A guest article by Jennifer Larson
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” Peter Drucker
We all have an invitation to honor people in our lives. Our ability to respond to those we cross paths with is endless. It is through our silent and subtle gestures that we offer the most to each other. A simple smile, wink, or nod can promote positive energy and positive change.
Nonverbal Communication is defined as behaviors and characteristics that convey meaning without the use of words. It includes how we say things (pitch, volume, etc.) as well as facial expressions, artifacts (like rings, clothes, tattoos, architecture, etc.), gestures, smell, touch, use of silence, personal space and the like.
Nonverbal is an important aspect of human connection. It is essential to our relationships and interactions, no matter how brief, with others.
One of the most powerful books I’ve read on nonverbal communication is by Geoff Blackwell. Humanity: A Celebration of Friendship, Love, and Laughter, with countless images from all over the globe. It is a book that doesn’t need captions, as the emotion is felt with the turning of each page. This extraordinary book displays gestures of tenderness, intimacy, love, curiosity, surprise, and struggle. The images in this book expose simple and casual gestures, however, the meaning is powerful. The book is an intimate reminder to all of us that communication is more than the words we speak.
We have an essential need for nonverbal communication on a daily basis. This includes both the abbreviated interactions as well as the lengthy meetings with people that share our day. It increases opportunity for a productive workplace and reduces conflict in our relationships. When we engage with people nonverbally, we communicate their significance in our lives (or not). An important part of this action includes facial displays or facial expressions. Our face is often the most expressive during communication with others. Smiles, raised eyebrows, and nods reassure the speaker that we are active listeners and value their message.
Our body language and gestures also have the ability to reinforce our interest level. This includes posture and hand movements. Leaning toward the person speaking as well as having upright posture send a positive message to the other person that we are interested in their message.
Another influential component in nonverbal communication is touch. Many haptic researchers who study how people use touch to communicate agree the power of touch is unmatched and something each of us cannot live without. Touch is often used to explain the meaning of our emotions, such as affection, concern, power, or aggression.
Vocal behaviors may also contribute to the ten channels of our nonverbal communication abilities. It’s not only WHAT we say, but HOW we say it! This paralanguage, can imply amusement or boredom to the speaker. Our pitch, volume, rate, or articulation can also have a positive or negative impact on our conversations with each other. Of these examples, silence is often the most compelling form of nonverbal communication. It is frequently used to display neglect, defiance, or disappointment.
Whether you are using voice, time, gestures, personal space, touch, or objects to communicate nonverbally, there is always an opportunity to enhance our skills effectively. Undoubtedly, it is just as important to deliver clear nonverbal messages as it is to read them. We have a responsibility to each other to not let people go unnoticed. We certainly do not have to adapt to the behaviors we perceive, however, we have an obligation to each other not to ignore the messages.
I spent nearly a decade trying to decode the meaning of silence in a relationship with someone close to me. That is nearly 3,000 days in my life that spent longing for energy, intimacy, and even ordinary communication.
A lot can transpire in a moment between people. We have the ability to lend a smile, a shoulder, or glance to the ones that call on our attention. Human beings have a desire to do more than coexist together. Enjoy the laughter a little longer; hug a little tighter; dance whenever you can; and engage in life with each other.
This quote by Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittenstein reminds us to display our energy from the inside out; “The human body is the best picture of the human soul.”
Be aware of your nonverbal communication, and pay attention to what others may be saying to you without words.
Royalty-free image by “Beermug;” retrieved from: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/angry-young-man-1428077