Nonverbal Communication was one of my favorite courses at San Diego State University. I list my professor’s book, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Body Language” by Dr. Andersen as a resource in our references section because I believe nonverbal communication is as important, if not more than, verbal communication.
The proceeding tips are easy to adopt in our daily lives, and the effects will be immediately noticeable.
1. Facial Expressions:
The face is the first thing most people will look at. If you are meeting someone for the first time, smile!
A calm and relaxed smile will lighten the mood and prepare the receiver for an intimate interaction. Be careful not to walk into a situation–upset and scowling–the receiver of distraught facial expressions will be uneasy in their interaction (no one wants to piss off the guy who already looks pissed off).
If you are listening to someone, a neutral face will indicate that you are paying attention to what they are saying.
After initial interactions, it’s best to respond appropriately to the verbal communication being sent (e.g. laugh and smile if you think a joke is funny). It’s important to be yourself (when appropriate) because you will reveal yourself over time anyways.
Acting the way you think someone wants you to act will lead to misunderstandings later down the line (e.g. you laughed at some jokes from a boss early on, which made them think you thought they were hilarious, and now they keep telling you tasteless jokes).
(Image source: Facial Expressions)
I am notorious for sporting active wear whenever possible, and I am constantly aware of the message that it sends other–I am dressing for comfort, not conversation.
Dressing appropriately for the situation will communicate your intentions before a single word is spoken.
Appropriate dress attire has a lot to do with the environment, and just as much to do with the person you are meeting.
If you are going on a date with someone, I highly advise you put on your nicest clothes, but without compromising who you are. I think it’s a good idea to have 3-5 dates worth of clothes, and then slowly dress down to your preferred level (also forewarn them that you prefer active wear 90% of the time).
When dressing for a job interview, always (always!) ask what attire is most appropriate for the interview. You do not want to show up wearing a shirt and tie to an interview for a hosting position at a restaurant (trust me on this one).
(Image source: Clothes)
3. Body Posture:
Body posture is one of the more ambiguous forms of nonverbal communication, but one of the easiest to adjust.
Unlike facial expressions, which requires a mirror to observe, we can immediately scan our posture.
Are our shoulders pulled back to assume proper posture for confidence and spinal health (experienced with back pain)?
Slouching, generally, will convey a sense of vulnerability or disinterest.
“What do I do with my hands?” (Ricky Bobby, “Talladega Nights”).
Are we crossing arms, while listening to our significant other discuss food or entertainment options for the evening? If so, open those wings up a bit and allow for a more interactive conversation. Crossed-arms will likely communicate a defensive position, which is rarely the sender’s conscious intent (pointing this out to people at parties is one of my guilty pleasures–the exact verbiage takes some finesse–trial and error).
(Image source: Body Posture)
- Take a few minutes to look in the mirror and practice smiling and making as many facial expressions as possible. Make sure to pay attention to the way your face muscles feel!
- After getting dressed, stand in front of a mirror. How do your clothes make you feel? Comfort is extremely important, but make sure you feel confident with what you’re wearing (especially if it’s for work or a date)
- Check your body posture at least once per day when having a conversation; whether it be at your coffee shop, school, or work. Make sure your posture is good and your arms aren’t crossed.
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