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Improving Nonverbal Effectiveness

Submitted by: Sarah Melchior

Salt Lake Community College
COMM 1010-026
March 23, 2016

There are so many things I have learned so far in this class that I would
like to improve on. One of the personal skills that I feel is so powerful is

nonverbal communication. A statistic I read during my research said up to 93

percent of communication can be nonverbal! It is a skill always uses in our
daily lives, in a variety of different relationships. Paying closer attention to
the messages I send through body language can help me succeed not only in
my career, but at school and home as well. It is amazing to me how many
different aspects of a person can be read and perceived nonverbally. I have
been told by many people over my lifetime, especially back when I was
dating, that I am very intimidating. I am talkative and friendly, but
unapproachable due to my nonverbal behavior. The most important habits I
need to work on are my facial expressions, the personal space and distance I
often create, the air of over-confidence type of body language, and the tone
of voice when I speak.
Description of Problem:
Thankfully, my husband was able to read my strong nonverbal
behavior as a positive trait, and intimidation did not stand in the way of our
relationship. That, however, is usually not the case in most situations. I
notice it especially when meeting someone new for the first time, and I know
a first impression is the most important. The messages I convey are often
ambiguous and misinterpreted of my true intent. The text says you may not
always intend to send nonverbal messages, but everything about your
appearance, every movement, every facial expression, every nuance of your
voice has the potential to convey meaning. (Nonverbal Communication, Pg.
91). My lack of not seeing what nonverbal cues I use, make the other person

feel uncomfortable and respond in a way that is defensive or timid. I often

leave a conversation frustrated about how they acted or treated me. For
example, recently I had my performance review at work, and my boss said
one of my co-works complained that she doesnt feel like she can approach
me on an issue. I, on the other hand, had no idea there was a problem! It
bothered me she didnt feel I would be helpful and friendly enough to work it
out, and that has affected my work environment as a result. If I were more
approachable and my nonverbal communication came across to her as a
person who wants to be a good team member that does not want conflict,
this could have been avoided.

Resources and Constraints:

Sources are abundant that I can look to for help. Family and close
friends are a great resource because they know me best, has seen past the
defenses I put up, and can offer suggestions on what to do in situations.
They can give me a signal when I am coming across in a way that may be
making them or someone else feel that I am too powerful. The text book can
also help with my self improvement journey. It gives me good descriptions on
the different types of nonverbal, as well as tips on how to improve. This will
help me devise a plan, and set goals that I can carry through with. The
constraints are vast, as they are years and years of being intimidating. I have
spent years building a wall of defenses so I am not easily hurt, and to
change that will require small steps.brick by brick. I think if I study on

how to be a more empathetic person, it will help create a softer, gentler

display of the person I would like people to perceive me as.

To change how other people perceive me, its so important to learn
what triggers my nonverbal demeanor. Self-monitoring is a direct way that I
can change things such as my tone of voice, body language, and facial
expressions. High self-monitors are good at knowing when to adapt their
nonverbal behavior to suit the situation. (Nonverbal Communication, Pg.
101). The text compares the difference in low self-monitors who dont
recognize the negative impact of their behavior. Those who are ignorant in
their nonverbal communication, are more likely to overestimate their skill.
Understanding that too much self-monitoring can make me overly selfconscious, keeping an eye on how I look and sound to others will hopefully
enhance my overall image.
The first topic of self-monitoring is to concentrate on my tone of voice
when speaking. Online research states that your tone of voice can convey a
wealth of information, ranging from enthusiasm to disinterest to anger. If I
can start noticing how my tone of voice affects how someone responds to me
and try using my voice to emphasize what I am seeking. Next time I am

interested in something; I will express my enthusiasm by using an animated

tone of voice.
The second topic of self-monitoring is to improve my unspoken
communication through body language. My height, strong jaw line, and looks
tend to give the perception of power. I cannot change what mother nature
blessed me with, but I can change my stature in some situations. Getting my
body at the same level as others, or having a more slumped posture will help
create an appearance of a more passive demeanor. I inquired with my
husband what body language habit I did that made me unapproachable,
and found it interesting to learn I did not have a very open posture. My
crossed arms or legs give a nonverbal message of disinterest. To work on
that, he will tap me on the arm every time he notices it.
The final self-monitoring I would like to focus on is the topic of facial
expressions. The human face is extremely expressive, able to express
numerous emotions without saying a word. This is the part I feel I could
improve my ability to express more empathy than I currently do. I need to
stop and ask myself, what is my face showing? Is it masklike and
unexpressive, or emotionally present and filled with interest? I need to
remind myself to smile more, since the passing of my father last year, I know
I tend to smile less. The biggest and best difference I think I can make to my
approach to others is contained in the power of the smile. All people smile in
the same language. (Proverb)

Another approach in improving my nonverbal effectiveness is to

demonstrate interest in others, and having emotional awareness. The book
uses the term immediacy, which indicates closeness and liking. By changing
some cues such as closer proximity, more direct eye gaze, more forward
lean, more relaxed posture, positive facial expression, and warmer vocal
qualities, I can help make that first impression of me a more positive one. In
my research, I found it interesting to learn that there is a strong link between
high immediacy and career success! The text provides a self assessment
inventory where you can begin by evaluating your current level of immediacy
found on page 102. I feel improving my emotional awareness will strengthen
my current relationships a lot. This skill would enable me to accurately read
other people and respond, create trust in the relationship by sending
nonverbal signals that match up with my words, and respond in ways that
show them that I understand, notice and care.
Oh the power that stress has on a persons life. Learning how to
manage stress in the heat of the moment is one of the most important things
that you can do to improve your nonverbal communication. ( I
am often overwhelmed and stressed out with work, school, and family life.
This stress often leads to me misreading other people, or sending them offputting signals that are unintentional. When Im feeling distracted and
stressed, I need to step back, regain my emotions, and continue with a more
relaxed attitude. I believe a combination of what Ive researched, and the
support of the people closest to me will help me achieve the goals Ive set

for myself. I think it would be helpful to video a conversation, that way I can
watch it and evaluate myself, so I can understand what others see and hear.

In conclusion, its important for me to understand and be aware
that signals can be misread. A persons overall demeanor is far more telling
than a single gesture. Sometimes the person reading my nonverbal cues
may have their own personal insecurities, or struggles that I may not know
about, and thus no matter what I do they may still view me the same. I need
to consider the context in which the communication occurs, and concentrate
on ways to make my signals match the level of the situation. Some people
just seem to have a knack for using nonverbal communication effectively, I
am not one of them! Because of that reality, I need to practice, practice,

Works Cited:
Alder, Elmhorst, Lucas. (2013) Communicating at Work: Strategies for
Success in Business and the Professions. (11e). McGraw Hill.

Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., Melinda Smith, M.A., Greg Boose, and Jaelline
Jaffe, Ph.D. improving Your Nonverbal Skills and Reading Body Lanuage. March 2016. Web.