Communication is more than just the words we speak. Words are one half of the message in communication, with non-verbal aspect making up the other half. Body language affects a great deal of how we communicate. What we say and what we communicate are two different things, if you will. Body movements and gestures, posture, eye contact, skin coloring, breathing, and even perspiration all add to the words that are spoken. The way a person talks, sits, and even stands has a lot of meaning. Body language can even accurately convey our thoughts more than the words we speak. When a listener is confronted with conflicting signals, it is quite often that they rely on the non-verbal cues because they are natural and spontaneous.
These are the reasons why non-verbal communication plays a vital role:
- It can repeat the message that a person is saying.
- It can contradict the message that an individual is trying to send.
- It can substitute the verbal message.
- It can complement the verbal message that the person is expressing.
- It can emphasize the verbal message.
It is important to recognize and understand that body language varies based on several factors. As such, verifying the signals that you are sensing is a must. But how do you do that especially when questioning or getting to know an individual whom you’ve just met? Here are some of the tips for reading body language and non-verbal communication:
Check for inconsistencies. Body movement must be consistent with what is being said. For example, if a person tells you that he/she is not nervous while their hands fidget, such movement will tell otherwise.
Be observant. Do not over analyze a single gesture, instead pay attention to entire actions of a person. Avoiding eye contact does not mean that a person is lying or is insincere. It is possible that they can better recall or narrate things when not looking at someone.
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Trust your instincts. Non-verbal communication cannot be faked. If you sense that a person isn’t being honest, pay closer attention to their body language.
Evaluate the whole situation. It doesn’t mean that what you feel is right. Do not (mis)judge the person solely on the movement that they portray while speaking. It helps to be upfront and address the person. If after addressing the issue suspicion remains, then it is possible that there is something going on.
Ask the right questions. Do not be confrontational if you sense that someone is not being consistent. Chances are, the person might veer away from you instead of clearing out an issue. The less confrontational you are, the better the chances the person will cooperate with you.
The ability to understand non-verbal communication is a powerful tool that can help one connect with others and build better relationships. Deliberately misinterpreted information and concealed motives wreak havoc on daily conversations and even in business negotiations. For this reason, it is always important to recognize and understand non-verbal communication as it speaks the loudest.
Maria Elena Duron, is managing editor of the Personal Branding Blog, CEO (chief engagement officer) of buzz2bucks– a word of mouth marketing firm, and a professional speaker and trainer on developing social networks that work. She provides workshops, webinars, seminars and direct services that help create conversation, connection, credibility, community and commerce around your brand. Maria Duron is founder and moderator of #brandchat - a weekly Twitter chat focused on every aspect of branding that is recognized by Mashable as one the 15 Essential Twitter Chats for Social Media Marketers.