“93/7 Rule: 93% of communication occurs through nonverbal behavior & tone; only 7% of communication takes place through the use of words.” – John Stoker
Words and content are extremely important in the workplace. In any place. Especially in sensitive or high steaks situations, the words we choose to use have a great impact on progressions and outcomes. However, even the most mindfully chosen phrases and terms can be rendered totally ineffective if we are not also mindful of the signals we give off with the rest of our bodies.
The tone we use. The way we stand, talk and sit. The way we dress. The way we express focus and respect. These are all things that, when consciously and mindfully addressed, can completely transform the effectiveness of your communication at work.
So, if you are looking to improve your workplace interactions and the effectiveness of your general approach, you would do well to have these nonverbal elements in your arsenal.
1. How We Look
The way we dress and choose to present ourselves absolutely has an impact. We are much more likely to take a person seriously when they look neat, clean, and as though they have made clear choices about how they wish to appear. I don’t know about you, but if somebody came to a meeting with their shirt unaproned, in I’ll fitting and un-deliberate clothing, or with messy hair, it would have an impact on how seriously I took them. Dressing consciously also conveys confidence and competence.
2. Eye Contact
Eye contact is so important. It lets a speaker know that you are taking in everything that they are saying and that you respect their right to speak. It also helps to keep a conversation flowing and engaging… as soon as your eye contact wonders, the interaction is in danger of becoming much more clunky.
3. Listening and Focus
Following on from eye contact, it is very important that you demonstrate that you are focused and listening. Even if your interest is weighing, if you suddenly wander off in your head and end up staring into the middle distance, this hurts any rapport you are trying to build by demonstrating that you are not giving the speaker the focus you would wish to receive from them. Also, put all screens and notebooks to one side… there is nothing more off-putting than trying to communicate with somebody who is distracted, or indeed more interested by their screen.
4. Vocal Tone
Yes. I know. ‘Vocal tone’ veers heavily into verbal communication. However, the tone you use has nothing to do with the verbal content. The way you speak is something worth focusing on. One piece of text can be delivered in many different ways to convey respect, confidence, pity, happiness, sadness, anger… the list goes on. Ensure that your tone is in keeping with the effect you intend to have.
5. Hand Gestures
There has been a lot of research into the way we use our hands to communicate. Famously, for example, Tony Blair was the politician responsible for first using the ‘pointing with the thumb’ gesture that many politicians now use, as it is considered less aggressive than pointing with a forefinger. Ensure that you do not over or under-use your hands, as either is quite off-putting. Also, try and make your hand gestures fluid and relaxed, which helps to convey confidence and put other people in the room at ease.
6. Vocal and Physical Relaxation
In fact, in general, vocal and physical relaxation is something to be mindful of. Not only does this, as described above, convey confidence, but it should also help you to actually feel relaxed, even if you are not. If you are feeling anxious or panicky about an oncoming interaction, try to take a moment to focus on your breath and release some tension. Your whole self is a nonverbal beacon, and tension can emanate from the body like the sun (just as confidence can, by the way)! Try not to bring it into a situation if at all possible!
By Chris Thomson
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