The power of non-verbal communication in the workplace

In 1971, Albert Mehrabian published the findings of two of his research studies into the importance of verbal and non-verbal communication. From observing participants in a number of tasks Mehrabian concluded that 93% of what people communicate is non-verbal. This now famous statistic was calculated by Mehrabian documenting that participants in his studies absorbed 38% of information through tone of voice, 55% through body language and only 7% through words.

If these statistics are a true reflection of how human beings process information from others, then surely we need to put more effort and emphasis on our non-verbal communication skills than on any planned speech. So when we want to engage, influence and drill home a message in the workplace, what should we consider in terms of our non-verbal skills?

Body language

Our facial expressions, eye movement, the way we sit, stand and move are all non-verbal ways of expressing ourselves. When communicating with colleagues in a face-to-face situation, the manner in which you deliver a message makes all the difference in how the message is received.

A person with an alert stance and upbeat expression who gives their audience eye contact is going to engage their colleagues more positively than someone who is lethargic, miserable looking and stares at the floor.

When speaking to colleagues face-to-face consider how your body language reflects the message that you need to get across. If you want to energise and encourage your colleagues then your body language needs to be vibrant in order to captivate their attention in the right way.

Of course being lively and energetic would seem odd if you’re delivering bad news but body language is just as important when having those more difficult conversations. Research indicates that people with good eye contact are deemed as more friendly, trustworthy and compassionate. If you’re making an unpleasant announcement you need colleagues to engage if it’s to sink in. Therefore maintaining good eye contact along with a confident and open stance is important.

Tone of voice

The tone, pitch, speed and volume of your voice are also indicators of how you feel about what you are communicating. Tone of voice is universal – you might not understand a language that is being spoken but you could understand what type of mood the person was in just by their tone.

Tone of voice is powerful because it can be used to influence even if you aren’t in a face-to-face situation. A message delivered with a genuine smile and therefore a positive tone of voice over the phone is more impactful than the same message delivered face-to-face by someone with a monotone, low pitched voice.

Studies have shown that voice tone stimulates the emotional side of our brains rather than the logical which supports the notion that human beings absorb and react to more non-verbal communications than verbal.

If you can combine an appropriate tone of voice with suitable body language during a speech or conversation, then you will have your audience right where you want them.

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