HOW TO INTERPRET NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION IN OFFICE

Unspoken messages have the potential to make or mar your relationships in the workplace. Find out how to decode them.

Communication coaches say 93% of all interactions is non-verbal and only 7% is actual words.

Though not entirely accurate, it is true that there is a wealth of information you receive and share in non-verbal interactions at the workplace. You should learn this language to improve relationships and boost effectiveness. Here is how you can train yourself to send the right non-verbal messages and interpret those sent by others.

Read the signs

You are an expert on non-verbal communication even before you start training consciously. In social situations, your subcon scious mind can detect who likes you and who doesn’t, whether the environment is safe or not, whether a touch was inappropriate or not, etc. However, the subconscious mind or your gut feel can also be wrong. We tend to filter and accept communication that confirms our beliefs. No single message in isolation is conclusive, whether verbal or non-verbal. To understand the non-verbal mode better, first check for context. A colleague may slap you on the back and you may recognise it either as a warning or congratulations, depending on the situation, inter-personal history and the culture you are operating in. Secondly, look for groups of similar messages. Typically, in a 30-minute conversation, there may be over 300 nonverbal messages sent. Thus, a loud voice alone may signal insecurity, but along with good posture, relaxed tone and a firm handshake, it indicates the confidence of a team leader. Finally, check for harmony or compatibility between verbal and various groups of non-verbal messages. If a colleague is congratulating you on your success but his voice is cold, he averts his eyes and does not offer a handshake, you ignore his words and believe that he is either jealous or resentful. Let’s look at the three areas from which you derive non-verbal messages.

Space

This includes personal space and the environment at work. In personal space, each of us operates within an imaginary air bubble that gives us freedom to gesticulate and communicate without hesitation. If you step into someone else’s bubble, it signals either intimacy or aggression and the per son may subconsciously show dis comfort by stepping back, turning away or getting aggressive. Look at your own and the other’s pos ture and hand movements within this space. A wide posture occu pying more space and open hand ed movements that are in line with what is being said, signal higher confidence levels, self-esteem and freedom of expression in the situation. The other space that is relevant is the workspace. This has two components–the environment that you control and that which you don’t. Your work table and cabin are under your control and how you use this space helps you send appropriate signals to others. Can you make out whose office appears intimidating and whose cubicle is chaotic? What is your understanding of the people? Team leaders determine the medium of communication, location and timing of meetings and thus control communication by organising the common space. Since the common workspace affects all employees and their interpersonal communication, new companies invest in making spaces bright and open to signal friendliness.

Body language Body

language includes your face, eyes, hands, postures, movement and touch. We usually look at the face and eyes to understand the seven basic emotions of anger, fear, disgust, contempt, joy, sadness and surprise.Most people learn to keep up their guard while communicating at work. However, tiny movements of the eye and lip muscles often reveal the underlying feeling. Apart from subduing your facial expressions at work, you can also choose to intensify your joy on hitting a sales target with your team, neutralise your expression while negotiating with a client or mask your expressions with a smile if you are in face-to-face customer service.Smiles and eye contact help you bond better and faster with newcomers in a workplace.Your hand movements, postures and locomotion go together as a group and signal self esteem and your perceived control over the situation. A manager in control of his team and targets is likely to display a relaxed walk during his presentation with extravagant hand gestures and an erect posture. Lastly, touch can be professional or friendly-social in nature and is largely determined by society, culture and context.

Sound and silence

Finally, we have sounds and silences in verbal communication known as para-language. These include tone, pitch, pauses and audible fillers. By controlling the tone you can signal a wide range of emotions to your audience, and the fact that you are a credible professional and an expert on the subject you are speaking on. Similarly, a high pitched voice can distract from the actual content of words and leave a negative impact. Appropriate pauses in your communication will emphasise what you said; longer pauses will have your audience lose interest.Fillers–uh, ah, you know–are to be avoided since they signal an immature or under-confident speaker. Longer silences during communication are an effective tool and in different situations, can be used to get the other person to share additional information, convey thoughtfulness or even hesitance. Practice silences well along with your tone and speed, to send a wide gamut of messages.

Source: Economic Times

Date: 30-03-2015

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