- (EQ) skill 3: The ability to connect with others using nonverbal communication. Being a good communicator requires more than just verbal skills. Often, what you say is less important than how you say it or the other nonverbal signals you send out—the gestures you make, the way you sit, how fast or how loud you talk, how close you stand, how much eye contact you make. In order to hold the attention of others and build connection and trust, you need to be aware of and in control of this body language. You also need to be able to accurately read and respond to the nonverbal cues that other people send you.
These messages don’t stop when someone stops speaking. Even when you’re silent, you’re still communicating nonverbally. Think about what you are transmitting as well, and if what you say matches what you feel. If you insist “I’m fine”, while clenching your teeth and looking away, your body is clearly signaling the opposite. Your nonverbal messages can produce a sense of interest, trust, excitement, and desire for connection—or they can generate fear, confusion, distrust, and disinterest.
Tips for improving nonverbal communication
Successful nonverbal communication depends on your ability to manage stress, recognize your own emotions, and understand the signals you’re sending and receiving. When communicating:
- Focus on the other person. planning what you’re going to say next, daydreaming, or thinking about something else, you are almost certain to miss nonverbal cues and other subtleties in the conversation. Tell me about it…story of my life, so incredibly distracted most of the time I can barely keep my eyes in focus, let alone my attention! This is why I love communicating in writing best! My focus remains on the subject, what people are saying etc. and when I get distracted it’s right there in front of me to review and remind myself what the conversation is about:)
- Make eye contact. Eye contact can communicate interest, maintain the flow of a conversation, and help gauge the other person’s response. Eye contact is difficult for me and when I force it my eyes water and burn, creating yet another distraction for me to focus on.
- Pay attention to nonverbal cues you’re sending and receiving, such as facial expression, tone of voice, posture and gestures, touch, and the timing and pace of the conversation. I have NO IDEA what’s happening on my face or any of the rest of those physical happenings! I’ve been teased that my head will shake slightly on certain occasions…like when I’m trying to control my temper or working really hard on paying attention! Or when I answer without firmly committing to what I am saying, like when I’m being indecisive. Apparently my facial expressions can make me look intimidating as well as my tone of voice…always surprises the heck out of me when told that!