Why Non – Verbal Communication?
Communication underpins the bulk of human interactions. In fact, it is a crucial, if not the most crucial element for humans being able to exist and bond together as social beings in families, communities and cultures. This in turn shapes the norms and acceptable behaviours for how we interact within and across those groups.
The spoken word or what we say to each other is obviously very important. However, what we can often overlook is how important our non-verbal communication or body language is. The manner in which our attempts at communicating with others is received leads to direct flow on consequences.
Much of our non-verbal communication is habitual in that we repeat how we deliver our spoken word over and over again. However, this delivery can also be dependent on our emotional state at the time, the circumstances of the situation we find ourselves in and our reaction to that situation. Interacting with others in a constructive manner can enhance our chances of maintaining and building meaningful and rewarding relationships with other. To achieve this, we need to be ‘mindful’ of how we are delivering the messages and ensure they are situationally appropriate,
What is Non – Verbal Communication?
Body language determines how we appear to others in terms of whether they perceive our communication as being aggressive, assertive or passive. This then determines how effective our interactions are. For example, if we raise our voice, frown, point, glare, or invade a person’s personal space, they may feel quite intimidated. Thi can also come across as attacking, or wanting an ‘I win you lose’ outcome from what we are communicating to them.
If we lower our voice, do not maintain eye contact, fidget or stutter, it may indicate that we are uncomfortable, hesitant and unsure of the message we are delivering. If, on the other hand we have a slight smile on our face, normal level of speech, maintain eye contact and have very relaxed body language, then others may tend to feel far more at ease. This ‘assertive’ body language also communicates that we want a ‘win – win’ mutually beneficial outcome and interaction with them.
Stages of Communication
It is therefore important to remember that there are three stages to any communication with others. These are:
- Before or preparing for the interaction
- During the interaction
- Following or after the interaction.
Preparing for interactions often allow us time to be mindful and reflect upon the why, what and how. Identify what you need to get the best outcome from the opportunity and maximise benefits for all involved.
During the interaction, it is also important that we take time to reflect upon how we feel the interaction/communication is going. We can then alter the communication including our non-verbal body language to ensure it is appropriate to the message we are trying to convey.
Following the period of communication, use reflective practice and review how we went. If necessary, seek feedback from others in terms of how they are feeling about the communications we were just involved in.
Obviously, a point of caution is not to become a psychological ‘nut’ regarding our non-verbal communication and analyse everything piece of communication every time we interact with others. However, it is critically important that from time to time we take ourselves off automatic pilot, and fly on manual for a while. This requires reflecting upon how our non-verbal communication with others is going. Specifically, in terms of our communication cementing meaningful, respectful and trusting relations with others that are beneficial and rewarding for all involved.
Our Psych Up! resources in February focus on the art of communication. Make sure to stay tuned for our weekly blog post updates, as well as our podcasts and webinars.