Much of what we say isn’t said with words. It’s said with body language. How we sit. Where we look. What we do with our hands. All of these non-verbal cues play an important role in how what you’re saying is received. Make sure what you say is understood with these six tips to improve your non-verbal communication.
#1 – Eye Contact
Eye contact, an important channel of interpersonal communication, helps regulate the flow of communication. And it signals interest in others. Eye contact with audiences also increases the speaker’s credibility. Speakers who make eye contact open the flow of communication and convey interest, concern, warmth, and credibility.
#2 – Facial Expressions
Smiling is a powerful cue that transmits happiness, friendliness, warmth, liking, and affiliation. Thus, if you smile frequently, you will be perceived as more likable, friendly, warm, and approachable. Smiling is often contagious and others will react favorably and be willing to interact more.
#3 – Gestures
If you fail to gesture while speaking, you may be perceived a boring, stiff, and unanimated. A lively and animated communication style captures the attention of your listeners, makes your conversation or presentation more interesting, facilitates understanding of your topic, and provides a bit of entertainment. Head nods, a form of gestures, communicate positive reinforcement to others and indicate that you are listening to their responses.
#4 – Posture and Body Orientation
You communicate numerous messages by the way you walk, talk, stand, and sit. Standing erect, but not rigid, and leaning slightly forward communicate to others that you are approachable, receptive and friendly. Furthermore, interpersonal closeness results when you and your audience race each other. Speaking with your body turned away or when looking at the floor or ceiling should be avoided since it communicates disinterest.
#5 – Paralinguistics
This facet of non-verbal communication includes such vocal elements as tone, pitch, rhythm, timbre, volume, and inflection. For maximum communication or presentation effectiveness, learn to vary these elements of your voice. One of the major criticisms is of speakers who speak in a monotone. Listeners perceive these speakers as boring and dull. Listeners report that they learn less and lose interest more quickly when listening to speakers who have not learned to modulate their voices.
#6 – Humor
Humor is often overlooked as a communication tool. Laughter releases stress and tension for both speaker and listener. You should develop the ability to laugh at yourself and encourage your listeners to do the same. Humor fosters a friendly environment that facilitates effective communication. (Lou Holtz wrote that when his players felt successful, he always observed the presence of good humor in the locker room.)
Remembering to incorporate these six non-verbal elements into your communication will strenghten your bond with your listeners and increase the effectiveness of your interactions with others.