If you were a carpenter or electrician, you would have a toolbox stocked with everything you need to complete your work. Even if you had a favourite tool, you would still utilise all of your other tools to the fullest extent possible.
We frequently have a tendency to rely on language in place of the other tools in our arsenal when it comes to communication. One of the key characteristics that distinguishes humans is language. However, we also communicate with one another in other ways, such as through posture, eye contact, facial expression, and tone of voice.
Leaders who have evolved are not only aware of these additional channels of communication, but they also purposefully and consciously employ nonverbal cues to amplify their message. This increases the value of both your leadership and your communication.
Our message will be garbled or muddied if our nonverbal communication and spoken communication are not in sync, and it won’t be heard at all. Translation will muddle our message.
According to author Nick Morgan, what we are missing out on in these situations is a type of “second conversation,” one that is governed at both ends in a way that is mostly unconscious. This makes sense when you realise that our conscious minds are only capable of processing 40 bits of information each thought, whereas our unconscious minds are capable of processing up to 11 million bits per second. It makes sense that we naturally give our unconscious a lot of the responsibility for processing information.
How do we take control of a process that seems to happen outside of our conscious awareness? Morgan contends in his book Power Cues that with practise, we may bring some of that second dialogue into the open.
Before everything else, we must become conscious of how we inhabit space and how we manifest, especially during the most crucial moments. Do we slump over or stare down at our laptops during client meetings? Do we stand during a presentation with our hands crossed in front or behind our backs?
More than just reinforcing our conscious discussion, this second unconscious conversation also contributes to it. Conversations can be the place where hearts and minds are gained or lost at times. For instance, MIT researchers have shown that studying nonverbal cues can help predict how well a venture capital pitch will go.
According to Morgan, if we become more conscious of our distinctive body language and gestures, we may take steps to match our nonverbal cues with our spoken message. Clarity of intent must come first in this.
We believe we are crystal clear about what we need from a certain meeting or presentation. But in truth, our thoughts are frequently a tangle of feelings and unrelated ideas. It is more likely for our gestures, intonation, and facial expressions to convey the essence of our meaning if we take the time to do so. When explaining a company restructure to top-level management, for instance, you may sum up your goal in one word, like confidence.
This method works from the inside out, moving from feeling to action. Sometimes a gesture foretells or even moulds a feeling or concept. We can decide to start there and work our way within. We can develop a greater awareness of specific gestures and nonverbal cues and, as a result, their impact on other people as well as ourselves, with practise.
All of this boils down to mindfulness, which is the awareness of oneself, others, and a circumstance.
In my coaching work, I make sure to emphasise to clients the wide-ranging benefits of a mindfulness practise. Marketing of mindfulness as a method of stress reduction is common. Although it undoubtedly reduces stress, it is so much more. Over time, your day will benefit from the awareness and clarity that meditation generates.
Mind-body connection and mindfulness go hand in hand. Yoga and tai chi are examples of mind-body exercises that are essentially mindfulness in motion. They demonstrate that the mind will follow the body when the body takes the initiative.
In her research on what she calls presence, psychologist Amy Cuddy came across a certain aspect of this reality. Cuddy discovered that those who feel assured and powerful are more likely to demonstrate their presence by adopting a broader stance. She questioned whether the reversal might be true. Is it possible to feel more powerful and confident with an expanded posture?
Yes, was the response. Cuddy subsequently repeated similar findings in a new academic publication published in Psychological Science, despite pushback against the prevalence of the “power pose” and some criticism of her research. It is true that the mind follows the body’s direction.
This study makes the crucial implication that we can read body language not just in others but also in ourselves. The full range of nonverbal cues at our disposal proclaims who we are to the outside world and to ourselves. Walt Whitman, a poet, said, “We convince by our presence.”
AN OPENING FOR COMMUNICATION
It can be tempting to feel anxious or to see the intricacies of nonverbal communication as a possible minefield. What if I deliver a strong pitch, only for the poor body language to undermine it?
Instead, we might see this complex, multilayered environment as a chance to deepen our relationships with both ourselves and others. Being able to comprehend and use every item in your communication arsenal will improve both your leadership and personal qualities.
When we rely too heavily on SMS and emails, we miss out on this chance. By restricting our options, we run the danger of misunderstandings and lose out on the numerous other advantages of face-to-face communication, such developing shared purpose and trust.
Instead of being a minefield, nonverbal communication may be a gold mine. Be aware of it and accept it. Your influence and presence will increase.
SOME NON- VERBAL MODES OF COMMUNICATION
- Sight contact: The most crucial aspect of nonverbal communication is eye contact. Making eye contact with your discussion partner communicates your interest in them and your engagement in the topic. You can convey confidence and authenticity by maintaining firm eye contact. You convey disinterest or insecurity if you are gazing at the ground or the sky. The 80/20 rule is a useful guideline. 80% of the time, look directly into your partner’s eyes. 20% of the time, let your eyes wander as you consider their points and collect your thoughts.
- Hands and arms: What do your hands do when you talk to other people? Do you have your arms crossed across your body? You come across as unreliable if your arms are flailing or your fingers are twitching tensely. Similar to crossing your arms, doing so makes you seem cut off from the discourse. By bringing your fingers together to form a triangle, steeple your hands while keeping your arms at your sides. When it comes to coming across as confident and interested in your conversation, these seemingly insignificant actions can make all the difference. Finally, when it’s time to shake hands, deliver a tight, steady hold. You don’t want to let your hand hang limp or violently squeeze it. A strong handshake demonstrates dependability and has the power to make or ruin a deal.
- Possession and posture: Are you hunched over while standing? Do you have a rounded back? If you have poor posture, it may appear that you lack self-assurance, genuineness, or subject-matter expertise. Straighten your spine, push your shoulders back, and hold your head high. You probably feel more assured merely by correcting your posture. When you have good posture and face your audience directly, you come across as more personable and interested in their feedback.
- Create a new self: Todd Herman, a performance coach and counsellor, says that occasionally developing an alter ego will help you improve your communication abilities. Do you consider yourself to be an extroverted person who finds it difficult to relate to others? What if you imagined yourself to be outgoing, self-assured, and good at forming connections with people? During his appearance as a guest on The Tony Robbins Podcast, Todd spoke on the importance of establishing a secret identity. “It’s designing the version of yourself that you want to show up in each of them,” Todd said. “It’s understanding that there are nuances to your life.” If you must give presentations as part of your job but detest public speaking, create an alter ego who is an amazing speaker. If you must give presentations as part of your job but detest public speaking, create an alter ego who is a charismatic public speaker. When you stand on that stage, you have the ability to adopt that attitude, but once your speech is over, you may still revert to your regular self.
- Fidgeting: When was the last time you believed something someone on television who was fidgeting said to you? To make their messages more credible, actors, newsreaders, and politicians have all been instructed to control their fidgeting. Even when they’re wrong, their speech emanates knowledge and confidence, so you believe what they’re telling you. The next time you catch yourself squirming anxiously, pause for a second. Take a deep breath, posture yourself upright, and fold your hands on the podium or table in front of you. You should be able to stop fidgeting for the time being by using this opportunity to gather your thoughts. Maintaining this behaviour will make it simpler for you to resist the impulse to fidget as time goes on. The more you practise this habit, the simpler it will be to resist the impulse to fidget as soon as it arises. You’ll eventually quit fidgeting completely.
- A deep listen: You can use the power of deep listening when you’re genuinely trying to establish long-lasting connections using efficient nonverbal communication techniques. Maintaining steady eye contact, trying to be fully present and engaged in the conversation, providing nonverbal feedback like smiles and nods, and positioning your body in a way that puts you close to your conversation partner while maintaining good posture are all components of deep listening. When you listen deeply to your spouse, you are fully engaged in what they are saying and they feel comfortable speaking openly and honestly with you.
There are countless ways that you can contribute to any discussion, gathering, or social encounter, but if you don’t present yourself in a way that encourages conversation and connection, it’s simple to overlook them. Words alone cannot express everything that nonverbal clues and gestures can. You may strengthen your current connections and forge fruitful new ones by honing your body language and presenting yourself in a way that radiates honesty, confidence, and knowledge.