The Importance of Body Language to Effective Communication
Posted by Tim Duty, Intern at Large on Thu, Aug 30, 2012 @ 11:00 AM Email This Email Article
communicationIt happens to everyone: A coworker starts talking to you,and you couldn’t be less interested. Or maybe you want to listen but have a lot on your mind. It’s understandable, but if you think you really fooled your colleague -- you should probably think again. While you may have said the right responses in this case, you’d likely be surprised at how well people are at picking up on subtle signs of boredom or discomfort. In fact, it’s been found that about 90% of what we communicate to others is through unconscious nonverbal gestures. In other words, what we say is not nearly as important as we give it credit for. In reality, body language alone can make or break the impression you leave on others.
So, how exactly do non-verbal cues affect how others perceive what we say? In general, they either confirm or enhance what we’ve been saying or, in other situations, they can contradict or even substitute what we’ve said. To put this idea in perspective, consider the following scenario. Suppose I am bouncing a new marketing idea off a co-worker and seeking his advice. As I’m speaking, my co-worker continuously averts his gaze from mine, folds his arms, and responds in an apprehensive tone of voice. While my co-worker may think he acted smoothly, it is obvious to me that he was not at all engaged during the interaction. What’s the impact of this? Well,feigning interest is in essence lying. Effectively, I can’t really trust this person anymore and the relationship is likely to remain strained.
Given that humans are so adept at reading people based on body language and other nonverbal cues, it is imperative that individuals pay attention to such gestures as they communicate with others so as not to inadvertently offend, discourage or confuse those with whom they interact. When it’s your turn to listen...
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