The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.
- Peter Drucker
Let me repeat Peter Drucker’s position on communication … the most important thing is hearing what isn’t being said. To know what isn’t being said, you must be efficient in your ability to use body language communications.
In this regard, body language is a form of mental and physical ability of human non-verbal communication, which consists of body posture, gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements. Humans send and interpret such signals almost entirely subconsciously, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Your ability to use your body language to emphasize your chosen words and to interpret what others are saying is paramount in all human conversation … so here are my top six tips on how to become more efficient in the process:
Eye contact is one of the most important aspects of dealing with others, especially people that are new to each other. Maintaining good eye contact shows respect and interest in what each other have to say.
We tend to keep eye contact around 60–70% of the time, (however, there are wide cultural differences, so be careful in other countries). By doing this, you won’t make others feel self-conscious like they’ve got a bit of vegetable stuck between their teeth. Instead, it will give them a feeling of comfort and genuine warmth in your company.
Any more eye contact than this and you can be too intense, any less and you give off a signal that you lack interest in their conversation.
Posture is the next thing to master. A person’s posture signals their general feelings of health. Next time you notice you’re feeling a bit down, take a look at how you’re standing or sitting.
Chances are you’ll be slouched over with your shoulders drooping down and inward. This indicates your feelings of fatigue, discomfort, or nervousness.
Your head position is a great one to play around with. When a person is feeling confident and self-assured, their head is level both horizontally and vertically. It also tends to indicate someone who feels authoritative and someone who wants to be taken seriously.
Conversely, when a person wants to be friendly and in the listening, receptive mode, they tend to tilt their head just a little to one side or other.
Arms give away the clues as to how open and receptive people are to everyone they meet and interact with, so keep your arms out to the side of your body or behind your back.
This arm position shows people who are not scared to take on whatever comes your way and who meet things “full frontal.” In general terms the more outgoing you are as a person, the more you tend to use your arms with big movements.
The quieter you are, the less you move your arms away from your body. Keeping your arm movement midway is the most neutral position. When someone wants to come across in the best possible light, crossing the arms is a definite no-no.
Obviously, if someone says something that gets your goat, then, by all means, show your disapproval by crossing them!
The angle of the body in relation to others indicates our attitudes and feelings towards them. We angle toward people we find attractive, friendly, and interesting and angle ourselves away from those we don’t — it’s that simple!
Distance from others is another crucial signal to use or watch for. Stand too close, and a person will be marked as “pushy” or “in your face.”
Stand or sit too far away, and they’ll be “keeping your distance” or “standoffish.” Neither is what we want, so observe if in a group situation how close all the other people are to each other.
Also, notice if you move closer to someone and them back away — you’re probably just a tiny bit too much in their personal space, their comfort zone. “You’ve overstepped the mark” and should pull back a little.
Just changing your body language very slightly can have an amazing impact on the people around you. Using body language communications can make you much more efficient in knowing what isn’t being said. Practice it daily … like anything you need to be good at, it takes lots of practice.
Mike Schoultz is a digital marketing and customer service expert. With 48 years of business experience, he consults on and writes about topics to help improve the performance of a small business. Find him on G+, Facebook, Twitter, Digital Spark Marketing, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.