Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, A Primer of Nonverbal Communication (Body Language) for the General Audience, conducted several studies on nonverbal communication. He found that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc). That means that 93% of our communication is nonverbal.
How can we turn this around, so that 93% of the time we are showing others they are special, important, and that we love them?
6 opportunities to transform your nonverbal communication
1. Avoid glancing away when another person is talking. In a crowded space, this can be a challenge, especially if you’re an extrovert, or if you have children roaming around. For the extrovert, practice wrangling your attention away from the people who pass behind the person you’re talking to. For the concerned mother, instead of looking away, wait for a break in the conversation and excuse yourself. You might benefit in these 2 ways.
- You’ll learn more about the person talking to you.
- This kind of listening makes the other person feel important.
2. Avoid speaking to a child who interrupts your conversation. A young child doesn’t know he’s not the center of the universe unless you show him. There are two benefits when you train a child to wait for his turn to talk.
- Your friend will feel special.
- Your child will grow up to be a better communicator as he learns to wait.
3. Avoid turning your back on someone. This is a form of ignoring. Let’s pretend you forgot to return a friend’s phone call or you’re a week late delivering a report to your boss. You are talking to a friend at church or co-worker at the office. You glance up to see your friend or boss turning the corner, heading toward you. Ever so slightly you turn your back to hide your face from the approaching person. Another approach might be to excuse yourself from the current conversations and meet your insecurity head on. A more subtle approach that gives us a little more time to think about how we ought to handle ourself with the person we have disced is to take a deep breath and hold our position, Keeping our eyes on the person we are talking to. Later, we can go to our friend we forgot to call or our boss who expected the report and apologize. You just might receive these 4 benefits.
- The person you’re talking to will not feel ignored.
- You’re inner peace will remain intact because you aren’t hiding.
- The man walking down the hall might gain a new respect for you for being proactive about your tardy report.
- Your friend won’t wonder what she did wrong.
4. Study your unique nonverbal actions. When I was a young girl, my mother did one thing every time I walked into the room. No matter what she was doing, she stopped, looked me in the eye, and listened to what I had to say. Now, my mother was a busy woman. My dad died when I was 12. She was the only income-producer, but she knew something about nonverbal communication. My guess is that she surely had other things on her mind as she patiently listened to my babble. She made a choice. By turning her attention to me, I believed:
- I was valuable to her because 93% of what she said to me was her willingness to stop and listen.
- Work and tasks are secondary to human relationships.
5. Be honest with yourself and others. There are times when I am hurt or angry, and I really want to take care of those feelings before I respond, so that I can treat the other person with respect. I prefer to settle down alone somewhere and work out how I am feeling. That’s a tricky thing when 93% of what I am saying comes through my actions. Therefore, hiding isn’t an option. So, I might as well be honest and take my 7% quota for the day and tell the other person that I am unhappy and want to take a little time to process my feelings. Advantage:
- My verbal and nonverbal communication matches up.
- This kind of honesty will boost my emotional integrity with my offender.
6. Make lasting change. Are you familiar with the idea that if you sit a certain way or shake hands just so, you will appear confident? The truth is that tricks like this aren’t likely to work unless you feel confident and in-charge. That’s because nonverbal communication is a response to what we are thinking and feeling. While it is important to study our communication and make every effort to send messages that build up those around us, in the end, real change comes from change in the heart.
- Get real with yourself. What scares you? What makes you feel insecure?
- Take time to figure out what’s going on in your own heart that keeps you from feeling like another person is important. What am I placing my confidence in that can’t deliver? Tackle that issue and see what happens the next time you’re in their presence.
- Dig underneath your insecurities and fears. As you overcome them, you will present yourself more confidently.
Outward change comes when we deal with our issues on the heart level.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23
What does your nonverbal cues say about you?