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  • Writer's pictureTony Richards

Is Your Body Language Disrupting Your Communication?

Your body language speaks volumes when it comes to the professional development technique of effective communication. These nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, gestures, posture, tone of voice and eye contact can create trust or sabotage what you are actually trying to say.

Functional communication in both personal and business relationships is imperative for success in the exchange. What can you do to make sure your body language isn’t disrupting what you are trying to convey?

Facial expression: Countless emotions are imparted through facial expressions. It is an interesting fact that facial expressions are universal. Across all cultures a happy person smiles, a sad person cries and an angry person furrows their brow. When you are talking with someone offer a smile. This emulates an atmosphere of warmth and acceptance creating a level of comfort for the other party. One study found the most trustworthy facial expression involves a slight raise of the eyebrow and a slight smile. Research suggests this conveys both friendliness and confidence.

Gestures: All gestures are not created equal. Unlike facial expressions, gestures are not cross cultural. Gestures such as those giving numerical amounts or expressing size are good tools to use especially when giving a presentation. Always be cautious when pointing. It can appear offensive and accusatory. Open handed gestures appear more inclusive.

Posture: When communicating with others sit up straight and face them. Do not slouch as it may appear you have no interest in what the other person is saying. Restlessness tells others you are impatient, bored or uninterested. Closed posture such as crossed arms and legs indicates hostility, unfriendliness and anxiety. By practicing a more open posture you indicate friendliness, openness and willingness to listen and work together.

Tone of voice: Your tone or sounds that you make following a comment by someone else may negatively indicate your anger, frustration or even sarcasm which is inappropriate and causes a divide in those you are communicating with. The ideal tone of voice to use when trying to effectively communicate is to speak softly and calmly. Avoid sighing or speaking in a high-pitched voice.

Eye contact: The best approach to making eye contact during communication is to keep your eyes on your listeners. It lets them know you are confident and engaged. If you look down or elsewhere it reflects uncertainty. When giving a presentation establish eye contact with the audience. Three seconds is the appropriate amount of time to establish eye contact with an individual and not beyond 10 seconds or you will appear creepy.

It has been suggested that body language may account for between 50 percent to 70 percent of all communication. Spend some time researching the professional development skill of functional communication and learn what ways you can use nonverbal communication to enhance your personal and professional relationships.

For more professional development resources, sign up for Tony’s Monday Morning Coaching Memo.

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