What if I told you the secret to effective communication is not about what you say, but rather what you don’t say? Now, don’t get me wrong – our words matter, but that’s not all that matters when it comes to getting our message across to others. Research shows that 55% of our communication is non-verbal. Yes, our body language conveys more than our words when it comes to engaging with people. Whether we are trying to build a positive connection with clients, customers, students or friends, our non-verbal communication should work for us and not against us. Here are three powerful keys to unlock the door to productive communication:
1. The Power of a Smile. It may seem simplistic, but it’s not! A smile speaks a thousand words. It says, “I care about you. I believe in you. I’m listening.” It welcomes others and makes them feel comfortable around us. It speaks confidence, openness and understanding. Even in phone conversations, evidence reveals that a smile makes a difference in attitude and perception. Now you may be thinking, but I don’t feel like smiling. Remember, a smile is not for you, it is a gift you give to other people. When we smile, it actually raises the serotonin level in our brain (that’s the happy hormone). So smiling can actually make us happier people! People carry around too many of their own challenges to be burdened with our frown. Give the gift of a smile to uplift others. Practice smiling with your eyes, and your lips will surely follow.
2. Essential Eye Contact. Just as our eyes are an endearing part of our smile, they are also play a vital role in strengthening the message we want to communicate. It’s easy for all of us to get distracted by other people or things (like our phones), but deliberate focus takes discipline and determination. It means that we are going to demonstrate with our eyes that the person we are talking to is the most important person in the room. In a highly distractible culture, we can learn to ignore the temptation to look at all the diversions swirling around us. How do you do it? As with anything in life, practice, practice, practice. Begin to build the skill of focusing, by concentrating in conversation with at least one person each day, even if the only person you see is the checkout person at the grocery store. Make yourself a sticky note and put it on your mirror to remind yourself to smile and focus each day. You will see a vast improvement in your relationships with family, friends and customers as you let your eyes do more of the talking.
3. Positional Impact. Recently at a restaurant, my husband sat down at our table and promptly turned his chair to face away from me. No, he wasn’t mad at me. He was experiencing sciatic nerve pain, so it was more comfortable for him to point in the other direction – at least that’s what he told me! After a few minutes, I moved around to the other side of the table in order for him to be positioned toward me and not away from me. It made a difference! I went from feeling ignored, to feeling seen and heard. Body language and position expresses how interested we are in the other person. A waitress who faces each customer is speaking volumes by her stance. A teacher who turns toward her students and pays attention to them, gets her message across with greater impact than a teacher who sits at her desk or hides behind a podium. Pay attention to what you are saying through your position and direction. Think about how it would feel if you were on the receiving end. Are you inviting others into your world or are you saying, “I could care less about you?” Parents, let’s think about the way we engage with our children and demonstrate love through not only our smile and eye contact, but the way we stoop down and listen to our little ones.
Take these three keys and use them to strengthen your connections with the people around you. Practice giving the people around you the gift of your smile. Concentrate on eye contact with at least one person each day, and turn your body toward the people with whom you are communicating. Never underestimate the power of what you don’t say.
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