Practical Nonverbal Communication Tips
Candy Cane Neck. That is the name I have given to a future medical condition of our youth. This is not the S-curve version of scoliosis I grew up hearing about in the 70’s and 80’s. This is a new version that will be caused by spending too many hours looking down at a tablet or phone. Scoliosis normally is caused by a growth spurt before puberty but I fear Candy Cane Neck will be striking adults too. It’s also the most obvious form of nonverbal communication that shuts you off from the live human beings around you!
We recently released an updated series on nonverbal communication in our Business Skills library. The last series was created in 2014. Mobile phone use alone is a reason we needed to update this content! What are you unknowingly communicating to those around you? Is it affecting your reputation at work?
Without the use of spoken language, nonverbal communications includes body position, facial expression, gestures and mental alignment.
- Put down the phone
- Straighten your neck and back
- Pull your shoulders back and perk up your posture
Putting down your phone signals you are in the moment. Straightening your back and posture will feel better and give the appearance of confidence (and ward off Candy Cane Neck!) Take a deep breath. Hold for a few seconds. Now, exhale. Isn’t that better?
In work situations your nonverbal cues affect what people think of you. When you attend a meeting, are you sitting at the table, alert and paying attention to who is speaking? Are you actively listening? Or are you lost in a trance, scrolling through Instagram? You were invited to the meeting for a reason: for your input, ideas or questions. This could be a pivotal moment to move your career forward. What if you are being recognized for your work? Or being asked to join an important new task force? You want to be paying attention to the room, not your phone.
- Make eye contact
Nod and smile at the person you are talking to. Smile with your eyes. There is a balance between strong eye contact and that awkward, non-blinking, creepy stare. Follow their lead. If they look away, you can too. You don’t have to give them your full, toothy smile. A calm, pleasant smile works. Don’t forget to breathe. Part your lips and take a soft breath through your mouth. Exhale and let go of your distracting thoughts.
- Don’t fidget
- Be aware of your body
Leonard on The Big Bang Theory is a good example of body language. He frequently holds his thumbs and index fingers together, as if he his nervously picking at his nails. His hands go to his mouth when he is nervous as well. Actors like Johnny Galecki study nonverbal communication and make these choices for their characters. Take charge and make your own choices that fit with the image you wish to portray.
- Be present
- Keep a positive attitude
- Set your intentions
We created a full course on aligning your nonverbal communication with your intentions. The idea is to be purposeful in your thoughts and actions. Your nonverbals will align whether you manage them or not. Have you ever had a bad morning running late, with slow traffic, and spilled coffee? Your co-workers notice your bad mood before you even speak. Your nonverbals are aligned without intent. Our advice is to set your intent.
Our series goes in to additional factors like your appearance. People who are well kept and tidy tend to get promoted more frequently. In a casual work environment, dressing nice increases confidence and professionalism. On the other hand it can convey unintended superiority and make you appear unapproachable. We simply suggest you think about what your clothes communicate about you.
We also give learners advice on how to leverage nonverbals for personal success. Are you thoughtful about your behavior at work? What time do you arrive? Is your workspace orderly or messy? Do you join others for lunch or eat alone in your space?
I encourage you to sample our nonverbal communication courses and sign up for a full library, full-featured trial of HSI LMS. These courses will help you when interacting with co-workers, friends and family.
Now, lift your chin up to the ceiling and stretch your neck. Hold it there for a few seconds. Do this a few times a day and make sure Candy Cane Neck is just a weird idea in this blog and not a real life thing!