In what ways are you sending the wrong message when you are trying to communicate with your boss, spouse, family member or significant other?
You may have heard nonverbals are responsible for 80 percent of communication. There is some debate as to the exact numbers, some Others have suggested the 55/38/7 formula, as in communication is composed of 55 percent body language, 38 percent tone of voice, and 7 percent actual words spoken. Others have suggested the 60/40 formula, as in communication is composed of 60 percent facial and 40 percent vocal.
Whatever number you accept as true, you have to acknowledge the fact that nonverbal communication (facial expressions, body movement and posture, gestures, eye contact, touch, space and tone of voice) compose the majority of what communication is. So, sorry dudes who scoff at their better halves for using the phrase, you are wrong!
Does your nonverbal communication show you’re listening to the other person?
Let me give you an example. In my teen years, I was very angsty. Actually, let me put that another way. I was angsty… because I was hurting. I struggled to connect with other people. I needed someone in my life who I felt cared for me. Most of all, I felt alone. So, when I showed up to youth group (church for teenagers), I was in a vulnerable position. I remember a youth leader coming up to me and showing me a lot of attention. I thought, “This is great, a guy who actually cares about me and can invest in me.” So, each time I showed up at youth group I made a point to seek out this youth leader and talk with him because I felt safe with him. But something was going on that I couldn’t put my finger on. I would reach out to this person, he would speak with me, and I would walk away feeling totally empty. For years, I wondered why this was. Was it something to do with me? Was I at fault?
Ask yourself if your body language matches your words of sincerity?
Learning about the importance of nonverbal communication helped me answer some of these questions. I realized that when I spoke with this youth leader he made very little eye contact. In fact, when he spoke to me, even though he was responding to what I said, he was looking and gesturing to other people. And his responses to what I was saying were the “Uh huhs” “Yeah, uh huh” “right, uh huh”‘; responses you would give to someone or something that required the lowest level of your attention. Even though he was saying words that showed engagement in the conversation, his eye contact, choice of words, tone of voice, body posture and position suggested “I couldn’t care less.” Even though I didn’t consciously pick up on this nonverbal message, on some level I was able to sense his disinterest. I almost always walked away from our conversations feeling lonelier and emptier than before.
I’m 29 years old and still remember how much my youth leader’s nonverbal communication hurt. I struggled in attending church after that. I share this to illustrate the point that nonverbal communication deeply impacts the person across from you.
Does your partner not believe what you are saying, regardless of how many times you’ve repeated yourself?
A popular form of discipline when children behave badly toward each other is to make them face each other and apologize. Often, all the offended receives from the offender is a resentful and insincere “Sorry.” It’s not very satisfying, is it? Imagine that same response when you experience wrongdoing from someone you care about now? “Hey, I said I was sorry.” The apology is in the delivery, not the words.So, what should you do from here?
Recognize the truth that communication is more than just the words you say. It actually is about how you say it.