The Importance of Nonverbal Communication

Even if words aren’t coming out of your mouth, you’re still saying something.

You’re telling a story about how great your day went. How frustrated you are right now at the store clerk who dropped your delicate vase during checkout.

Or how anxious you are to get out of that awkward conversation you found yourself sucked into for an eternity.

Nonverbal communication is at play.

Can you honestly say that you know what you’re saying with your body language? 

Nonverbal Communication

Do you know how you act, behave, and what signals you give off without saying a single word?
Most people can’t, and if that’s you I don’t blame you! Since this is precisely what you’re here to learn, and exactly what I’m going to teach you!

How to Hear What Isn’t Said

Believe it or not, we are all incredibly perceptive to small little cues and gestures other people make even if they aren’t saying something out loud.

Peter Drucker famously said, “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” He was spot on.

Imagine being able to read minds. You can look at someone next to you, and instantly know how they feel, what they’re thinking, or what they’re about to do next.

A brain + reading = mind reading. Essential for nonverbal communication. Mind Reading

You’ll feel like a superhero (you can even go out and buy a cape). The world would be your oyster, and you could predict events past, present, and future — you’d be unstoppable!

As nice as this fantasy sounds, you can actually get pretty close.

Mastering nonverbal communication and knowing how to detect small cues in people’s body language is probably the closest you can get to becoming an actual mind reader.

And if you know the cues and exactly what to look for, the battle is half-won.

So Why Is This Important?

If you’re here reading about nonverbal communication, I’ll guess you deal with people on a frequent basis — specifically, communicating with them in person.

This can be through public speaking in front of a crowd, business presentations, sales, a classroom setting, etc. The list goes on.

Here’s what I want you to take in and think about right now:

Nonverbal communication can add clarity to your message, increase trust, and inject interest into the minds of your audience.

I don’t need to tell you why this is important.

If you’re talking to a single person and are trying hard to make a sale, or if you’re speaking to thousands and trying to get them to take action on your idea. Nonverbal communication builds what I like to call the “CTI Factor.”

CTI Factor:

  1. Clarity
  2. Trust
  3. Interest

People buy from people they trust. People listen to people they trust. And people take action on ideas from people they trust.

Clarity and Interest are just icing on the cake.

Communicating nonverbally the right way can build up the CTI Factor quickly and get you the results you’re looking for.

Various research has pointed out the importance of nonverbal communication and how we use it on a daily basis.

There is a book by Michael Argyle titled, “Bodily Communication,” in which he breaks down and identifies the five primary functions of nonverbal communication.

The Five Primary Functions of Nonverbal Communication:

  1. Reflect Personality
  2. Support Verbal Interaction
  3. Perform Rituals (i.e., greetings and goodbyes)
  4. Communicate Interpersonal Relationships
  5. Express Emotions

As a public speaker or salesperson, for example, you’re going to be primarily in the realm of (1) reflecting personality and (2) supporting verbal interaction.

You reflect your personality by how you act in the spotlight: what gestures you do with your hands, how you walk or pace, your tone of voice, etc.

And you support your verbal interaction by subtle gestures. Whether you look someone in the eye versus looking away, how you face them, where your eye contact goes, etc.

The remaining three functions are usually reserved for our personal interactions day to day.

The key takeaway here is that nonverbal communication is vital, and that it’s the key to building up your CTI Factor.

How to Master Nonverbal Communication

You know that you want to build up your CTI Factor quickly and efficiently, but now you’re probably wondering — how?!

Before we dive in, let’s go over a few ways you communicate nonverbally:

  •     Posture
  •     Body Movements
  •     Facial Expressions
  •     Blinking Rate
  •     Hand Gestures
  •     Eye Contact
  •     Touch

If you’re thinking that these might be tough to “track” and monitor in your own interactions, I’m right there with you.

That’s where we jump right into the first action tip:

Action Tip #1: Record Yourself on Video

Since you can’t really see yourself (especially in high-pressure situations where you want to be at your absolute best), this is the answer!

And if you’re thinking, “I hate how I look on video”… you’re not the only one.

Video camera recording a person on stage, in order to master nonverbal communication. Recording Yourself on Video Helps You Improve

When I first tried this technique out, it was for a public speaking class I took.

Every single one of our presentations was videotaped and recorded, with the intent being that after our presentation, we would watch ourselves and improve!

Well… this is easier said than done. Let’s just say that the first time I watched one of my recorded presentations, it was an incredibly “cringe-worthy” experience…

I thought I looked terrible, sounded terrible, and performed terribly.

But.. this wasn’t all true.

A lot of the time, we are our harshest critics.

And since we can’t see ourselves from other people’s point of view, it takes a bit of getting used to. Especially if you haven’t ever been on camera or seen yourself on camera.

Either way, if you get over any excuses you might give yourself for not doing this and actually do it, I can guarantee you the results won’t disappoint.

You’ll instantly see what you do that can be improved, and how you can make your presentations better overall.

And the best part? The more you record yourself and improve, the better you’ll get on camera and actually start to like what you see!

It’s an iterative process. And it is glorious!

Action Tip #2: Focus on Moment-to-Moment Awareness

If you’re feeling really stressed out, or any strong emotion for that matter, chances are you’re sending out unwanted nonverbal cues without even realizing it.

Think about it. If you’re really nervous about something and you start shaking your knee up and down while sitting down in a chair, everyone around you will notice your knee-shaking out of the corner of their eye.

To boost nonverbal communication, live in the present moment. This clock shows time and highlights focusing on the present moment.Focus Moment to Moment

Even though they might be thinking about something completely different at a conscious level, on a subconscious level, their brain is telling them, “that person over there is pretty nervous about something!”

The critical thing to remember is that stress compromises your ability to communicate effectively.

In the wrong state of mind, you’re more likely to misread people and misinterpret their nonverbal cues.

So, what can you do?

The solution? Focus on being aware on a moment-to-moment basis. Some people call this “living in the moment,” but instead of talking about life in general, you’re going to be focused in the moment.

Being focused in the moment is going to let you truly let your emotional and nonverbal awareness of others rise. You’ll be able to communicate better and send better nonverbal cues yourself.

Whenever you start feeling stressed out or start feeling an intense emotion, take a step back right away.

Don’t let that feeling take over, but try to take a few deep breaths and let your rational mind rise to the top.

Your goal here is to think rationally about how showing this emotion isn’t ideal in the present moment, and it’ll only throw you off.

Of course, this is far easier said than done! I understand that.

But the first step is recognizing that you have either stress or a strong emotion rising to the surface, and realize that it might throw you off and push you to begin sending nonverbal cues about that emotion or your stress levels.

This is the point in time where you focus on the moment, take a step back, and calm down before jumping back in.

Action Tip #3: Secrets of Body Language Reading

Why am I covering this last? Well, the simple answer is that you can only truly read people effectively once you know what to look for in yourself.

After you can control your own emotions and stress levels (and as a result, control your nonverbal communication), you can begin to sense these things in others intuitively.

Woman waving a hand gesture. Gestures are very important for nonverbal communication. Reading Body Language Isn’t Entirely Difficult

Don’t forget to trust your instincts!

This is the first part of reading other people.

If you have a gut feeling about something, don’t just dismiss it and let it get away. Your body and mind are telling you something, and you just might be picking up on a mismatch between nonverbal and verbal cues.

For example, you might sense that someone isn’t being truly honest or that something about that individual’s actions just doesn’t add up. These are instinctual gut feelings that often point us in the right direction.

Remember how we as humans are incredibly perceptive beings?

Well, our mind picks up on any mismatches between verbal and nonverbal cues and lets us know with a “gut feeling.”

Listen to it!

Look at nonverbal communication cues as an entire group instead of on an individual basis.

What do I mean exactly? Well, instead of reading into a single cue or gesture someone does, look at the bigger picture.

What are the multiple cues they are giving off that signal something? What does the current combination of posture, eye contact, tone of voice, and gestures tell me?

While you’re looking at the big picture, analyze how the words they are saying either match or mismatch the cues that they are giving off.

Similar to the gut feeling, this will help you further decipher someone’s nonverbal cues and get a read on their inner emotions and stress levels.

Finally, take both of the ideas we mentioned above and put them together:

Look for and pay attention to any inconsistencies!

When we communicate nonverbally, we do so to reinforce what we’re saying. Is somebody saying one thing with their nonverbal cues and another thing with their body language?

If so, you know something is up and to pay even closer attention to uncover what’s going on behind the scenes.

Example: Nonverbal Communication in the Job Market

Have you ever wondered why you didn’t land a certain job offer?

It seemed as though everything went well in the interview. You had all the right answers to all of their many questions. They even nodded in agreement as you carefully and meticulously answered each one.

Example of nonverbal communication in action: The interview process.Body Language and Interviews

Maybe you even prepared well-thought-out questions to show your interviewers that you have genuine interest in the company.

But for some reason, you ended up not getting the job.

Let’s break this down and examine why…

Although there are, of course, numerous reasons as to why a company doesn’t hire certain candidates, there is one often overlooked reason most people don’t ever consider: nonverbal communication.

A successful interview comes down to not only how you present yourself verbally, but also nonverbally. We know that nonverbal communication is essentially the way we express ourselves without verbalizing what we are thinking or what we are truly trying to say.

There’s a lot that our body language can say about us.

For instance, the interview may be going well in terms of what the interviewers want to hear from a candidate. But then they notice that his body language isn’t matching what he is expressing verbally.

This triggers a form of cognitive dissonance, and you instantly lose trust in the eyes of the interviewer.

Maybe the candidate didn’t smile even once in the interview. Or maybe they didn’t sound very excited when the interviewers asked them why they wanted to work for their organization.

This dissonance in verbal and nonverbal communication can convey things that might not even be true. Either way, it’s what the other side sees and hears.

This is precisely the reason why it is absolutely vital to be aware of our body language. We have to be aware of our nonverbal cues, every moment of every day.

It’s a skill that’s not only important in job interviews, but also in any professional or casual conversation or communication event.