I hear you barking! NOT!

It never ceases to amaze me just how much my dogs can communicate without ever uttering a word. The conversations we have are very revealing; albeit pretty one-side. It’s their nonverbal statements that speak volumes. Okay, before you roll your eyes (a very telling nonverbal sign, I might add); this isn’t a blog about my pets; although they are pretty great and I could share some great stories. This is about nonverbal communication – what we say without saying it and its importance in the workplace.

It was, however, watching Carlos and Lex Luthor (both Labradors) one day last week that got me started on this.  They are masters of the art of nonverbal communication. Through a look, a twitch of an ear, the slap of a paw, the wag of a tail or that look in their eyes, they clearly communicate their wants, their needs and their emotions. The messages they send are quite clear.

The nonverbal cues we exhibit send some pretty clear message as well. Even if we are not aware that we are sending them, we sure know when we receive them. Who thinks the eye roll is a good thing? Or how about the arms folded across the chest like a barricade to fend off any incoming messages? What’s the first thing you did when you didn’t want to be called on in school? You lowered your eyes so you didn’t make direct contact with the teacher. The message? Please do not call on me! On the other side of the coin, nonverbal cues can convey confidence, agreement, like and other positive messages. Nodding the head in agreement, smiling and direct eye contact indicates interest, approval and reinforcement.

The tricky part comes in when the nonverbal signs don’t match the spoken words. As a leader you need to be very dialed in to these disconnects. Communication is definitely hindered and messages are compromised when nonverbal contradicts what is said. Be wary of the team member who voices agreement but never makes eye contact, has that pained facial expression and is doodling during the entire meeting. They are definitely NOT buying in to your program or policies.

If you are a gambler, you are always looking for a “tell” from other players; that one nonverbal that lets you know they are bluffing. Since a number of resources frequently cite that 93% of all daily communication is nonverbal, you better know what your team’s “tells” are if you want to reach your goals.

When verbal and nonverbal communication messages act in concert, information is communicated more effectively. The point? Be careful what you don’t say, it might be sending the wrong message. Or as Peter Drucker says, “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”

Posted by MJ Thomas

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