Nonverbal Communications that Work – 2

In my previous post: “Nonverbal Communications that Work – 1“, I introduced the value and importance of nonverbal communications in conveying messages to others. Nonverbal communications, such as facial expressions, voice tone, handshakes, gestures, appearance, and posture, are all essential aspects of building the relationship with your customers or audiences. nonverbal communications


In their book “Selling Today,” Gerald L. Manning, Barry L. Reece, and Michael Ahearne presented that 93 percent of retained messages are nonverbal communications. As discussed in “Nonverbal Communications that Work – 1“, The most common and essential nonverbal communications that work in various situations, are the following:


  1. Entrance and Carriage
  2. Shaking Hands
  3. Facial Expressions
  4. Eye Contact
  5. Voice
  6. Appearance


I have already discussed the first three: (1) Entrance and Carriage, (2) Shaking Hands, and (3) Facial Expressions here. And in this post, I will discuss the remaining three: (4) Eye Contact, (5) Voice, and (6) Appearance.


Another Three Nonverbal Communications that Work

4. Eye Contact

Eye contact occurs when “two people look at each others’ eyes at the same time.” Both eye contact and facial expressions provide essential social and emotional information. Eye contact is a compelling nonverbal communications skill. People, perhaps without consciously doing so, search others’ eyes and faces for positive or negative mood signs. In some contexts, the meeting of eyes arouses strong emotions. In fact, we use eye contact every day of our lives, so it makes sense to learn the best ways to use our eyes to our advantage. Right?


Certain situations demand different uses of the eyes. According to Steven Aitchison, the creator of “Change your Thoughts” Blog, and personal development coach mentioned here:


“If your are arguing it is seen as strong if you can hold your gaze. If you are deferring to someone it is better to lower your eyes, if you are loving someone it is good to stare into the pool of the eyes.”

nonverbal communications

As a nonverbal communications skill, eye contact should be used with caution, however. According to Carol Kinsey Goman, an international keynote speaker and the author of “The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help – or Hurt – How You Lead” clearly mentions that too much eye contact is instinctively felt to be rude, hostile and condescending; and in a business context, it may also be perceived as a deliberate intent to dominate, intimidate, belittle, or make “the other” feel at a disadvantage. Too little eye contact, on the other hand, can make you appear uneasy, unprepared, insincere, or careless.


When the customer is talking, eye contact is one of the best ways to say, “I’m listening.” If you are looking across the room or at papers in your briefcase, the other party will assume you are not listening. However, prolonged eye contact can send the wrong message. A lengthy, direct stare can be threatening. To avoid the prolonged stare, take fleeting glances at your notes. As the other party speaks, you can occasionally nod to indicate agreement or interest.


“Just the right” amount of eye contact – the amount that produces a feeling of mutual likability and trustworthiness – will vary with situations, settings, personality types, gender and cultural differences. As a general rule, though, direct eye contact ranging from 30% to 60% of the time during a conversation – more when you are listening, less when you are speaking – should make for a comfortable, productive atmosphere.


Four simple ways to improve your eye contact with nonverbal communications skill:


  1. Talking to a group – When speaking to a group of people it is great to have direct contact with your listeners. Don’t make the mistake of maintaining eye contact with just one person as this will stop the other members of the group from listening. To get past this, focus on a different member of the group with every new sentence. This way you are talking to all of the group and keeping them all interested.
  2. Talking to an individual – It is excellent to maintain eye contact when talking to a person however it can become a bit creepy and uncomfortable if you stare intensely at them. To combat this, break eye contact every 5 seconds or so. When breaking the eye contact don’t look down as this might indicate the ending of your part of the conversation. Instead, look up or to the side as if you remember something.
  3. Listening to someone – When you are listening to someone it can be off-putting for the talker if you stare at them too hard. Steven Aitchison here discusses an excellent technique that he called: ‘The Triangle.’ It is when you look at one eye for about 5 seconds, look at the other eye for 5 seconds and then look at the mouth for 5 seconds and keep on rotating in this way. This technique coupled with other listening skills such as nodding, random agreement words such as ‘yes,’ ‘Uh –huh’ ‘mm’ etc. is a great way to keep the talker talking and to show them you are interested in what they are saying.
  4. Arguing – Arguing with someone is a skill in itself and if you want to compete in an argument holding the gaze shows strength. If you looked away when arguing with someone you have all but lost the case. Obviously this depends on who you are arguing with, but in general, it is better to hold the gaze while you are making your point and also when you are listening to the other person.


5. Voice

As noted previously, every spoken message has a vocal element. What we hear is greatly influenced by the speaker’s tone of voice, vocal clarity, and verbal expressiveness. On the telephone, voice quality is even more critical because the other person cannot see your facial expressions, hand gestures, and other nonverbal communications. You cannot trade in your current voice for a new one. However, you can make your voice more pleasing to others and deliver your message as you intend to. How?


Six suggestions to improve your voice as a nonverbal communication skill:


  1. Breathe – Take one slow, relaxed and deep breath before speaking for two seconds. Do not underestimate that. It projects a more thoughtful and confident manner. They give you time to prepare or refine the statement and project confidence.
  2. Do not talk too fast or too slowly – Rapid speech often causes customers to become defensive. They raise psychological barriers because a “rapid-fire monologue” is associated with high-pressure communication methods. You could improve your verbal presentation by talking more slowly. The slower presentation allows others to follow. It also enables you, as a speaker, time to think ahead to consider the situation and make judgments. Another good tip is to vary the speed of your speech, leaving spaces between thoughts. Crowding too many ideas together may confuse the listener.
  3. Avoid a speech pattern that is dull or colorless – The worst kind of voice has no color and no feeling. Enthusiasm is a critical element of effective communication. It also is contagious. Your energy is transmitted to the other party.
  4. Pace your speech correctly – The pace or speed of your statement communicates both interest and enthusiasm. Slow down your statement to draw attention to specific points. Speed up statement to show passion for particular points. Always minimize verbal pauses (urn, err. ah, you know, like, etc.) because they show lack of preparation, weaken your message, and may cause your audience to lose interest. Therefore, use this technique smartly. It is effective.
  5. Pay attention to your voice volume – To affect the quality of your voice, you can change the volume of your speech to convey both enthusiasm and attention. For example, raise your volume to show enthusiasm for specific points. However, raise it for only a few words. Too long can show anger or fear. On the other hand, lower your volume to draw interest to specific points. Nonetheless, lower it for only a few words. Too long can show low confidence and may lead to lack of interest from your audience.
  6. Avoid bad speech habits – It is essential to always articulate when you speak. Mumbling or muttering indicates a lack of confidence. Speak in a clear and precise manner to communicate confidence and control. Avoid slang or poor grammar.


6. Appearance

We form opinions about people based on a pattern of immediate impressions conveyed by appearance. The clothing we wear, the length and style of our hair, the fragrances we use, and the jewelry we display all combine to make a statement about us to others.


We all have specific views, or unconscious expectations, concerning appropriate dress. In sales work, for example, we should try to anticipate the expectations of our clientele. The clothing worn by a salesperson does make a difference regarding customer acceptance because it communicates powerful messages. The clothing we wear can influence our credibility and likability.


Most image consultants agree that there is no single “dress for success” look. The appropriate wardrobe varies from one city, region, or culture to another and from company to company. However, there are some general guidelines that we should follow in selecting your clothing.


nonverbal communications

Four keywords should govern our decisions: Simplicity, Appropriateness, Visual Integrity, and Quality.


  1. Simplicity – The color of clothing, as well as design, communicates a message to the customer.
    Some colors are showy and convey an air of casualness. In a business setting, we want to be taken
    seriously, so flashy colors should usually be avoided.
  2. Appropriateness – Selecting appropriate clothing can be a challenge. We must carefully consider the clients we serve or our audience and decide what may be acceptable to them. Many salespeople, for example, are guided by the type of products they sell and the desired image projected by their employers. Deciding what constitutes appropriate attire in today’s business casual world begins with an understanding of what it means to “dress down.” Business casual is clothing that allows you to feel comfortable but looks neat and professional. Pay close attention to the clothing your clients or audiences wear. In recent years, the casual dress trend has been reversed at many companies, and workplace dress codes have become more formal.
  3. Visual Integrity – Visual presence must have a certain amount of integrity and consistency. The images you project are made up of many factors, and lack of attention to important details can negate your effort to create a good impression. Too much jewelry, a shirt that does not fit well, or unshined shoes can detract from the professional look you want to project. People often are extra alert when meeting someone new, and this heightened consciousness makes every detail count.
  4. Quality – The quality of our wardrobe also influences the image we project to customers. A salesperson’s wardrobe, for example, should be regarded as an investment, with each item carefully selected to look and fit well. If you are a business leader or a senior executive, you should present yourself in a well-respected manner. Susan Bixler, author of “The New Professional Image” and “Professional Presence,” makes this comment:


“If you want respect, you have to dress as well as or better than your industry standards.”


So these were the other three nonverbal communications that work in any situation: Eye Contact, Voice, and Appearance. All six nonverbal communications are very essential and, when used correctly, are very effective to convey the proper messages when we communicate. However, I need to emphasize the following two facts:


  1. These two posts are just simple and concise information about nonverbal communications. It is a vast field of knowledge, and a lot of work and studies have been conducted to address it. A lot of training, as well, are available in the industry that would help people develop their nonverbal communications.
  2. To apply nonverbal communications efficiently and successfully, you need practice. You need to use them and learn from your mistakes and those of others. It is not an easy thing to master nonverbal communications. Therefore, you need to keep on learning and practicing.


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Sources: (1) “The Definitive Book of Body Language,” Allan and Barbara Pease, (2) “Selling Today,” Gerald L. Manning, Barry L. Reece, and Michael Ahearne, (3) “6 ways to dramatically improve your eye contact skills” by Steven Aitchison, (4) “Fascinating Facts About Eye Contact” by Carol Kinsey Goman.

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