It’s often been said, and even studied, that verbal versus non-verbal communication is divergently different and statistically worlds apart. Below we will take a look at the most common non-verbal mistakes people make.
According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, “7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc).” Pretty incredible right?
The fact that non-verbal communication constitutes such a high percentage is almost irrelevant, what is relevant is how you can recognize what you are doing in a given situation while interacting with different individuals. Let’s take a look at some key mistakes to avoid if you’re going to be successful.
- Looking at your Phone constantly during meetings screams “I have more important things to do than this and it also signals a sign of disrespect to those around you.
- Blading off or turning away from others sends a message that you’ve got one foot out of the door given the current situation. It say’s you are uninterested, unengaged or that the person speaking is beneath you.
- Crossed arms and to some degree legs, even I am guilty of this and we’ve all heard it before right…It projects a wall or barrier between you and the person/s you’re interacting with. Your face might have a smile and say one thing, the folded arms though say something completely different and use a larger body part to project that.
- Slouching, nothing screams louder that you do not want to be there and actually signals disrespect. In nature, the brain equates power with how much space animals take up. Think males courting females and puffing up to attract them, it projects power and importance. Maintaining posture commands respect and promotes engagement from both sides.
- Avoiding eye contact says a couple of things, I am hiding something or you are not confident. Either way, this is probably one of the first things to work on because the eyes are one of the first things we see during an interaction. Looking down projects meekness while looking up projects lying. Complete and constant eye contact communicates confidence, leadership, and self-confidence.
- Fidgeting and big hand movements. In business deals, small gestures tend to make the biggest impact, just like a well timed and drawn out pause in a conversation gets the point across, so do gestures. Big movements tend to demonstrate over compensation.
- Failing to smile, the smile is accompanied by increased activity in the left pre-frontal cortex — the seat of positive emotions. It welcomes openness, warmth and displays a positive energy. The opposite of this what I call the “permasmiler” who smiles too often and when it isn’t warranted. They are perceived as insincere and misleading. Think of a car salesman.
- Imposing demeanor, this is sort of a catch-all, clenched fists, intense eye contact and angry looks or what may be “perceived” as a scowl are non-verbal cues to be avoided at all costs.
Remember, people see what you say more than what you are actually saying, be cognizant of how your nonverbal communication impacts others. Practice in front of a mirror, or, have someone record you when you are interacting normally with someone and go back and review it, you’ll be surprised at just how many nonverbal gestures you make, I know I was.
Are there any other blunders I should add to this list? Please share your thoughts on body language in the comments, as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.