Have you ever had the impression that whatever someone says, no matter the clarity of their words, somehow they don’t believe what they are saying? That people listening get the impression that there is a lack of conviction?
When we communicate we do so in a number of ways. The one that we accept most readily is verbal – the spoken word – but the one that speaks the loudest is nonverbal. Often our body language sends out a different message to the words we speak. Our energy is speaking for us – it’s hard to be passionate about something in which we don’t believe. Understanding the difference between verbal and nonverbal communication will help you build stronger relationships at work as you express what you mean.
Doesn’t body language always tell the truth?
Nonverbal communication sends strong signals. How you listen, move, and react to others tells much about you. When your verbal communication is complemented by your nonverbal communication, your message grows in clarity and significance. If your body language is contrary to your words, you will create tension, distrust, and confusion.
As an example, consider the manager who fixes his eyes on an employee when talking, stands extra close during conversation, and shakes hands with a vice like grip. He may consider himself to be caring and attentive, but his employees think him to be threatening.
His intent does not match with how he is being received.
How people assess nonverbal communication
When you are speaking, people will listen to what you say. However, they will subconsciously assess your body language – which can either confirm or contradict what you are saying. Body language can also be used as a substitute for verbal (a raised eyebrow to signify surprise or disbelief); to complement something that is said (an under-swept hand when telling someone to go away); or to underscore a point made.
Body language is a natural response and can’t be faked; the more you try to do so the more unnaturally you will communicate. This is how your body talks:
- Facial expressions
- Bodily posture
- Eyes and eye contact
- Use of space
If body language can’t be faked, why the need to understand it?
As we saw earlier, it’s easy to be misunderstood and to misunderstand someone based upon body language. Predominantly this misunderstanding is caused by a lack of emotional intelligence. In particular, in stressful situations people read body language incorrectly and also send confusing signals. This stress ripples out, too, and so the people to whom you’re talking also begin giving mixed signals. This has the potential to spiral, and cause major conflict without anyone intending to.
By understanding the connection between emotional intelligence and nonverbal communication, you will become more adept at reading people’s body language as well as ensuring you don’t send misleading signals. Knowing how you react emotionally to different situations, and how others may react differently in the same situation, will help you communicate consciously in every arena.
Contact Forward Focus today to discover how an Emotional Intelligence course will develop and embed effective personal skills in the workplace, for leaders, managers, and employees.