Top tips for non-verbal communication

‘COMMUNICATION IS BIGGER THAN A VERBAL CONVERSATION BETWEEN PEOPLE; COMMUNICATION IS ABOUT YOUR PERCEPTION OF HOW THE WORLD RESPONDS TO YOU AND HOW YOU RESPOND BACK TO IT.’ 

The relationship we have with the world around us can be broken down into many segments including: our relationships with ourselves, friends and family, activities, places and moments. When leading a session, whether it be teaching a vocational course or a senior leadership meeting, your behaviour influences the behaviour of others.

Communication is seven per cent verbal and 93 per cent non-verbal. Of the non-verbal communication 55 per cent is body language and 38 per cent is tone of voice. What we do with our body has great impact on those around us, especially those we wish to influence. Here is a breakdown of how to use your body and space effectively.

FACIAL FEEDBACK 

When addressing an audience your face has the power to raise self esteem or reduce confidence. If you fail to make eye contact with your listeners or your expressions are not congruent with your words, you will put listeners at a distance from you and your message.

The power of a smile goes a long way, even when we cannot see the person smiling, we can feel when they smile down a telephone or when someone ‘smizes’ (smiles with their eyes), giving us a warm feeling. A key building block towards the listener building a positive perception of you can be achieved simply by nodding and a smiling when listening. A smile can be more important than an exchange of words when passing people in the corridor. These small actions will instantly improve how receptive a person is to receiving your message. 

Steps towards change:

  1. Smile
  2. Eye contact. In a group it’s important to connect with people across all areas of the room.
  3. Nod

POSITIONING ‘STAGE MARKERS’

Think back to a negative experience in your life. Think about where it took place. Now think about how you feel when you see that place. Not a positive thought right? If you have bad news to deliver and you deliver that news in the same place you teach then you run the risk of contaminating that spot, this now creates a negative feeling within those you are teaching. 

When communicating to a group be mindful of what you do and where, if you want to be humorous pick a space where you will stand when you choose to be humorous, when you want to be serious pick a space to stand when you want to be serious. I have a ‘dump spot’; I use the dump spot if I have to reinforce rules. My dump spot is always by the wall and away from where I speak. The markers unconsciously prepare your group to enter the state you wish for them to be in and prevents mix messaging.

Steps towards change:

  1. Mentally mark spots on the floor or use markers to mark spots on the floor
  2. Do not mix emotions or messages in marked areas for example do not tell a joke in the spot you marked as the serious spot.
  3. Always utilise spots and do not work over them doing dialogue.

(In a one on one situation) if the listener is sitting down, sit or kneel next to them, this is the difference between talking with someone and talking at someone. Intimacy.

HANDS 

There’s a common theme for teachers, facilitators and speakers to use their hands when speaking, this is brilliant when being carried out with meaning. Every movement should represent something; otherwise every movement will create a problem by contradicting your words and distracting your audience from what you are saying, especially for the visual learners in the group. 

Steps towards change: 

  1. Film yourself when leading a session
  2. Watch the recording
  3. Ask yourself if hand movements support your words

Think about what you could of done instead (if anything)

Managing our body plays a big role in the environment we create, how we achieve our objectives and the relationships we build.  Prioritise your 55 per cent of communication so that you can take your work to the next level.

by Kevin George

Kevin George is a Human Performance Consultant. His work focuses on Behaviour Driven Development (BDD). Kevin has successfully delivered programmes on behalf of the Premier League, the British Council and Insitute of Consultants to name a few. Collectively over 50,000 people have taken part in Kevin's behavioural programmes worldwide.

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