Verbal communication accounts for only about 7 percent of the meaning others will extract from your words. More important is the 38 percent accounted for by intonation, inflection, pitch, emphasis, speed, and volume, and the remaining 55 percent accounted for by body language (eyes, face, size, posture, motion, and gestures). Consequently, if you want to be a good communicator, you need to be as skilled in nonverbal communication as verbal communications.
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Enrich your vocal variety. Many people speak in a boring monotone. Tape yourself in a conversation. Should you modulate your voice for greater impact? How about speaking more slowly? Nerves can cause some people to hurry their words. Learn to pace your words to add authority to your remarks.
Another way to increase credibility is by eye contact. Lack of eye contact suggests dishonesty or disrespect. Instead, look people in the eyes (or at the bridge of the nose) when you speak to them or they speak to you. Accompany all handshakes with smiling eyes. A pleasant expression and a smile help to create a positive tone. A jaw that is set or a frown that extends from eyes to mouth communicates resistance and displeasure or disapproval. It isn’t just the facial expression. When your eyebrows are lowered, your voice also goes lower and sounds gruff.
Try this: Raise your eyebrows and say a few words. Your voice should sound enthusiastic and optimistic. When you meet someone or lead a discussion, or address a group, raise your eyebrows above their natural position. It should make your voice sound more positive.
Good posture when standing or seated indicates that you are in control and have confidence in yourself. It also is a sign of respect for others. A slouch or slumped shoulders can convey indifference, ineptitude, or withdrawal.
Gestures can help to support or negate a verbal message. Defensive gestures such as arms folded across the body or hands fidgeting with clothes, hair, or objects tend to erode credibility and evoke suspicion in the mind of the listener. Hands on the hips is an aggressive gesture, particularly when you are standing and the other party is seated in front of you. Hands held in the steeple position convey confidence and also a sense of power.
Once you understand nonverbal communication, you can be more effective as a communicator—both in delivering messages and truly understanding messages delivered by others.