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2 min read

How to Use Nonverbal Cues to Support Effective Workplace Communication

An organization’s strategy of communication should not only take the message into consideration, but the delivery of the said message. The delivery of the message includes nonverbal communication or body language which is made up of tone, facial expressions, eye contact, body gestures and even breathing. The way you look and move when you deliver your message says as much about your thoughts and emotions as the actual message does.

workplace communication

When you are able to understand nonverbal communication, not only will you be more effective in communicating what you want to say, you will be better able to connect with others and build stronger relationships with people at work. Some of the more common nonverbal cues to generally have in the workplace are utilizing an open body language (arms uncrossed, maintaining eye contact), and enhancing verbal messages through gestures and actions (such as patting the back of a person who did a great job).

If you are on the receiving end of nonverbal cues, here are some of the ways you can improve on reading this strategy of communication:

1. Interpret nonverbal cues as a group, rather than as single gestures

Don’t read too much into a single gesture, because people aren’t perfect and slip-ups do occur. For example, a person can suddenly make a frowning face or give an eye roll without meaning to be disrespectful. Instead, consider all the nonverbal cues being given off – from the tone of voice, eye contact to gestures. Get a better read of what the person is trying to say by considering all the nonverbal cues he or she is presenting.

2. Take note of differences when it comes to background

Nonverbal cues may vary. Take into consideration the speaker’s age, race, religion, gender and even emotional state when deciphering his or her body language. For example, nonverbal cues from an Asian entrepreneur, a teenager, and a mother who just lost a child will differ.

Meanwhile, if you are the one who will be delivering and demonstrating nonverbal cues in any strategy of communication, here are the things you need to keep in mind:

1. Maintain eye contact

When talking with other people, maintain eye contact for at least two to three seconds before redirecting your gaze to someone else. The “eye-dart” or simply glancing at someone abruptly not only conveys insincerity, it also expresses anxiety and insecurity.

2. Utilize nonverbal cues that align with your message

When concocting a strategy of communication, make sure that your nonverbal cues match up with your message. How you deliver your words should not contradict your message. If you say one thing, make sure that your body language supports it. A simple example would be saying what a great job everyone has been doing and then giving them a “thumbs down”.

3. Keep your cool even under stress

Remember that your facial expression is closely linked to what you are feeling – whether they be voluntary or unconscious. For example, if you are interacting with a co-worker who you find extremely annoying, pursed lips, a frown and an eye roll won’t help you avoid friction in the workplace. Instead, choose to convey a positive expression (even if a subtle cue is all you can give), such as a polite smile and a nod in agreement or acknowledgment.

4. Remove distractions – especially electronic ones

Nowadays, nonverbal cues isn’t only about what we do with our body, but rather what we do about the things outside of ourselves. When speaking with someone (whether you are the listener or speaker), turn off your electronics. Turn off your phone, your tablet, your laptop and computer. Don’t text. Don’t send an email. Don’t watch a video clip. Don’t play a game. Stay focused on the one you are interacting with.

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