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Mastering Non-Verbal Cues

Did you know that the majority of what we communicate to the world is through nonverbal communication? You could be communicating something verbally while saying something completely different through your body language, facial expressions, and other quirks you may not even be aware of! Learning about your non-verbal cues will help you become a more effective communicator in your personal and professional relationships. As important as it is to develop greater self-awareness around your own non-verbal cues, it is also beneficial to learn how to read them when working with others.

Importance of Mastering Non-Verbal Cues

When we think about improving communication, many people focus on sharpening their public speaking skills or crafting impressive answers to interview questions. While those areas are of great importance, mastering non-verbal cues will further enhance your communication style and establish meaningful interactions. Using non-verbal cues can be an effective strategy to convey interest, attentiveness, and engagement during an interview, professional meeting, or work with clients. As an added bonus, these skills translate to personal interactions as well.

Reading non-verbal cues displayed by others will help you better interpret their emotions and reactions. Developing these skills will allow you to hone your environmental awareness and better understand the individuals around you. This can help increase your success in collaborative work, conflict resolution, and overall job performance.

Types of Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication can encompass a wide variety of gestures and mannerisms. Facial expressions include but are not limited to smiling, scowling, and frowning, just to name a few. Eye contact is another important non-verbal cue. Think about how intense staring, aversion, and glances make you feel when you are talking to someone. Different forms of body language can also provide a lot of insight about a person. Arm crossing, head nodding, and leaning in are a few examples. A person’s straightened or slumped-over posture can also give you an idea about how they are feeling. Non-verbal communication also encompasses vocal expressions. Consider how the loudness, speed, and pitch of your voice really impacts the words you are saying.

Cultural Considerations

While non-verbal cues are universal, it is vital to consider non-verbal differences across cultures. These considerations are not limited to culture in terms of ethnicity, but also organizational, educational, and corporate culture. As a veteran or military spouse, you likely already have some culturally unique communication styles derived from your experiences. For example, you may have developed the skillset of using specialized hand and arm signals on the job during military service. As a job seeker, researching who you will be working with and where you will be working may illuminate some important cultural considerations regarding communication. Your communication style may also differ depending on your individual role. During your research, ensure you take the time to not assume, but strategically anticipate what communicatory strengths may be a good fit for the organization.

Mastering Your Non-Verbal Repertoire

It is so important to master your non-verbal repertoire and increasing your awareness of non-verbal cues presented by others will be an ongoing process. This will be especially true as your work environment and relationships change. But it is not something you can just do without practice. These exercises will help you put this information into practice and equip you for success:

Exercise 1:

Take some time to reflect on what you think your non-verbal cues are. Try not to be too critical or overthink this. Consider not only the types of non-verbal communication but also how your various cultural experiences may affect your non-verbal cues. I recommend writing this information down.

Exercise 2:

Go to a public place (a coffee shop would work well, for example) where you have the chance to sit back and observe. This can also be done by bringing a friend or family member to lunch. However, your goal in this exercise will be to observe others, not be concerned with your non-verbal communication. What types of non-verbal cues do you notice in others? How do you react to them? Do you feel as though their non-verbal cues match what they are saying verbally? If you are not directly conversing with someone, what inferences can you draw about a person based on the non-verbal cues you observe? Write this information down if it is helpful. This is an opportunity to practice reading non-verbal cues in a low-stakes situation.

Perhaps most importantly, this exercise will provide you with the most effective insight regarding your own non-verbal cues.

Exercise 3:

Either set up a video call or record yourself having an in-person conversation with someone. As a job seeker, we highly recommend setting this up like a mock interview to give yourself some extra practice, but a casual conversation with someone you know will also work. Record the conversation and try not to pay attention to your image if you can see yourself. Watch the recording and take note of your non-verbal cues. What is the tone of your voice? What are your facial expressions like? How is your posture? You may be surprised to find that what you thought your non-verbal cues were may be different in reality. If you would like to continue practicing, repeat this exercise as necessary. You may find, however, that doing this just once will provide you with the awareness needed to be a more effective interviewee and communicator.

Mastering non-verbal cues will be a lifelong learning process, but increasing your awareness is the key to making this a simple practice. Whether you are preparing for an interview or planning your next work presentation, remember that non-verbal cues can enhance your delivery and emphasize the brilliance you can project!

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