Nonverbal communication includes body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice.
These play a significant role in how we convey our messages and build relationships with others.
In this article, I’ll explore the importance of nonverbal communication and its impact on both personal and professional relationships, and how to improve your nonverbal communication skills.
The Importance of Nonverbal Communication in Professional Relationships
As human beings, we interact with others every day. Our nonverbal “conversationalists” include colleagues, clients, friends, and family members.
What’s more, our ability to communicate effectively can make or break these relationships. In fact, studies have shown that between 60% and 70% of human communication is nonverbal. This means that only about half of our messages come from the words we say. The rest is conveyed through nonverbal cues.
Nonverbal communication often conveys our true feelings and intentions, and if they don’t align with our words it can create mistrust and misunderstandings. For example, if you’re in a meeting and your body language suggests disinterest or boredom, listeners may perceive you don’t value their opinions. But maintaining eye contact and nodding your head signals engagement and builds rapport and trust.
It’s not just what we say that matters, but how we say it. Nonverbal cues can either enhance or undermine our credibility and trustworthiness. Understanding this is crucial for people who want to communicate effectively, especially if some of the people we know have hearing difficulties.
After all, we know hearing impaired people pay even closer attention to nonverbal communication than the average listener does!
Types of Nonverbal Communication—Body Language, Facial Expressions, Tone of Voice
Body language includes posture, gestures, eye contact, and other physical movements that convey meaning without using words. For example, crossing your arms may convey defensiveness or a lack of openness, while leaning in and maintaining eye contact can signal interest and engagement.
If we lean too far forward with our head tilted dismissively, our shoulders hunched, and our elbows on the desk or table, others perceive we’re not interested in what’s being said and have already made up our mind. Similarly, if we lean too far back while holding our chin or covering our mouth with our hand, it signifies hostility towards the speaker’s thoughts or suggests you’re questioning their argument.
Fidgeting or avoiding eye contact can signal nervousness or discomfort. On the other hand, standing up straight and making eye contact can convey confidence and authority, while maintaining an appropriate distance makes people more comfortable when talking. Standing or sitting 30 inches apart is a good rule of thumb.
Facial expressions can convey a wide variety of emotions, including:
A person’s face can also help us determine if we trust or believe their words or intelligence.
In fact, one study found that individuals with narrower faces and more prominent noses were more likely to be perceived as intelligent. Meanwhile, smiling, joyful people were judged as being more intelligent than visibly angry people.
Tone of voice is defined as how you speak to another and can also convey a range of emotions. An optimistic and positive tone of voice is always welcome. However, a pessimistic or accusatory tone conveys a very different impression.
Speaking with conviction and respect motivates others. Your tone of voice also affects perceptions of politeness. That’s why certain people are highly popular and others are not.
Ultimately, all three types of nonverbal communication work together to convey meaning and emotion.
If you say you’re excited about an event but your tone of voice is flat and your body language is closed off, your message is unlikely to be taken seriously.
How to Improve Your Nonverbal Communication Skills
Improving your nonverbal communication skills can help you build stronger professional relationships, enhance your credibility, and improve your overall communication effectiveness.
Be more aware of your body language: Be mindful of your posture, gestures, and eye contact. Practice open, confident body language to convey engagement and interest.
Use facial expressions effectively: Practice conveying emotions such as happiness, sadness, or sympathy through your facial expressions. Use them to reinforce your words and convey authenticity.
Engage in active listening: Watch for others’ nonverbal cues to better understand their real emotions. Maintain eye contact, nod your head, and use other nonverbal cues to mirror positive emotions.
Control your tone of voice: Practice using your tone of voice to convey the intended emotion. Use a more upbeat tone to convey excitement, or a more serious tone for important messages.
Seek feedback: Ask colleagues, friends, or family members how you come across nonverbally. Use their input to improve your skills.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Common mistakes people make in nonverbal communication include the following:
Poor eye contact: Avoid looking away or avoiding eye contact, as it can convey disinterest or discomfort. You also appear less honest if you avoid eye contact.
Closed body language: Avoid crossing your arms or slouching, as it can signal defensiveness or a lack of openness. As Doctors of Audiology, we need to be open with our patients at all times and compensate for their hearing challenges. And of course, relationships with friends and family members are critical to everyone’s overall health and well-being.
Inappropriate facial expressions: Avoid rolling your eyes or smirking, as it can convey disrespect or disapproval when you were instead trying to establish rapport or be humorous.
Inconsistent messages: Ensure that your nonverbal cues align with your words. Inconsistent messages can create mistrust and confusion.
How to Reduce Your Reliance on Nonverbal Communication
While improving your nonverbal skills should help you improve your quality of life with others, you may also feel you’re too heavily reliant on nonverbal communication to communicate with loved ones.
Would you like to discover how we can help optimize your hearing and help you better understand spoken words?
We’re always here to help and we’re the most trusted hearing care experts in Ventura and Los Angeles for a reason!
Please schedule an appointment or hearing assessment with one of our experts at any of our four West Coast Hearing & Balance Center branches.
You can also call us at:
Thousand Oaks (805) 379-0824
Oxnard (805) 983-4214
Simi Valley (805) 583-8698
Camarillo (805) 484-5951
We hope to see you soon.