Improving your non-verbal communication ability
People tend to observe and to interpret your non-verbal communication behavior more than to listen to what you are speaking. And believe it, your body can tell a much better story than you do. Regardless of how good your speech is, a wrong implementation of your non-verbal communication can lead to disasters.
Hence, I would like to share with you a couple of useful tips for using these non-verbal communication tools to improve your communication skills. With these following tips, we hope to help you in avoiding pitfalls, and in promoting your best sides during formal communications, particularly in networking events and job interviews.
1. How to greet and start/join a conversations?
Whether you like it or not, first impressions are essential. Forbes suggests that it takes about seven seconds to form an opinion about a stranger.
So, let’s make a great entrance!
Pay attention to your entire body posture: Walk confidently with your back straight (not too stiff or rigid), relax and pull back your shoulders (to avoid uptight look).
Start/ join a conversation
If by the time when you arrive, people are already in groups and talking, it is better to look around and to observe first rather than to wander around the room. Why? To approach the right people at the right time
Our advice: Go to the person(s) making (quick) eye contact with you, and if that person smiles back at you, it signals a “yes”, in most cases. Also, look for “open groups”. Members of these groups tend to form a wide open circle while standing, which is more or less an invitation to join their conversations. In case you don’t get any signals, or you have your owns targets, just be brave and dive into a conversation with any stranger that you thigh might be the right one.
Demonstrate confidence by using non-verbal communication
Handshakes are an important body language tool for greetings! In any cases, it is a “must” to shake hands firmly and confidently, with your palms sightly up. And, be aware: “firmly” does not mean squeezing the others’ hand as hard as you can. When you shake a person’s hands too tightly or too hard, it shows aggression. It will be also painful for the other person if they are wearing rings. An overly aggressive handshake is just as bad as a limp/ weak one. If you are going to shake hands with your right hand, arrange your belongings on your left-hand side.
2. General body postures
As is with standing or sitting, it is also essential to maintain good postures with your back straight and relaxing shoulders when walking.
>> Keeping the right distance: not too far to create a friendly atmosphere, but not too close that can make people confused and uncomfortable. Suggested personal distance is from 45 cm to 1 m (also depending on the relationships, the room’s space, etc.)
>> Mirroring the other person(s): when you are talking, align yourself with the others to show your engagement, interests, and agreements in the person(s) and their talks.
>> Leaning in: the same with mirroring, it makes people feel that you are focusing on them and actually listening with full attention. The gentlemen in the following picture demonstrate a really good example:
>> Nodding your head: remember to nod appropriately to show the speaker(s) that you understand, agree, or just let them know they are paying attention to them
>> Don’t forget to smile: a smile, will lighten up the atmosphere and create a friendly feeling. But, don’t fake it unless you are a good actor like DiCaprio.
3. Eye contact
Try to keep good eye contact when you speak. When you have eye contact with others, it shows that you are interested and focused on what the other person is talking about
Here’s some tips to avoid uncomfortable situations :
>> Averting eye contact: Whether or how to maintain eye contact during a conversation depends greatly on the cultures. The western cultures praise and expect good eye contacts. Meanwhile in some Asian or African cultures, it could be a sign of disrespect. However, even in my Asian culture, constantly averting eye contact also means that you are lying or hiding something. Or it simply means you are getting distracted.
>> Staring: if you just looking directly at people’s eyes for too long, you can creep them out. Instead, take a break at certain points (i.e. blinks), and go for “direct face contact” instead. It means that you should not only look in the eyes, but also other parts of the face, rotating from eyes, nose, to lips.
>> Blinking too much: fast and unnecessarily repeated blinking tells people that you are feeling nervous or uncomfortable around them. Try and avoid this.
4. Hand gestures and movements
>> Show your palms: Don’t hide your hands behind your back or put them in your pockets because those acts imply distrusts, your anxiety, or insecurity (though you may not). So, palms ups. Why? It shows people your honesty and engagement as well as your openness to opinion.
>> Use hand gestures when you speak: When you have a tendency of hiding your hands/palms, it is much better for you to do hand gestures while speaking. It makes the conversation more energetic and allows you to hide your anxiety (if you have any) to certain extent.
>> Don’t play with your jewelries, accessories, or watches: It is a strong signal of distractions and nervousness. So, remember to control what you are doing with rings or bracelets.
>> Don’t play with your hair for the same reasons. Hold on to a glass of wine/juices if you feel you have to play with something.
>> Control your voice. Low pitch voice tends to be easier and more pleasant for the ears of others. So if you have a high pitch or loud voice, make an effort to control it. How? Ask your friends to remind you whenever they think you are getting too loud.
>>A squeaky, high pitched voice sometimes could be a sign of lying. And if you go higher at the end of a sentence, it would be interpreted as a question. So keep your voice low, speak slowly and clearly.
6. Legs and feet
>> Put your feet on the ground: It may sound silly, but it is also important to have your feet remaining firmly on the ground. It creates a stable feeling and more importantly, it prevent “accidents” such as tripped, falling over…
>> Standing on both feet (distance between feet should be or less than the width of shoulders): Similarly, it stabilizes your posture and distributes weight across evenly across both feet. This will help you in standing still during long conversations, especially for ladies in high-heels. Besides, it will emit a professional, and not-a-too-relaxing aura.
>> Cross-legged when sitting: can do the magic and it is also a good indicator for relaxing and confident feelings, just like this:
However, keep in mind that sometimes you can demonstrate ignorance to the public or the speaker. Relaxed two legs on the ground is always a safe bet.
Cultural differences – The biggest trap for non-verbal communication
Body language are varied from one culture to another. What we have suggested above is more applicable in the Netherlands and some other western cultures. We strongly recommend you to do a bit of research before going to any international networking events or social gatherings. It will help you to avoid misunderstanding gestures and avoiding uncomfortable situations.
We hope the tips for body language provided in this post becomes helpful for you in promoting your best sides during formal communications, especially networking and interviews. Or at least, it gives you a general picture of what are the Do’s and Don’ts of non-verbal communication.
What is your experience with non-verbal communication?