There’s no mistaking what a side eye means, is there? A face of disgust sends a pretty clear message, as does a seriously nonchalant shrug. That goes for the majority of body language.
Considering world leaders like Emmanuel Macron – who told the world today his mitt-crushing handshake with Donald Trump was a purposeful gesture – put palpable emphasis on body language in the context of global politics, it’s probably about time we started doing the same in our own workplace.
There’s an inaccurate stat doing the rounds that suggests only 7 per cent of communication is verbal, but a more realistic way of looking at the power of body language is from the original researcher who asserted the aforementioned stat: Albert Mehrabian: “When there are inconsistencies between attitudes communicated verbally and posturally, the postural component should dominate in determining the total attitude that is inferred.”
In short, when people don’t know what you’re on about, they’ll take your body’s word for it, so to speak. And that’s pretty big news.
Not only that, but as body language expert and TED Talk favourite Amy Cuddy explains, it’s as much about you as it is your audience.
“Our bodies can change our mind,” she tells Collective Hub. “When we think of non-verbal [body language] like posture, hand gestures and foot stance, we tend to focus on how other people will judge us. We forget the other audience that is influenced by our non-verbals, and that’s ourselves.”
Here are the three ways to communicate effectively without opening your mouth.
In a situation of negotiation, you’ve got to show that you know what’s going on. One way to derail that? By continually fidgeting with your face.
Rubbing or touching any part of the face is received as a symptom of underlying anxiety. Likewise, if you keep covering your mouth or eyes, it signals to your audience that you’re not really honest about what you’re saying. Once you start to look for these signals, you’ll notice them everywhere, and start to see how they’re a sign that your colleague isn’t so comfortable when presenting or contributing.
Show that you’re listening
Body language boosters often discuss the importance of getting your point across, but how you act when you’re listening is just as, if not more, important than other strategies. It’s all very well to come in guns blazing when it’s your turn to speak, but the way you listen should also signal to others that you’re willing to let them take the reins. This includes holding eye contact as they speak, nodding, and appropriately responding to assure them you’re listening; taking notes (not an iPhone that could be construed as texting) to demonstrate that you appreciate their input; and not slouching in your chair, which conveys disinterest.
Mirror the mood
Although, admittedly, it sounds a little insane to mimic the gestures of the person you’re talking to, it’s not so much. Say, for example, your boss is telling you a story about her weekend, and while it’s not particularly thigh-slapping, it is obvious she’s trying to solicit a laugh. When the punchline arrives, would you stare emotionless at her, or would you respond with a laugh or smile, to indicate that you’ve understood? Mirroring someone is less about copying their exact movements than it is signalling to them that you understand the mood. Showing you understand makes them immediately more comfortable too and from there, real rapport can develop.