Understanding non-verbal communication
Non-verbal communication is an exchange that is absent of words. In the business world today, non-verbal communication is highly regarded. However, it is widely misunderstood.
Non-verbal communication relies on gestures, body movement, physical contact, facial expressions, and the physical environment.
Approximately 55% of a message is conveyed via body posture and facial expressions. Nearly 38% is conveyed by inflection and tone of voice. The remaining 7% is the actual verbal message.
It is generally understood that there are three kinds of non-verbal communication frequently practiced in the workplace: body language, images, and environments.
- Body language – can be as simple as the distance that you stand away from someone. Standing close indicated either aggressive behavior or friendliness. In some cultures it is appropriate to stand further apart, while in other cultures is acceptable to stand closer together. Extended eye contact can demonstrate either interest or hostile feelings. Crossed arms generally indicate disinterest.
- Images – are the mental pictures that develop in a person’s mind, based on the words chosen by the speaker. The words used may convey more than the literal meaning of the words.
- Environment – in which communication occurs also plays a role in non-verbal communication. Communication may be hindered when physical “power” barriers exist. Several factors convey power, such as the size/type of furniture in an office, how accessible/inaccessible the office resident may be, or the location and square footage of the office itself.
You should always be aware of the impact of non-verbal communication when conversing with customers and employees. Positive feedback delivered with inappropriate non-verbal “messages” can have a negative impact. The message you are delivering can be strengthened or weakened depending on the non-verbal behavior demonstrated.