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Types of non-verbal communication:

LISTENING SKILLS: Verbal communications are the primary communication skills taught
in the formal education system and include such things as reading, writing, computer skills, e-
mail, talking on the phone, writing memos, and speaking to others. Non-verbal communications
are those messages expressed by other than verbal means. Non-verbal communications are also
known as ‘body language’ and include facial expressions, posture, hand gestures, tone of voice,
smell, and other communications perceived by our senses. We cannot not communicate and even
when we don’t speak, our non-verbal communications convey a message. Symbolic
communications are demonstrated by the cars we drive, the houses we live in, and the clothes we
wear (e.g. uniforms – police, military). The most important aspects of symbolic communication
are the words we use.

Words, in fact, have no meaning; rather we attach meaning to them through our own
interpretation. Therefore our life experience, belief system, or perceptual framework determines
‘how we hear the words.’

Rudyard Kipling wrote: “Words are of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” In
other words, we hear what we expect to hear based on our interpretation of what the words mean.

According to social scientists, verbal communication skills account for 7% of the communication
process. The other 93% consist of nonverbal and symbolic communication and are called
'listening skills.' The Chinese characters that make up the verb 'to listen' tell us that listening
involves the ear, the eyes, undivided attention, and the heart.

Listening is a process that consists of five elements: hearing, attending, understanding,

responding, and remembering. Hearing is the physiological dimension of listening that occurs
when sound waves strike the ear at a certain frequency and loudness and is influenced by
background noise. Attending is the process of filtering out some messages and focusing on
others. Understanding occurs when we make sense of a message. Responding consists of giving
observable feedback to the speaker such as eye contact and appropriate facial expressions.
Remembering is the ability to recall information. Listening isn’t just a passive activity; we are
active participants in a communication transaction.

LISTEN WITH YOUR EYES (By Susan M. Heathfield):Is there ever any doubt in
your mind as to the mood of a coworker upon their arrival at work? Nonverbal communication is
the single most powerful form of communication. More than voice or even words, nonverbal
communication cues you in to what is on another person’s mind. The best communicators are
sensitive to the power of the emotions and thoughts communicated nonverbally.

One study at UCLA indicated that up to 93 percent of communication effectiveness is

determined by nonverbal cues. Another study indicated that the impact of a performance was
determined 7 percent by the words used, 38 percent by voice quality, and 55 percent by the
nonverbal communication

If you want to mask your feelings or your immediate reaction to information, pay close attention
to your nonverbal behavior. You may have your voice and words under control, but your body
language including the tiniest facial expressions and movement can give your true thoughts and
feelings away. Especially to a skilled reader of nonverbal cues, most of us are really open books.

Practical Steps For More Effective Listening

1. Talk less. one of the teacher use to say when she facilitated classes she always told her
students that God gave you one mouth and two ears – that should tell you something.

2. Get rid of distractions. If it is important for you to listen, do everything you can to eliminate
internal and external noise and distractions that interfere with careful listening.

3. Don’t judge prematurely. All of us are guilty of forming snap judgments and evaluating others
before hearing them out especially when the speaker’s ideas conflict with our own.

4. Look for key ideas. We think much faster than people speak. To help focus attention (rather
then drift off in boredom) extract the central idea.

5. Ask sincere questions. ‘Devil’s advocate’ questions are really statements or criticisms in
disguise. Sincere questions are requests for new information that clarifies a speaker’s thoughts or

6. Paraphrase. Reword the speaker’s thoughts in your own words to make sure your
interpretation as a listener is accurate.

7. Suspend your own agenda. In other words, while you are listening, concentrate on what the
speaker is saying not what you think.

8. Empathic listening. Empathic listening is knowing that given the same set of circumstances
you might have done the same thing. It is the ability to experience the world from the other’s
point of view. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you agree, but that you understand.

9. Open your heart with love. Often we listen to score points and make ourselves right and the
other person wrong. When we open our hearts to each other, we do so with the belief that we are
all the same. We have the same feelings, fears, and hurts: doing the best we can with what we


There are five key elements that can make or break your attempt at successful nonverbal
communication in business:
* Eye contact

* Gestures

* Movement

* Posture

* Written communication

Let's examine each nonverbal element in turn to see how we can maximise your potential to
communicate effectively...

EYE CONTACT: Good eye contact helps your audience develop trust in you, thereby helping
you and your message appear credible. Poor eye contact does exactly the opposite.

So what IS 'good' eye contact?

People rely on visual clues to help them decide on whether to attend to a message or not. If they
find that someone isn't 'looking' at them when they are being spoken to, they feel uneasy.

So it is a wise business communicator that makes a point of attempting to engage every member
of the audience by looking at them.

Now, this is of course easy if the audience is just a handful of people, but in an auditorium it can
be a much harder task. So balance your time between these three areas:

* slowly scanning the entire audience,

* focusing on particular areas of your audience (perhaps looking at the wall between two
heads if you are still intimidated by public speaking), and

* looking at individual members of the audience for about five seconds per person.

Looking at individual members of a large group can be 'tricky' to get right at first.

Equally, it can be a fine balancing act if your audience comprises of just one or two members --
spend too much time looking them in the eyes and they will feel intimidated, stared at, 'hunted

TIPS FOR GOOD EYE CONTACT : break your eye-to-eye contact down to four or five
second chunks.

That is, look at the other person in blocks that last four to five seconds, then look away. That way
they won't feel intimidated.

Practice this timing yourself, away from others. Just look at a spot on the wall, count to five, then
look away. With practice you will be able to develop a 'feel' for how long you have been looking
into your audience member's eyes and intuitively know when to look away and focus on another
person or object.

When focusing on individual members in a large meeting or auditorium, try and geographically
spread your attention throughout the room. That is, don't just focus your personal gaze (as
distinct from when you are scanning the room or looking at sections of the room) on selected
individuals from just one part of the room. Unless you are specifically looking to interact with a
particular person at that moment of your presentation, select your individual eye-contact
audience members from the whole room.

GESTURE: Most of us, when talking with our friends, use our hands and face to help us
describe an event or object - powerful nonverbal aids.We wave our arms about, turn our hands
this way and that, roll our eyes, raise our eyebrows, and smile or frown.Yet many of us also,
when presenting to others in a more formal setting, 'clam up'.

Our audience of friends is no different from our business audience — they all rely on our face
and hands (and sometimes legs, feet and other parts of us!) to 'see' the bigger, fuller picture.It is
totally understandable that our nervousness can cause us to 'freeze up', but is is in our and our
communication's best interests if we manage that nervousness, manage our fear of public
speaking, and use our body to help emphasise our point.

MOVEMENT:Ever watch great presenters in action — men and women who are alone on the
stage yet make us laugh, cry and be swept along by their words and enthusiasm?

Watch them carefully and you'll note that they don't stand rigidly in one spot. No, they bounce
and run and stroll and glide all around the stage.

Why do they do that?

Because they know that we human beings, men in particular, are drawn to movement. As part of
man's genetic heritage we are programmed to pay attention to movement. We instantly notice it,
whether we want to or not, assessing the movement for any hint of a threat to us This, of course,
helps explain why many men are drawn to the TV and seem transfixed by it. It also helps explain
why men in particular are almost 'glued' to the TV when there is any sport on. All that
movement!.But to get back to the stage and you on it... ensure that any movement you make is
meaningful and not just nervous fidgetting, like rocking back and forth on your heels or moving
two steps forward and back, or side to side.

This is 'nervous movement' and your nervousness will transmit itself to your audience,
significantly diluting the potency of your communication and message. So move about the stage
when you can — not just to keep the men in the audience happy, but to help emphasise your
POSTURE: There are two kinds of 'posture' and it is the wise communicator that manages and
utilizes both.

POSTURE 1:The first type of 'posture' is the one we think of intuitively-the straight back versues
the slumped shoulders; the feet-apart confident stance verses the feet together, hand-wringing of
the nervous; the head up and smiling versus the head down and frowing.

And every one of the positions we place the various elements of our body in tells a story—a
powerful, nonverbal story.

For example, stand upright, shoulders straight, head up and eyes facing the front. Wear a big
smile. Notice how you 'feel' emotionally. Now-slump your shoulders, look at the floor and
slightly shuffle your feet. Again, take a not of your emotional state.

Notice the difference?

Your audience surely will, and react to you and your message accordingly.

A strong, upright, positive body posture not only helps you breath easier (good for helping to
calm nerves!) but also transmits a message of authority, confidence, trust and power.

If you find yourself challenged to maintain such a posture, practice in front of a mirror

POSTURE 2:The second type of 'posture' comes from your internal mental and emotional states.
You can have great body posture but without internal mental and emotional posture your words
will sound hollow to your audience.

For example, the used car salesman might have great body posture and greet you with a firm
handshake, a steady gaze and a friendly smile. But if in his heart he is seeing you as just another
sucker then sooner or later his internal conflict between what he says and what he really thinks
will cause him to 'trip up'.

His body will start betraying his real, underlying intentions and you'll start to feel uncomfortable
around him, even if you can't figure out why.

But, if that same used car salesman had a genuine desire to help you find the right car for you,
and he puts your needs before his own, then his words and actions will remain congruent (in
harmony) with his underlying intentions and you will trust him, even though you might not be
able to identify why.

This second type of 'posture' is fundamentally tied to truth and honesty. It is about 'walking the
talk' and being who you say you are.

It's about not trying to sell something you don't believe in or use yourself. It's about not trying to
pass yourself off as an expert when all you've ever done is read a book on the subject.
It's all about making sure that your words and your intentions are underpinned by truth and
honesty. Because all of us, no matter how polished a presenter we might be, are at the mercy of
our body and its ability to 'tell the truth' in spite of what our lips might utter. Nonverbal clues

WRITTEN COMMUNICATION: Written communication is often the first impression

you make on potential customers, business partners, or employers. Because of its significance to
your marketing message, it is one of the most important aspects of your business.

Good writing sets a positive tone and encourages people to enter into a relationship with you. It
tells people that you have something worthwhile to offer them.

Although writing style is a subjective preference, writing quality can be objectively defined.
Three characteristics of good writing are that it is purposeful, compelling and clear.

PURPOSFUL: Every written communication has a specific purpose. It may be to inform, like
a corporate newsletter, mission statement, or press release. It may be to explain, as a training
manual, white paper, or business letter. Writing can also be used to motivate a sales team,
instruct a student, or inspire social change. Identifying the specific purpose of your writing
before you begin will make it easier to choose the most appropriate format and content.

COMPELLING: Effective writing compels the reader first, to continue reading and second, to
feel, think or act in a certain way. Marketing brochures, sales literature, proposals, resumes, even
business cards, rely on the power of the written word to compel decisions and actions. Read your
writing from your customer's perspective. Does it motivate you to act?

CLEAR :The ever-increasing pace of business requires many of us to do more in less time. The
clearer your writing, the easier it is for your readers to quickly understand and respond to your
message. Whether you are writing for internal corporate communications or external promotion,
clarity makes your writing more vibrant and memorable.

Which writing projects should you complete yourself, and which should you outsource to a
professional freelance writer? Consider these three questions:

*Do I have the expertise to write the most effective communication?

*Do I have the resources necessary for the results I need?

*Do I have time to research, write, edit and rewrite the project?

Short, personal or proprietary communications, like agendas, meeting minutes and performance
evaluations can easily and efficiently be completed in-house.

Promotional or comprehensive corporate communications - such as press releases, sales and

marketing materials, corporate newsletters, training manuals, and resumes - are often sourced to
freelance writers who have the experience and creativity to maximize the impact of your written

A professional freelance writer who is skilled at combining the art of words with attention to
detail gives you the freedom to focus on other aspects of your business. Partnering with a
freelance writer for your corporate communications ensures that the first impression you make is
a good one.

In conclusion..

There are five key elements that can make or break your attempt at successful nonverbal
business communication:

* Eye contact

* Gestures

* Movement

* Posture, and

* Written communication

Nonverbal communication in a business setting requires not only recognition of these elements,
but confidence in meeting their challenges

When Demosthenes was asked what was the first part of oratory he answered, "'action"; and
which was the second, he replied, "action"; and which was third he still answered, "action."
People tend to believe actions more than words!

Today, many researchers are concerned with the information sent by communication that is
independent of and different from verbal information; namely, the non-verbal communication.
Verbal communication is organized by language; non-verbal communication is not.

Most of us spend about 75 percent of our waking hours communicating our knowledge, thoughts,
and ideas to others. However, most of us fail to realize that a great deal of our communication is
of a non-verbal form as opposed to the oral and written forms. Non-verbal communication
includes facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice, body posture and motions, and
positioning within groups. It may also include the way we wear our clothes or the silence we

In person-to-person communications our messages are sent on two levels simultaneously. If the
nonverbal cues and the spoken message are incongruous, the flow of communication is hindered.
Right or wrong, the receiver of the communication tends to base the intentions of the sender on
the non- verbal cues he receives.
Here are several tips for improving your reading of nonverbal information. No matter your
position at work, improving your skill in interpreting nonverbal communication will add to your
ability to share meaning with another person.

* Recognize that people communicate on many levels. Watch their facial expressions, eye
contact, posture, hand and feet movements, body movement and placement, and appearance and
passage as they walk toward you. Every gesture is communicating something if you listen with
your eyes. Become accustomed to watching nonverbal communication and your ability to read
nonverbal communication will grow with practice

* If a person’s words say one thing and their nonverbal communication says another, you are
wont to listen to the nonverbal communication – and that is usually the correct decision.

* Assess job candidates based on their nonverbal communication. You can read volumes from
how the applicant sits in the lobby. The nonverbal communication during an interview should
also elucidate the candidate’s skills, strengths, weaknesses, and concerns for you.

* Probe nonverbal communication during an investigation or other situation in which you need
facts and believable statements. Again, the nonverbal may reveal more than the person’s spoken

* When leading a meeting or speaking to a group, recognize that nonverbal cues can tell you:

--when you’ve talked long enough,

--when someone else wants to speak, and

--the mood of the crowd and their reaction to your remarks.

Listen to them and you’ll be a better leader and speaker.

AN OPEN ATTENTIVE POSTURE: Whether speaking or listening, you want to let

others know that you are engaged and interested in the conversation. Stand or sit straight up
(without appearing uncomfortably rigid) and avoid slouching or leaning over. Fidgeting, tapping,
or spinning in your chair are all small movements that have the power to give the strong
impression that you are bored or disinterested.

One of the most talked about posture faux pas (and also one of the most important to avoid) is
the crossing of arms or legs. This simple position, which often may just be the most comfortable
way to sit, makes you appear defensive, upset, or closed-off. Keep your feet flat on the floor and
arms at your side to maintain an open, accepting posture that lets others know you're not upset
with them.
RAPPORT AND MIRRORING: Building rapport means creating an environment of
shared vision and trust and establishing real rapport can be invaluable to communicating
effectively in business. While there are a number of ways to build rapport with someone, one of
the most simple and effective is posture mirroring. When mirroring, one imitates the posture,
gestures, and body language of another individual. If they are leaning back and looking relaxed,
you assume this posture too. When they fold their hands and lean in, you do the same.

Mirroring has the ability to instantly let your audience know that you are tracking with them and
on the same page. It can put strangers at ease, even if only subconsciously, by making them feel
like all participants

in the conversation have certain similarities.

GIVING SOME SPACE: In a business setting, being conscious about physical space is
necessary to create a comfortable environment and also to ensure no one feels physically
threatened or pursued. While there is no definite answer, a good guideline is to keep
conversations at about an arm's length. This boundary can be created naturally through a
handshake; when the hands come down, maintain that distance.

The sitcom Seinfeld made famous the concept of "close talkers" and nothing can be more
uncomfortable in a business setting than someone who isn't aware of the personal space of
others. If your space is being invaded, gently evade the close talker by stepping discreetly
backwards. Unless the distance becomes threatening, do your best to solve the problem without
actually bringing it up.

A WORD OF CAUTION: the concept of appropriate space and physical distance is largely
dependent on one's culture, and interaction with individuals from other countries can often create
awkward moment because of it. If you are planning to do business with international clients,
make your self aware of practices in their native culture so you will be ready to effectively

Understanding nonverbal communication improves with practice. The first step in practice is to
recognize the power lively interact.

These tips can help you develop healthy habits with posture and personal space that are sure to
amplify the messages you'd like to be sending with your body language.