Whether you realize it or not you are constantly sending out nonverbal signals to everyone you encounter. From posture and gestures to eye movement and even facial expressions, your subconsciously communicating with everyone around you. Being aware of the signals you are sending will help you to be a more effective communicators and network more effectively. Here are a few things to look out for, in yourself and in others, to be more aware of how you are saying things to everyone around you.
Giving Positive Feedback
Consistent, direct eye contact, along with a few occasional head nods indicate that a person thinks positively about what you are saying. Adversely a lack of eye contact can indicate negativity. There are other key elements that would further indicate positive, nonverbal feedback, such as a smile, and head nod. Of course just because they are looking at you doesn’t mean that they are necessarily paying attention. Take notice if their unfocused or fiddling with an object, as these are clear indicators that their attention is elsewhere. And be mindful of doing the same when listening. Remember that conversations are two way streets, and if you respect someone else, they are more likely to respect you.
Breaking Down the Walls
Possibly the most powerful signal people send is also one of the most basic, crossing your arms over your chest. Often this is a subliminal barrier between themselves and others. Especially in a confrontational or serious situation, crossed arms tend to relay a signal of opposition. This may not necessarily be the case every time, but it is an indication.
For instance, I do this frequently because my arms are cold, but I am sure to keep eye contact, smile and nod to relay my positive attention, as to not be misconstrued. In a deep conversation this may relay that a person is thinking deeply about the discussion. Note that you should look at the overall message, rather than focusing on each individual element.
Watch for the Head Tilt
The head tilt happens when your audience begins to bore with the conversation or topic. Other indicators include loosing focus, or gazing away altogether. Attention invariably wonders, but if you are aware of when you start to lose your audience you can switch it up to keep their focus. Of course this could also be a sign of trust, as it indicates vulnerability. If you fear someone or just don’t trust them it is near impossible to tilt your head in front of them.
Far Fetched Tales
Disbelief from your audience can be indicated in a multitude of ways. Averted gazes, touching of the ear, scratching the chin. When you aren’t exactly convinced of what someone is saying, your attention wonders and you may stare away for longer than you realize as your mind wonders. Also, the natural body twitches of touching your ear and scratching your chin are subliminal queues of disbelief. Similarly, liars often blink excessively or not at all, so queue in on this next time you find yourself in disbelief of a tall tale being fetched to you.
The key here is that there is an overall message we are sending out subliminally when we communicate with people, and when we are aware of these nonverbal messages, we can start to control them. Being mindful will help you to not be misunderstood.