It is a surprising but true fact that verbal speech – the actual words you are speaking – only constitutes 7% of human communication. The other 93% is made up entirely of non-verbal cues – body language accounts for 55%; and tone 38%. These take the form of body posture, gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements. Although some of these cues are involuntary, there are several that can be consciously modified so that you can present an image of yourself that is confident, capable, and professional.
Posture Makes a Big Statement About What You’re Saying
Perhaps the most instantly recognizable body language cue is posture. Consider for a moment how you usually stand or sit and how this might look to others. Do you sit up straight or do you slouch? Bad posture and rounded shoulders can communicate lack of confidence as well as lack of professionalism, even at a distance. On the other hand, standing or sitting rigidly can indicate that you are tense or ill at ease. A good rule of thumb is to aim for something in between. Stand or sit up straight with your shoulders slightly back and make sure that your chin is level with the floor. If standing, place your feet approximately shoulder width apart and concentrate on distributing your weight evenly. These tips combined with slow and steady breathing can give you a calm, natural, self-assured air. You can communicate that you are attentive and engaged by squaring your hips and shoulders to the person with whom you are conversing.
Gestures Can Show Nervousness – Or Confidence
Gestures are another major factor in good communication. Gesturing while you speak can help the listener to stay engaged and retain the information you are giving them. Some studies have even shown that the types of gestures you use can have a bearing on how you are perceived. For example there is evidence to suggest that those who gesture with open hands and palms upward are judged to be more open and honest. Consider the gestures you are using while you speak and whether or not they match up with the message you’re trying to communicate. Also, try to avoid fidgeting. Many people unconsciously touch their rings, necklaces, ties, and hair while they speak and listen. This type of fidgeting in excess can communicate nervousness or lack of attention. As a general rule keep your hands still on the table in front of you or at your sides while you listen and then use them to gesture when it’s your turn to speak.
Making use of these tips can greatly increase your ability to communicate effectively, but remember that the road runs both ways. You can also pay attention to these cues in others while you’re speaking to them. Your conversation partner may never say that he or she is bored, confused, or upset, but by keeping the physical cues in mind you’ll be able to read them. Using this information to tailor your own communication in turn can make you a very effective speaker and listener.
Jayne Latz M.A., CCC-SLP is a speech and communication specialist, author, and professional speaker, and principal of Corporate Speech Solutions. She has trained individual clients from all over the world in public speaking, accent reduction, and best communication practices, and has provided training, lectures and/or workshops at RSM McGladrey, Ernst and Young, PriceWaterhouse Coopers, The Carlyle Group, Harry Winston, Morgan Stanley and Mount Sinai Medical Center, to name just a few. She is a featured speaker of the New York State Society for CPA’s (NYSSCPA.org). For information about Jayne Latz speaking at your event contact Kelly@ConnectRoot.com