Tips to improve your Non Verbal Communication Skills
A large part of what we communicate to each other is nonverbal. What you say to people with your eyes or your body language is just as powerful as what you say with words. When you feel anxious, you might behave in ways that are designed to avoid communicating with others. For example, you may avoid eye contact or speak very softly. In other words, you are trying not to communicate, likely to avoid being judged negatively by others. However, your body language and tone of voice does communicate powerful messages to others about your
- Emotional state (e.g. impatience, fear)
- Attitude towards the listener (e.g. submissiveness, contempt)
- Knowledge of the topic
- Honesty (do you have a secret agenda?)
Thus, if you are avoiding eye contact, standing far away from others, and speaking quietly, you are likely communicating, “Stay away from me!” or “Don’t talk to me!” Chances are, this is not the message that you want to send. Below are some steps that can help you get started in identifying any deficits and improving your non-verbal skills.
Step 1: Identifying your trouble spots
To get started, ask yourself a few questions:
Do I have trouble maintaining eye contact when talking with others?Do I smile too much because of nervousness? Too little?Do I keep my head down?Do I speak with a timid voice?Do I speak too quickly when I am anxious?Do I cross my arms and legs?
Some of the nonverbal behaviors you may want to pay attention to are:
Posture (e.g. head up and alert, leaning forward), movement and gestures (e.g. keeping arms uncrossed), physical distance (e.g. standing closer when talking to others), eye contact (e.g. making appropriate eye contact when talking), facial expression (e.g. smiling warmly), volume of voice (speaking at a volume easily heard), tone of voice (e.g. speaking with a confident tone)
Step 2: Experiment with and practice non-verbal skills
- Try to practice only 1 skill at a time, so you can make sure you have mastered it before moving on to the next skill.
- You may want to ask a trusted friend or relative to give you some feedback on your non-verbal behaviour. This feedback can be very useful, as often, we do not really know how we appear to others.
- If you are able to, it may be useful to videotape yourself having a conversation, and note what your body language may be communicating. Once you have identified a couple of trouble spots, practice the appropriate body language.
- You can also practice your new non-verbal skills in front of a mirror.
Once you have gained a little confidence and practice using nonverbal communication skills at home, try it out in real interactions. It is a good idea to start small by talking to people who you generally meet for example. Try increasing the amount of eye contact you make when talking with others; smile more and pay attention to the reactions of other.
Azhar Ahmed (Director-Training)