Posted January 31, 2012on:
Whether you’re speaking or not, you’re always communicating. Research consistently suggests that over 90% of a person’s thoughts, feelings and intentions are conveyed through non-verbal channels, including the voice and body language.
Through careful observation you can gain insights into a person’s state of mind, emotions and attitude. A person’s pitch, pace and tone of voice, movements, gestures, and expressions, as well as posture, dress, and spatial distance communicate even when no words are being spoken. By observing and responding to others’ non-verbal behaviours you can influence their thinking and persuade them to agree with your suggestions.
Because many people have learned how to put a mask on to hide their true feelings, if you sense that someone’s face is concealing what’s going on inside, observe the whole body. Legs, feet, arms, shoulders, hands and fingers give valuable indications of consistency and authenticity, or a lack thereof.
Through astute observation you can figure out what’s being communicated even when the verbal output is turned off. Questions to ask yourself when observing others include:
• Are the messages coming from the spoken words consistent with the messages coming from the non-verbal behaviours?
• Is the person being consistent in displaying non-verbal behaviours?
Technical Stuff: Individuals cannot control normal eye dilation. When you are looking at something that pleases or arouses you, you your eyes measurably dilate; when you see something that you don’t like or that threatens you, your eyes constrict.
Regardless of what a presenter is saying, if he looks at his audience as he speaks, his listeners will perceive him favourably and view him as confident, credible, qualified, and honest.
If someone speaking doesn’t want to be interrupted, she will glance away and continue talking. If she wants someone else to speak, she will pause and make direct eye contact with that person.
If, while you’re speaking, someone is checking his BlackBerry, texting on his iPhone or looking at his watch, he may be indicating that it’s time for a break or that you’re boring him.
Tip: Words are accentuated and punctuated by movements, gestures, and facial expressions. When there is a lack of congruency between the verbal and nonverbal message, people believe what their eyes and ears tell you, not what the speaker is saying.
Warning: While certain gestures and expressions – such as a genuine smile in which the eyes as well as the mouth are engaged, or a clenched fist slamming down on a table top – convey specific messages, interpret them carefully in the context of the situation that is occurring at the time. Because observing non-verbal behaviour is open to interpretation, practice your observation skills and when appropriate ask the people involved to verify your observations and interpretations.
Anecdote: I recently ran a session for a global corporation on the Body Language of Leaders. During my presentation I noticed that while most of the women in the room were smiling and nodding as I spoke, several of the men had serious expressions on their faces, which I initially interpreted as unconvinced or doubtful. In order to gain rapport with these individuals (see Body Language For Dummies and Persuasion & Influence For Dummies on how to establish rapport) I reflected back their expressions as I directed my comments to them. What I observed was that the men relaxed and engaged with me as I mirrored back what I observed them doing.
Remember: No single non-verbal sign is a reliable indicator of mood, attitude, or intention. To support a particular conclusion, observe and interpret several consistent signals.
For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com
And…Follow us on Twitter! www.twitter.com/diamondpolisher