Have you ever been in a conversation where you just had the feeling that the person you were communicating with wasn’t being 100% honest?
Have you ever been triggered by someone in a conversation, not by what they said, but how they said it?
Conversely, have you ever been the focus of someone ire, and you have no idea what you said?
What about those of you with pets? Dogs don’t speak, but they communicate with their humans through a series of non-verbal cues.
Despite what many people tend to believe, communication is not about the words you speak. The actual words which you form through pushing air through given mouth postures tend to get the largest amount of our focus and attention. However, it’s your non-verbal communication and behavior (NVC&B) which speaks volumes louder than the words you actually form.
The Role of NVC&B
Non-verbal communications and behaviors will serve at least one of 5 functions.
- Repeat and reinforce
- Complement (not compliment)
When your body language is in line with the message you’re sending through formed words it is reinforcing and repeating. Otherwise, your body language can directly contradict your verbal message indicating to the listener in your conversation that you may be lying.
Reinforcement is often signaled by confidence, whereas contradiction can be signaled with something like a failure to maintain proper eye contact, or simply taking a step away from the listener
Your body language can completely override and substitute the verbal message you’re trying to send. The best example of this would be the “Bless your heart” or “Thank You” scenario.
It’s a well seen stereo type that Southern women will opt for grace over leveling an intellectual opponent. Saying Thank you is often preferable to saying what one really wants to, especially when those words have the potential to be hurtful, insulting, or just plain mean. However, in this same scenario, a dirty look may accompany the sweetly voiced Thank You properly conveying the real message.
This may or may not be intentional, but the point is that facial expressions are the most effective and vivid forms of non-verbal communication. The saying “if looks could kill” came from somewhere.
Otherwise, your body language may complement or accent the verbal message you’re trying to send. Providing an employee some positive feedback is a great way to garner respect. Coupling that with the non-verbal communication of a small bonus or non-monetary perk will complement (support) your verbal “good job.” In line with this, that same bonus or non-monetary perk can also accent your verbal “good job” by underlining the amount of importance you put on the performance of your employees.
This, in turn, sends the message to the rest of your employees that not only are you genuine in your praise (complementing) but that you give substantial importance to what you’re saying (accenting). This can be applied in parenting, friendships, marriages, business relationships, ect…
Types of NVC&B
Different types of non-verbal communications and behaviors include:
- Facial expressions
- Para linguistic
- Eye contact
- Body language
Gestures include any type of movement or placement of your hands, torso, or legs. Sitting with your legs crossed while animating your hands is use of gestures. Para linguistics include things like the tone, pitch, rhythm, volume, timbre, and inflection of your voice.
Remember, it is entirely possible to say Thank You with words to deliver the mess of go climb a tree with a bear. This is often achieved through facial expression and para linguistics more than anything. Languages like ASL (American Sign Language) is highly dependent upon facial expressions, posture, and position.
Holding your hands to the left, front, or right of your torso while delivering hand signals can highlight voice or person in reference to the content being discussed. The location of your body in relation to the person or people you are communicating with can have a cultural component. But, taking a step back, or placing your dominant foot behind your non-dominant foot to angle your body in relation to someone else can communicate defensiveness, fear, or that you feel a need to protect yourself.
Non-verbal communication involves any component of communication which does not involve words or language. It will have a much larger impact on the message you actually convey than will words, and it has the power to directly contradict you.