4 Nonverbal Communication Hacks to Streamline Your Success

“Few realize how loud their expressions really are. Be kind with what you wordlessly say.” 
― Richelle E. Goodrich, Making Wishes

Do you appreciate it when you are telling a story and your listener sneaks a peek at their watch? How about when you ask your child for help with a chore and they mumble a begrudging “yes” while dramatically rolling their eyes?

Communication is a nuanced endeavor.

Whether you’re using hundreds of words or simply standing in silence, you are in constant communication with those around you. Experts estimate that a minimal amount of communication happens through the exchange of words, while up to 93% occurs through tone, expression, and gestures.

Nonverbal interactions are our primary mode of communication (coming so naturally, even the smallest child has it mastered), and it is difficult to “fake.” Nonverbals usually tell the truth, even when our words are lies.

Be a Better Communicator in Your Professional Environment

Here are four interesting strategies to use nonverbal communication to your advantage.

1. Break the Tension

In moments of high tension, people feel more defensive when they sense you are trying to “win.”

Nodding your head during a conversation communicates that you are listening and making an active attempt to understand an opposing point. Nodding can also win people over to your viewpoint, as people subconsciously mirror the body language of those around them. When you nod while speaking, it adds authenticity to your words and makes people more likely to compromise with you in heated situations.

2. Understand the Relational Bonds in the Room

Sometimes the quickest way to grow trust in a group is to figure out where loyalties lie.

One trick is to watch for eye contact. When a group of people laughs, members of the group can’t help but make eye contact with the people they feel close to.

Another clue is the direction of a person’s feet. In group conversations, if the feet of the listener are pointed at the person speaking, it conveys interest and respect. If the listener’s feet are pointed away, it often shows they are disinterested or disconnected.

3. Communicate Confidence Even When You are Nervous

If projecting confidence can determine the outcome of your conversation, how can you add weight to your nonverbals?

Confidence is something you can practice before you enter a room. Research shows that the use of “power poses” (placing your hands on your hips, standing tall with your chin raised, or raising your fists above your head), can trick your brain into feeling more confident. Do this for 30 seconds before a meeting, and you’ll walk into a room with more natural confidence, resulting in a smoother conversation and a more poised disposition.  

4. Increase Influence Without Saying a Word

Sometimes the biggest distractions in a conversation are the fillers.

To establish trust while listening, avoid needless “noise” like pacing, tapping your foot, or fidgeting with your hands or pen. When you ask a question, and someone is slow to respond, resist the urge to jump back in. Remain silent for a few extra beats to show you respect this person’s thought process and that you’re confident in moments of negotiation. Quieting your impulses also helps you come across as competent and in control.

A Springboard for Success

These tips won’t make you a communication ninja, but streamlining these natural cues can help you better understand the relationships of those around you.

Intentionally sharpen your nonverbal skills, and you will build your network and streamline a path to success!

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How to Use Silence to Strengthen Your Leadership Presence

Jack Reacher is a fictional character in a series of crime thriller novels by British author Lee Child.

In the 1997 novel Killing Floor, Reacher randomly exits a Greyhound bus in Georgia and is later arrested in a local diner for a murder he did not commit. While questioned in custody, Reacher wields the power of silence to maintain his personal advantage:

“Long experience had taught me that absolute silence is the best way. Say something, and it can be misheard. Misunderstood. Misinterpreted. It can get you convicted. It can get you killed. Silence upsets the arresting officer. He has to tell you silence is your right but he hates it if you exercise that right. I was being arrested for murder. But I said nothing.”

Communicate Authority with Silence

Silence holds immense power, especially in situations that involve negotiation.

As inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci said, “Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” Dynamic leaders often use silence to their benefit. When handled with intention and purpose, silence is what some leaders call “a communication superpower.”

Do you tend to interrupt, dominate conversations, or explain your perspective from multiple angles in order to sway opinion? If silence is an overlooked resource in your communication toolkit, you might need to change strategies.

Silence can increase your authority and grow your influence in at least four powerful ways.

Silence Builds Trust

According to best-selling author Bryant H. McGill, “one of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”

If you want to develop effective relationships, you must build trust. And trust begins with listening. Unfortunately, most people don’t listen with the intent to hear, they listen with the intent to reply. When people realize you are truly listening to them, they are much more likely to buy into your ideas.

Silence Can Emphasize Your Point

When you have something important to say, state it briefly and allow a long pause for your words to sink in.

Communication is more than the words we speak, it involves the energy we transmit. When you give room for a lengthy pause, you show people you aren’t scrambling to convince them. And as your words fully land with others, you don’t need to talk as much because silence creates room for people to understand and connect to what you are saying.

Silence Communicates Credibility

Have you ever sat through a meeting where several people squabbled while one person stayed silent?

Eventually, everyone felt tension and curiosity about what the quiet party was thinking. When a silent observer finally interjects an opinion, it speaks louder than the clamor and carries a more memorable quality. “She is so wise,” people think, because sometimes there is a credibility that can only be communicated through silence.

Also, it never hurts to take a lengthy period of time to think before commenting. Abraham Lincoln has been credited with this quote: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

Silence Increases Negotiating Power

A primary negotiation tactic involves asking a question and letting the other person answer first.

Silence when negotiating can give you the advantage because its “deafening” weight can prompt others to speak first. For example, when the other party offers a salary figure or point of compromise, don’t answer immediately. Instead, pause and let the discomfort of silence flush out a bit more detail. Maybe they will offer more or show their own hand.

Leaders know how to use silence as a tactic to communicate authority and influence. Experiment with silence during your conversations and observe the impact it can make.

Four Ways to Disagree with Tact

Life is compromise.

If you want to work successfully in teams, at some point you will face conflict. In one instance, you may be the manager correcting a team member. In other cases, you may need to “lead up” by disagreeing with a superior.

Either way, successful communication includes the ability to navigate conflict while putting people before the problem.

Here are four ways to prioritize relationship while politely disagreeing.

1. Don’t Blurt

When you hear an incorrect statement, do you immediately or forcefully disagree?

How’s that working for you?

Before you speak, consider how important it is to voice your opinion. Weigh the risks of speaking out versus the risks of staying silent. If you feel compelled to share, consider when and where is best. What context would be most appropriate or what channel would provide the least threatening avenue for your listener? Discussing issues privately (face-to-face) is ideal for minimizing tension or preserving dignity.

2. Prepare Your Listener

Sometimes the best way to dissent is by prefacing your idea.

Ask permission to comment by saying something like this: “I’m not sure I share your opinion, may I make a comment?” Or, “I know the deadline is pressing, but I’m concerned about this approach. Can I run some thoughts by you?”

Giving people a chance to “opt-in” will increase their willingness to listen.

3. Keep Language Neutral

As you unwrap your idea, alleviate tension by keeping your tone steady and your language neutral.

Start by identifying a common goal and frame your opinion as one way the team can work together for a higher purpose.

Holly Weeks, author of Failure to Communicate, says contextualizing your statements will allow the discussion to become “more like a chess game than a boxing match.”

If you need to critique another idea, re-articulate that concept first and build comments from there. This will eliminate confusion and show a good faith effort to understand others.

When you disagree directly, make your focus the problem or flaw at hand, not the people or personalities behind them.

4. Be Humble

No one appreciates prideful people.

When you speak, do your best to be relatable and kind. Emphasize that you are sharing an opinion and leave room for dialogue. This may include phrases like, “I’m just thinking out loud here,” or “this is just my opinion, but . . .”

Polite, clarifying questions may also help. Say, “can you tell me more about ____,” or “can you define what you mean by ____, because maybe I’m defining that differently?”

Speak humbly by inviting the critique of others and by publicly respecting their opinions.

Still struggling for words? Business Management Daily offers several prompts to open the door:

  • “I see what you’re saying but…”
  • “May I make a comment?”
  • “I’m sorry but I disagree with you about this.”
  • “Tell me if I’m off-base here, but…”
  • “I understand where you’re coming from, but…”
  • “That’s a valid point, but…”
  • “I don’t think I share your opinion.”
  • “If I’m not mistaken…”

Agree to Disagree

Finally, there may be times it’s best to agree to disagree.

It’s ok to break a stalemate by acknowledging that you will never agree about an idea. By doing this you can affirm the person (or their authority) without selling out to their idea or opinion.

Everyone gets things wrong sometimes, and if you’re committed a relationship, you’ll give people more grace to experiment or to grow.

How to Use a Clear Call to Action to Convert Customers

“The maxim ‘Nothing avails but perfection’ may be spelt shorter: ‘Paralysis.'”

(Winston Churchill)

Have you ever wondered how lion tamers keep wild cats nearly three times their size at bay?

While methods have evolved over the years, traditionally lions were subdued by three tools: a whip, a stool, and a handful of tasty snacks. While the whip or snacks make sense, perhaps you wonder why a stool was used (instead of a sword or a flame, for example)?

How can a small piece of furniture intimidate the king of all cats?

The truth is, the lion is not afraid of the chair, he’s confused by the multiple points on its legs. Cats are single-minded creatures, and the bobbing points of the chair legs confuse the lion into a less focused state. When the lion loses its train of thought, it is distracted from the instinct to pounce on a weaker opponent. 

Muddled Communication Can Paralyze Your Prospects

Ever try to rush your kids through breakfast and get stuck at the cereal cupboard?

As they browse a shelf of eight boxes, they slump and groan: “There’s nothing to eat!” What started as a hurry-up turns into a traffic jam. You vow that next time, you’ll only offer toast and Cheerios.

When we don’t give customers a simple, singular call to action, they may also fall into decision fatigue.

Does your website or your print materials overwhelm customers with possibilities?

Psychologist Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia Business School, co-authored a study that showed significantly more conversions happened when shoppers had fewer options. In her example, shoppers had to choose from a display with six different flavors of jam versus a display with 24 different flavors of jam. How did they compare? The conversion rate for the six-flavor table was 30%, while the 24-flavor table was only 3%.

Analysis can lead to paralysis!

What about your method for calling prospects to action? Does your advertisement ask them to commit to a 30-day trial AND use a customer discount code DURING a selected 14-day window? Does your podcast ask people to share with a friend, AND subscribe, AND download previous episodes (all in one breath)?

Perhaps you need to take a step back and use these three evaluation tools:

1. Know Your Main Goal

When you ask people to do several tasks at once (like visiting your website and joining your e-mail list), you’ve probably overshadowed your main goal with several smaller goals.

Focus on one main goal for customer conversion, and use customer loyalty programs down the road to call customers to greater steps of engagement or loyalty.

2. Test Action Statements in Advance

If your communication is a mist in the office, it’s probably a fog on the streets. To determine which CTAs are crystal clear, run some A/B tests with sample customers and find out which ones are generating momentum.

3. Pack Some Punch

Start call to action statements with a strong command verb, like buy, shop, order, subscribe, or win.

Use concise phrases that build enthusiasm. Which of these CTA statements excites you more?

“Consider many of our 200 exciting destination possibilities,” or

 “Plan your dream vacation today!”

Keep things sweet, simple, and customer-focused. Once they take the bait you can always present them with more!