“Communication, the human connection, is the key to personal and career success,” says self-improvement pioneer Paul J. Meyer. This implies we need to be well-connected with each other to enhance our productivity and self-esteem, and what helps us connect well with others is effective communication. The majority of us focus on oral or written communication and tend to neglect non-verbal communication. However, effective non-verbal communication is as important as verbal communication in the workplace. Let’s understand why.
What is Non-Verbal Communication?
Non-verbal communication refers to our body language, the gestures we use, or our non-verbal behavior. It implies communicating by means other than spoken languages, like eye contact, eye movement, facial expressions, behavior, smile, body posture, attitude, and handshake. The following are some of the different categories of non-verbal communication:
These are body movements and gestures like facial expressions, eye contact, hand gestures, and posture, among other things. For example, a smile, nod of the head, or thumbs up, are all positive kinesic gestures that convey warmth, friendliness, and approval.
2. Paralanguage or Vocalics
This is the vocal aspect of non-verbal communication, and it involves tone of voice, pitch, volume, and speech rate. It includes elements such as intonation, emphasis, and vocal quality. For example, a loud and assertive tone of voice can convey confidence and authority, while a soft and gentle tone conveys warmth and empathy.
Proxemics is using space to communicate. It includes the physical distance between individuals, the use of personal space, and the arrangement of objects in a given space. For example, standing too close to someone can convey aggression or intimacy, while standing too far away can convey indifference or discomfort.
Chronemics is using time as a form of non-verbal communication. It includes punctuality or tardiness, as well as the use of waiting or response time. For example, arriving early to a meeting can convey professionalism and respect, while arriving late can convey disinterest or disrespect.
It means touch as a form of communication to convey emotions, feelings, and attitudes. For example, a handshake can convey confidence, warmth, and friendliness. Other forms of touch, such as a pat on the back, can communicate reassurance and support.
It means using space to communicate ownership, status, power, or dominance. It is a type of proxemics. For example, a person sitting in the middle of a conference table is considered the leader of the group, while a person sitting at the edge of the table might be a junior-level employee at the company.
It means using non-verbal cues like eye contact, smiling, leaning in, or other signals to show affection, interest, or receptivity toward another person.
It is the physical setting or context in which people communicate. For example, the lighting, temperature, and decor of a room can affect people’s mood and emotions, or a smile in one context might be seen as friendly and welcoming, and sarcastic in a different setup.
It means communicating with the help of smell. For example, using scents to convey attractiveness, cleanliness, or familiarity.
Why is Non-Verbal Communication Essential in the Workplace?
1. Enhances Workplace Relationships and Job Satisfaction
The Journal of Positive School Psychology suggests that non-verbal communication is one of the most significant factors in enriching relationships at the workplace, improving job satisfaction, and increasing the organization’s overall productivity. Positive non-verbal communication at the workplace, like an encouraging nod from a colleague or manager, improves interaction among employees, thus creating a relaxed work environment that makes the employees feel valued. It leads to increased job satisfaction. Other forms of non-verbal communication, like active listening and maintaining eye contact, can also improve collaboration between employees.
Non-verbal communication has also been directly linked to effective leadership. Research shows that leaders’ frequent use of upward palm gestures during staff meetings encourages employees, leading to better job satisfaction.
2. Increases Chances of Hiring and Promotion
If you are planning to move up in your career and want to seek a promotion at work, non-verbal communication can play a crucial role. While seeking promotion, some qualities that come in handy are maintaining strong workplace relationships and listening actively to your colleagues and managers. These include:
Conveying openness and approachability: Non-verbal cues such as open body language, maintaining eye contact, and a warm tone of voice can convey approachability and openness. It makes us feel more comfortable and at ease with our colleagues, which can lead to positive relationships.
Showing respect and empathy: Cues such as active listening, appropriate facial expressions, and a supportive tone of voice can show respect and empathy toward other team members. It makes us feel understood and valued, leading to positive relationships.
Establishing trust: Actions such as maintaining eye contact, using positive body language, and a confident tone of voice help us build trust with our team members, helping create a positive and productive work environment.
3. Increases Team Collaboration
This kind of communication plays a crucial role in increasing collaboration among team members, especially in remote setups. A study on non-verbal awareness cues suggests that body language, gestures, gaze, and hand movement during video conferencing strengthen human interaction in a remote environment, which increases productivity. Research also suggests that such communication is not necessarily required to support verbal communication. We can communicate emotional messages through non-verbal cues without using verbal expressions. Hence, this kind of communication at the workplace can improve interpersonal relationships between coworkers and enable a collaborative work environment.
4. Enhances Your Personality
Imagine you are in a Zoom meeting with a potential client. One of the people from the client’s side slouches on their desk and avoids eye contact with you while you present your case. There are, however, other team members who have a straight body posture, are actively listening to you, and even smile occasionally. Your first instinct would be to avoid communicating with the slouched, disinterested person. You’d automatically gravitate to the second group of people as they come across as warm, welcoming, and polite. This is how non-verbal communication matters in the workplace. You need to maintain firm eye contact, actively listen to people, and make positive gestures.
Simply put, this kind of communication can influence the interpretation of verbal messages you send. For example, a speaker who uses positive body language and vocal cues may be perceived as more persuasive and trustworthy than one who uses negative cues.
5. Resolves Conflicts
Such communication can also help resolve conflicts in the workplace. By using positive body language and vocal cues, individuals can convey a willingness to listen and understand, which can help de-escalate conflicts and find solutions to problems. Using positive body language conveys a message to the other person that you are willing to resolve the conflict.
Tips to Improve Non-Verbal Communication at the Workplace
- Pay attention to body language: How we carry ourselves can greatly impact how others perceive us. Hence, you must be mindful of your posture, eye contact, facial expressions, and gestures. Avoid crossing your arms, slouching, or looking down while communicating with others.
- Listen actively: Good communication is a two-way street. When someone is speaking, focus on what they are saying and show that you’re engaged by nodding your head or making appropriate facial expressions.
- Practice empathy: Try to understand things from other people’s perspectives. This will help you to communicate more effectively and build better relationships with your colleagues.
- Avoid distractions: When communicating with others, minimize potential distractions, such as your phone or computer. This will help you to focus on the conversation and avoid sending the wrong message to others.
- Get feedback: If unsure how you’re coming across to others, ask for feedback. This will help you identify areas where you can improve and develop better communication skills.
Effective non-verbal communication is essential for success in your career. It is a skill that requires practice and persistence. Emeritus’ online courses can help you dominate communication skills and acquire other industry-relevant skills to help you advance your career.
By Sneha Chugh
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