often.
Remember, non-verbals make up the majority of how your messages are received, so don’t neglect improving these skills. Other non-verbals include pace, vocal variety, hand gestures, and body language.
Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to improve them all at once. Focus on the top 3 I have listed that will make the most impact right now. Once you have those habits down, you can move onto the next ones.
Being an effective communicator helps in so many ways, including your ability to influence, motivate and persuade others. The ability to build rapport and manage conflict with ease. Enhancing your confidence and leadership skills.
What does being a better communicator mean to you?