Communication occurs in many ways and across endless mediums. Technology has ushered in the ultra-connected era. But are we closer to loved ones? And are we more effective in business?
Rapid-fire global email discourse, video calls between out-of-state loved ones, and text messages between classmates like passing notes have all enabled us to share more. They could hardly be a bad thing, right? But with the explosion of personal tech devices and virtual social platforms, we are more distracted than ever by the buzz and glow of our screens.
I don’t mean to sound like my grandfather reminiscing about his 12-mile trek to school, uphill, both ways, in the snow, (and barefoot) but the breeding of good interpersonal communication is becoming a lost art across teens, Millennials, and even seasoned high-ranking business professionals. Written and verbal skills play a big factor in this exchange, but they are not the most important.
What is non-verbal communication?
In reality, communication begins before you utter your first word in an interview, exchange introductions on a blind date, and even before your opening line in a presentation. Non verbal communication, or gestures and facial expressions provide our first impressions, and according to psychologist Albert Mehrabian, comprise 93% or more of our interpersonal communications. According to the figure shown, 38% of this includes voice tones and 55% is our physiology (or body posture.)
In this article we will highlight some of the do’s and don’ts of non-verbal communication and at the end we will unlock the key secret to effective communication.
Good non-verbal communication:
The development of S.O.L.E.R. as an active listening model, or a way to physically demonstrate your interest and engagement, was created by author and professional management consultant, Gerard Egan. His model is used today in clinical counseling and professional settings worldwide, and can be incredibly useful in any situation as a baseline for better listening. Egan’s theory depicts the most effective body language to employ to make others feel cared for. It’s an acronym that stands for:
- S (Sqare): Face squarely; by doing this it shows you are involved.
- O (Open): Keep an open posture: this means not crossing arms and legs. It make people feel engaged and welcome.
- L (Lean): By leaning forward when a person is talking to you, it shows you’re involved and listening to what they have to say.
- E (Eye Contact): Use good eye contact. Your gaze shows that you’re listening and not distracted.
- R (Relax): It’s important to stay calm and avoid fidgeting when a person is talking to show you are focused.
Non-verbal communication to avoid from Chapter four in Ingredients of Young Outliers):
- Refrain from talking with your arms folded across your chest or with your fists clenched at your side. It conveys aggressiveness.
- Avoid rolling your eyes when someone is speaking to you shows you think the person is unintelligent.
- Talking over your shoulder while walking away or out of a room conveys disrespect.
- Crossing your legs and folding your arms while sitting conveys that you’re hiding something, or that you’re cold.
- Snapping gum or chewing with your mouth open communicates that you were raised in a barn.
- Shifting eyes or shifting back and forth while standing communicates that you’re being deceitful, or have to hit the bathroom!
- Working, reading, texting, writing, watching TV while someone is trying to have a conversation is disrespectful. I’m guilty of this one and am still working on always being “present” in the moment.
- Not making eye contact while speaking directly to others, or shaking their hand while not looking at them conveys lack of confidence.
- Blowing your nose or wiping your mouth and then shaking someone’s hand is not recommended. I’m not sure what it conveys but it’s disgusting.
There you have it.
Nonverbal communication across cultures
It’s important to note that non-verbal communication practices differ across cultures. In the traditional Native American culture, engaging in direct eye contact with a stranger can be interpreted as disrespectful, whereas not engaging in eye contact on Wall Street might make you seem uninterested in a social or professional interaction. If you have an idea about a culture discrepancy like this, be sure to do your research.
And as promised, I will now share with you the secret behind effective communication, the key that will unlock the door to improving your personal and professional interactions for the rest of your life.
The key to effective communication
Drumroll please………… the most important practice of a successful communicator is the ability to step back and listen. Don’t be the one who is waiting for the speaker to take a breath before unloading word ammunition. By taking a second to listen to what the other person is saying, you are sharing that their thoughts deserve consideration, you are acknowledging their worth as a fellow human being, and you’re also more likely to be listened to in exchange.
In order to effectively listen, you must adopt the mindset that every person can teach you something. You might not agree — but to know and be known is the true mark of effective communication.
So put your S.O.L.E.R. skills into practice and show that you care. How did it go? Was the other person more relaxed and did you enjoy the conversation more? Please share your experiences in the comments.