In the course of daily interaction, most of our communication does not require us to actually say anything. A simple nod or shake of the head provides others with a wealth of information about our emotions; we use these same nonverbal cues to learn about them. These acts of communication are known as nonverbal ones.
Nonverbal communication refers to how people communicate, intentionally or unintentionally, without words. Facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures, body positions and movement, the use of touch, and eye gaze are the most frequently used and most revealing channels of nonverbal communication.
Nonverbal cues serve a variety of functions in communication. They help us to express our emotions, our attitudes, and our personality (and to perceive those same characteristics in others). For example, you express anger by narrowing your eyes, lowering your eyebrows, and setting your mouth in a thin, straight line. You communicate your personality traits, such as being an extravert, with broad gestures and frequent changes in voice pitch and inflection
Just think about how difficult it can sometimes be to convey the true meaning and tone of your message when communicating on email or via text. There’s a reason why emoticons and now emojis are so popular; they help fill in gaps created by the lack of nonverbal cues in such communications.
Do different cultures interpret nonverbal cues differently?
Different individuals from various cultural backgrounds will have various display rules which are particular to each culture and dictate what kinds of emotional expressions people are supposed to show. The display rules of more individualistic cultures (western cultures) discourage the expression of shame in front of others, while the display rules of more collectivistic (asian cultures) cultures allow (or even encourage) it.
Organizations are increasingly diverse with employees from all over the world, thus they need to be more mindful of the interpretation of non verbal cues. For example, westerners may interpret a lack of eye contact as a sign of dishonesty but maintaining eye contact may be seen as intrusive to asians. Hence, managers must understand how different individuals may perceive non verbal cues to ensure that the message they send out is the right one.
How do non verbal cues affect the workplace?
Employees must be wise to this form of communication, they must be able to detect the certain micro-expressions that their underlings may express. This is especially true in workplaces where overt expressions of emotions may not always be possible. Managers must be able to read between the lines to decipher their employee's true feelings.
Also, an individual’s tone of voice may communicate nonverbal messages to others. In the workplace, people interact with each other throughout the workday using both verbal and nonverbal communication. In essence, the way individuals deliver nonverbal messages can be just as important as verbal dialogue.
Good Communication skills are the hallmarks of every successful organization and the utilisation of nonverbal cues can enhance the effectiveness of your message. For example, communicating a message with vigour and excitement is likely to have a greater impact on your audience compared to using a monotonous tone.
There are other useful nonverbal cues when delivering a message such as maintaining eye contact with your audience. Research has shown that eye contact is crucial in communicating messages to your audience as you grab their attention and make them feel like they have to be focused on your message.
Building Positive Relationships
Positive nonverbal communication helps colleagues in the workplace build positive business relationships, whereas negative nonverbal communication can cause conflicts and other negative disturbances in the workplace. Many people build positive business relationships by consistently delivering positive nonverbal communication to others.
The importance of such communication should not be underestimated, employees pick up on little things, if your tone of voice is positive, the morale of your workers instantly improves. Positive trusting relationships are key to the success of an organization, sending positive nonverbal communication is one way to achieve that. After all, none of us would want to work in a negative environment.
Nonverbal cues are a crucial tool for every manager to utilise. It sends out an underlying message to your workers. If you areunaware of these cues, employees may end up misinterpreting your intentions. Create a positive working environment by using nonverbal cues to your advantage. Sometimes, what is left unspoken is as important as what is said.
"The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said" - Peter Drucker