Non Verbal Communication - Actions Speak Louder than Words

Scenario 1 – You are sitting in front of an interview panel with arms crossed. So far you have not been asked a single question, however, your crossed arms have spoken louder than the words.

Tip 1 – Never keep your arms crossed especially during formal one-on-one meetings. It suggests you are not open to feedback and could also suggest that you are trying to dominate the situation.

Scenario 2 – You are giving a presentation to a group of 20 people. You keep your gaze fixed at the centre of the class / room through the presentation – your gaze has spoken louder than your words.

Tip 2 – Your gaze at one person should not be more than 4 - 5 seconds while delivering a presentation / communicating with a large group unless you are addressing an individual.

Scenario 1 and 2 clearly demonstrate the importance of Non Verbal Communication.

What is Non Verbal Communication ?

It is communication of feelings, emotions, attitudes, and thoughts through body movements / gestures / eye contact, etc.

The components of Non Verbal Communication are:

  • Kinesics: It is the study of facial expressions, postures & gestures. Did you know that while in Argentina to raise a fist in the air with knuckles pointing outwards expresses victory, in Lebanon, raising a closed fist is considered rude?

  • Oculesics: It is the study of the role of eye contact in non verbal communication. Did you know that in the first 90 sec - 4 min you decide that you are interested in someone or not. Studies reveal that 50% of this first impression comes from non-verbal communication which includes oculesics. Only 7% of comes from words - that we actually say.

  • Haptics: It is the study of touching. Did you know that acceptable level of touching vary from one culture to another? In Thailand, touching someone's head may be considered as rude.

  • Proxemics: It is the study of measurable distance between people as they interact. Did you know that the amount of personal space when having an informal conversation should vary between 18 inches - 4 feet while, the personal distance needed when speaking to a crowd of people should be around 10-12 feet?

  • Chronemics: It is the study of use of time in non verbal communication. Have you ever observed that while AN employee will not worry about running a few minutes late to meet a colleague, a manager who has a meeting with the CEO, a late arrival will be considered as a nonverbal cue that he / she does not give adequate respect to his superior?

  • Paralinguistics: It is the study of variations in pitch, speed, volume, and pauses to convey meaning. Interestingly, when the speaker is making a presentation and is looking for a response, he will pause. However, when no response is desired, he will talk faster with minimal pause.

  • Physical Appearance: Your physical appearance always contributes towards how people perceive you. Neatly combed hair, ironed clothes and a lively smile will always carry more weight than words.

Remember, “what we say” is less important than “how we say it” as words are only 7% of our communication. Understand and enjoy non verbal communication as it helps forming better first impressions. Good luck!


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