Nonverbal Communication Tips

Body LanguageSome researchers have found that nonverbal communication accounts for as much as 80% of communication. That means if you want to improve your interpersonal relationships you must be aware of the way you communicate nonverbally.

Nonverbals refers to all the ways we communicate apart from words: like time management, body language, facial expressions, gestures and tone of voice to name a few.

Let’s take a look at these different kinds of nonverbal communication one at a time…

Time management: Making time for someone is a powerful way to communicate that you care. We all know what it is like trying to take care of an urgent medical need only to find out we can’t get in to see the doctor for 2 weeks. We translate that response as, “They just don’t understand, they just don’t care.”

In Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Languages of Love” he identifies spending quality time together as one of the 5 love languages. Along with spending time is the giving of one’s undivided attention. Which brings us to…

Body language as a type of nonverbal communication. Giving one’s undivided attention means that you not only remove distractions like phones, TV’s and computers from the immediate surroundings. It also means that the position of your body is attentive and open to the one you are communicating with.

Open and attentive communication looks like: Your body is facing the speaker. You are making eye contact comfortably with the speaker. You are nodding your head appropriately to reassure the speaker that you are listening. You give an occasional minimal verbal response like hmmm or ah-ha. Body language also includes facial expressions…

Facial expressions are the most powerful type of nonverbal communication. Our facial expressions communicate our emotion, even when we are unsure of what we are feeling. Some have referred to the face as the organ of emotion.

Facial expressions are such a powerful means of communication Proverbs 6:16 teaches that there are 6 things the Lord hates, 7 that are detestable to him: haughty eyes being the first thing mentioned! In Twila Paris’ song “How Beautiful” there is a line that goes, “How beautiful the tender eyes that choose to forgive and never despise. Wow! What power there is in a look! You can convey just as much power or even more in tone of voice.

Tone of voice is the one I get called on the most by my husband. Becoming aware of one’s tone of voice can be very helpful. We can say the same thing, but emphasize different words in the same phrase, to drastically change the meaning of the statement. For example….

      • Honey, are you going to take out the trash?”
      • “Honey, are you going to take out the trash?”
      • “Honey, are you going to take out the trash?”
      • “Honey, are you going to take out the trash?”
      • “Honey, are you going to take out the trash?”
      • “Honey, are you going to take out the trash?”

Gestures are another way we communicate nonverbally. Gesturing is done with the hands. Growing up, my friends would always tease me about “talking with my hands.” I have to chuckle to myself when a couple comes in for counseling, wanting to improve their relationship, but…while one spouse is telling their side of the story, the other spouse is making faces, waving their hands in disbelief and all but saying “I can’t believe you’re saying that. You’ve got it all wrong!” Using nonverbal communications that convey care, interest and respect can contribute volumes to improving interpersonal relationships.

Our nonverbal communication conveys powerfully our interest, love and respect for others. For example when my husband is trying to talk to me while I am on the computer and I remain steadfastly glued to the screen, giving him only minimal verbal responses…this does not say to him, “I love you, you’re number one in my life.” To become a more effective communicator become more aware of the way you communicate nonverbally.