Non-verbal communication can be equally if not more informative than spoken words. Although non-verbal communication is often overlooked in social situations, those who are attuned to aspects of non-verbal communication can gather incredible amounts of information about an individual simply by watching them. This, in turn, allows for improvement in communication skills.
Non-verbal communication can include body language, posture, eye contact, tone, facial expressions, and other physical indicators of mood. Despite how useful reading non-verbal signals can be, many people are not aware of some of the more common non-verbal communication signs.
One of the most obvious means of non-verbal communication is eye contact. Simple mistakes such as excessive blinking or prolonged eye contact while listening can damage the credibility or make an individual appear nervous. However, while speaking, focused eye contact indicates the speaker’s engagement and attentiveness.
Another way that body language can indicate interest is by minimizing distractions while communicating. Researchers have found that checking cell phones while an individual is speaking is likely to make that speaker believe that the listener is not engaged.
The facial expression often has a huge role in non-verbal communication. Smiling rather than having a neutral or negative facial expression can encourage people to react more positively and openly than they otherwise would.
Tone can also often change how people interpret words that are spoken. In addition to changing the meaning of words, a change in tone can indicate a change in mood. Studies have found that when presented with a “dominant” or “stern” persona, individuals tend to speak in a higher tone than when speaking with a neutral party. Tone can also indicate interest or disinterest as well as fear or anxiety.
There are countless ways that non-verbal communication can help or hinder individuals. By carefully observing and learning how non-verbal communication can affect the meaning of words, increased information can be acquired and unintended non- verbal communication can be avoided.