Between 50-80% of human communication is non-verbal and can therefore reveal a lot about what you or another person is really saying. Feelings and intentions are revealed through gestures, expressions and movement. Being able to interpret this behaviour can help give you an edge by providing a deeper understanding of a person’s attitude or state of mind.
When it comes to leadership and management, body language is significant to communication and forming strong relationships. Body language happens on both a conscious and subconscious level. So how can we use this to better understand ourselves and others?
Body movement can reinforce or emphasise what is being said, but may also display inconsistencies in behaviour. Simple gestures that serve the same as what is being said may include pointing in the direction you are talking about, or giving the thumbs up when being affirmative.
Maintaining a conversation also requires the listener to give feedback – showing their level of interest through head nods, open posture or leaning away when disinterested.
With at least 10,000 facial expressions at our disposal, we humans are able to convey a range of emotions with the flick of a muscle. Sometimes the expressions we display are unintentional and can conflict with what is being said.
Social information is conveyed either voluntarily or involuntarily and the eyes are arguably the most important aspect of interpersonal communication. Maintaining low eye contact in a conversation can be interpreted that you are a person who is unfriendly, indecisive, not trustworthy or an introvert. Cultural expectations can also have an impact on how eye contact is perceived.
Attitudes and intentions can be reflected through posture. An ‘open’ posture can communicate interest and a readiness to listen. In this case a person might be facing you with arms apart. A ‘closed’ posture can be recognised through folded arms, crossed legs and/or the person being angled away from you. This can indicate discomfort or disinterest.
Interest and approval in what someone is saying can be displayed by ‘mirroring’ the other person. For example, reclining in a chair can be mirrored to show that you relate to the other person. Emulating posture can reflect a degree of confidence, status, interest or respect.
Non-verbal communication is an integral part of your overall communication skills. Awareness of this can improve your interaction and understanding of others. Knowing how to read these clues is a great technique for improving both your leadership skills and relationships with others.