At work, you may find yourself communicating with colleagues throughout the day without saying a word. Think about how your body language, facial expressions, posture and eye contact can enhance and reinforce your workplace conversations.
Whether you are leading a presentation at a meeting, chatting with co-workers in the hallway, or talking to your boss in his or her office, nonverbal communication affects the interaction. Nonverbal communication also plays a role in social settings like lunches, office parties and after-work activities.
In fact, approximately 93 percent of communication is nonverbal, while words account for only 7 percent. Tone of voice makes up 38 percent of communication, and body language and facial expressions constitute 55 percent, according to Albert Mehrabian, a psychologist at University of California, Los Angeles.
Types of Effective Nonverbal Communication at Work
At its core, good verbal communication skills allow employers to share information across the company, and help them reinforce relationships with their colleagues. However, the ability to communicate without words could influence how employees perform.
Successful interactions at work depend on both managers and their team’s ability to use and read body language. According to career and small business website Chron, a manager communicating positive nonverbal cues when speaking with employees can increase employee morale, as well as their job performance.
Forbes.com chronicles several nonverbal cues that convey confidence in the workplace:
- Strong eye contact: This is your primary tool for establishing nonverbal connections with others, as eye contact conveys interest, involvement and emotions. People often attribute trustworthiness to those who speak while maintaining eye contact.
- Appropriate facial expressions: You can show you’re paying attention to your colleagues while listening by holding a slight smile, nodding occasionally and maintaining good eye contact.
- A confident handshake: In business, the handshake is the only appropriate expression of touch, so it is imperative to have a good one.
- Purposeful gestures: Hand gestures punctuate the spoken word and add meaning. Avoid distracting mannerisms such as finger-pointing, fidgeting, tapping, playing with hair, wringing hands and twisting a ring.
- Commanding posture and presence: This is reflected in the way a person sits and stands, as it creates a dynamic presence and an attitude of leadership. Employees convey messages by their sitting posture, whether they are leaning back comfortably in their chair or sitting rigidly on the edge of their seat. When standing, be sure to stand up tall and straight to send a message of self-assurance, authority and energy.
Pacing Workplace Conversations
The ability to communicate well seeps into every aspect of business operations, but sometimes communication gaps may arise between employers and employees. Leaders should be trained in nonverbal communication to eliminate this gap that could be a barrier to effective discussions.
The tempo of a conversation is another aspect of nonverbal communication, especially among a multicultural workforce, reported the Society of Human Resource Management.
Here’s how managers can bridge the nonverbal communications gap in a professional setting:
- Be patient with people who need longer silence gaps.
- During meetings, consider how your body language, tone of voice and choice of wardrobe reflect your nonverbal communication.
- Consider how your attitude and approach to job responsibilities or colleagues affect your ability to work with others.
- Withhold judgment if people appear to be taking over the conversation.
- Observe and mirror people’s communication style.
Employees should also be trained on nonverbal communications tactics for face-to-face interactions, telephone conversations and even correspondence over the internet. Email and chat windows have their own nonverbal cues that can be learned and mastered over time.