Languages Magazine

The Importance of Non-Verbal Communication

By Eslexplorer @eslexplorer

Learning to understand, read, and speak are the most important aspects of becoming fluent in any language. However, once you feel confident in your ability to converse in English you might want to take your linguistic knowledge to the next step. Similarly, if you feel insecure about your English you can always supplement with non-verbal gestures. In addition to words, body language is a key attribute in conversing with others. In fact, non-verbal communication accounts for about two-thirds of all human communication! Whether you are conscious of it or not, nonverbal signals can reveal a lot about your personality, work ethic and likeability. These are significant not only for everyday interactions but became vital when job-hunting. Let's take a look at some of the most common non-verbal communicators, their implications and most importantly, how you can use them to your advantage!

Eye Contact: In a job interview or personal interaction eye contact communicates interest. It says that you are listening and paying full attention. Avoiding eye contact can suggest you are inattentive or disapproving.

Body Arrangement: Though often overlooked, the way you sit, stand and carry yourself is frequently noticed by others. In fact sight is the most dominant sense and is privileged by 85% of a person's senses.

Space: Physical space is an important element of how we arrange ourselves. Since North America is known as a non-contact culture, people expect a certain amount of distance when communicating with others.

Facial expressions: Humans are able to convey hundreds of expressions and often, can be difficult to control. Thus it is necessary to maintain a serious or professional looking appearance during an interview or a hint of excitement towards the opportunity. You can also take advantage of this communication method if you do not feel fully comfortable in your English by using expressions to convey your mood.
Gestures: These are dependent upon culture. Many common hand gestures in North America may be considered obscene in Asia or Europe. Though generally, talking with your hands is acceptable as well as waving, making an 'OK' sign or thumbs up, beckoning motion or clapping. Pointing can be acceptable when referring to a location or object, but is often considered rude when directed at a person
Touch: As previously mentioned, North Americans tend to shy away from contact as they value their personal space. Touch is important in the form of handshakes as people will expect a firm shake. However, consoling or encouraging someone with a pat on the back is more appropriate than a hug. Everybody is different, so play it safe and limit personal touching until you better understand a person's cultural and personal expectations.

How to use non-verbal communication to your benefit:

1) Mirroring: This is a scientifically proven method to increase effective communication. Essentially you want to act as a "mirror" to the person you are conversing with which makes you more relatable. Don't go overboard, but if they cross their legs, do the same.
2) Maintain your appearance: Don't forget that visuals are important. Dress professionally and keep an appearance which suggests you didn't just roll out of bed.
3) Maintain good eye contact: As previously mentioned, this conveys interest and trustworthiness to the person you are communicating with. But, know the difference between eye contact (two people connecting their eyes) and starring at somebody which can be perceived as inappropriate.
4) Check your Posture: The way you arrange your body is instrumental in the way you are perceived by others. In professional settings maintain an authoritative posture and presence. For example, don't slouch or hide in the background but take up space and hold your head up to communicate power and assertiveness.

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