Do you want to be able to maintain good intimacy with your audience? How about learning how to improve your sense of awareness, knowing what your audience is feeling and maintaining a higher level of empathy, and therefore better influencing the outcome of the communication?
If any of the above sounds interesting to you, then you have a lot to benefit from today’s discussion.
Note that this series is available in multiple formats, depending on how you prefer it. At your convenience, you can check it out on our YouTube channel or as a podcast (Self-improvement Podcast) wherever you prefer to listen to podcasts.
What is Nonverbal Communication?
In last week’s article on this discussion series, I talked about the fact that communication can be far deeper than what it ordinary appears to be on the surface and that is exactly what we are going to be expanding upon today.
Communication being an art, you cannot limit yourself to simply the spoken words. Is communication not about the conversation among people? You might want to ask. Well, that is where it becomes even more interesting. Welcome to the nonverbal communication and let see what we can get out of it today.
By nonverbal communication, we are actually referring to the transmission of information or messages through a nonverbal means as:
- Eye contact,
- Facial expressions,
- The maintaining of distances between the parties involved in the communication and much more.
In all cultures, both past, and present, nonverbal communication is a technique that is highly evolved. Before giving you some instances, I want you to think back to our last week’s discussion on the general idea of communication, that communication is the act of transmitting meanings from one person, persons, or things to another through the use of some commonly understood signs, symbols, and rules. Then we added that the main function of all communication is to send and receive a message.
If you have not yet seen or listen to that episode, you can check it out on Aclasses.org.
You see, understanding our nonverbal communications is so vital in our day-to-day life because as a type of communication, it’s more connected to our hearts and souls, our subconscious and heredity than the verbal communication or those little grammars and logics we have learned in schools.
This is particularly significant, especially within the context of intercultural situations. I mean when you are fully armed with the ability to understand nonverbal communications, you transcend all forms of spoken languages and many cultural barriers.
The way to truly understand that our human communication, especially nonverbal communication is nearly the same everywhere, irrespective of who you are and where you are coming from is to carefully observe a crying person, a person from say, a language you do not understand or from a different ethnic background.
The same is true if the person were to be laughing or highly excited. The motive can be irrelevant here. Simply observe the emotional manifestation, the human expression and you will understand what is going on.
When a child is born, the moment the child comes out from the mother’s womb, the child usually communicates.
Now, imagine the situation – the little baby, brand new into this world, experiences a different kind of temperature for the very first time, everything is bizarre and maybe with strange hands dragging it out and maybe trying to perform several operations, all completely strange to this new human being. What is this? The child cries out in confusion.
Strangely enough, even as adults when we are placed in a similar situation, confused and unable to help ourselves, we cry out, making the same identical sound as the child. Now, why is that? Why do we do exactly that, irrespective of our cultures and the languages we might speak?
Well, this is the answer – it’s our heredity and it transcends all forms of cultures, and it dates back into thousands of years of our evolutionary journey.
Now, how can this be beneficial to you today? Well, if you were in the advertising industry, you would know the value. If you were working in an intelligence community, you would need more than just spoken or verbal communication.
The same is true if you were a police officer who is trying to enter into the mind of a hardened criminal? What about the top business executives and diplomats who want to sell an idea to their equally match opponents.
The politicians too and the religious leaders who want to effectively control the people, all perfectly tap into this more than ordinary spoken words in our communication. So, the value in understanding these otherwise simple but highly rudimental and ancient forms of human communication is beyond any measure. And it will serve you well if you can learn about them.
Among many Africans, for example, there are a lot of secret communication codes in the open air.
Take for example the popular body arts and tattoos among many Africans – the Yoruba, the Hausa, in Congo, in Ghana. Quite frankly, body arts are widespread among different continents of the world, particularly in Africa, Asia, and South America. These body arts are not simply for identification. They are coming from the culture of ancient codifications and the burying of deep secrets in plain sight.
So, nonverbal communication or the transmission of information through nonverbal means is deeply rooted in different cultures across the world. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let’s list out some of the benefits of nonverbal communication in our daily lives.
The benefits of nonverbal communication are quite many, like for example, helping to increase awareness, intimacy, and empathy with the audience. It has been proven that understanding and tapping into nonverbal communication skills can help people gain a good level of trust, clarity, and add interest during their presentations.
Now, let’s briefly consider three of those benefits for a better understanding.
Nonverbal Communication brings More Awareness
Remember as I said before that Nonverbal Communications are mostly subliminal and directly connected to our emotions. So, if you make it a habit of noticing these hidden expressions and gestures in other people, it can easily help you better understand the ways people generally express themselves without words and without even thinking about it, because it’s almost at the subconscious level.
Even yourself, you will most likely begin to notice your own style of unspoken communications and so help you adjust yourself, depending on what kind of message you want to communicate with other people.
It helps to Increase Intimacy
Another advantage or benefit of Nonverbal Communication is that it helps to increase the level of intimacy among people. Now, imagine yourself in a situation, say you want to pitch a business idea to somebody or get someone into your team and you are maybe standing in front of the prospect, who is perhaps interested in what you are saying but currently under stress for some personal issues.
If you know how to read his unspoken body language, you will better understand that it might not be the right time for the prospect. By knowing that his or her saying “no” might not actually mean no, but that something is bordering him or her, you can easily modify your approach to suit the situation.
Why not, you can even change the conversation by trying to understand what is bordering the prospect and then see how you might be able to help.
We are all humans and we all need one another – maybe someone to simply tell us a positive word, a word of encouragement, and maybe a shoulder to lean on when we are in our lowest moments.
No one, I mean no one is ever strong enough all the time and there is certainly no one that can make it all alone in the journey of life. Through our Nonverbal Communication skills, we do need to understand some of these unspoken desires in people’s hearts.
Having a good level of understanding of these skills will not only facilitate effective communication but can also help to increase the level of intimacy between you and your partner. It ultimately leads to better understand the real concerns and therefore respond accordingly.
Nonverbal Communication Improves Empathy
Just as understanding the unspoken desires of people helps you to build intimacy with them, be familiar with the nonverbal communication skills, such as facial expressions, body language, and voice tone among others are all important aspects of feeling true empathy with the people.
Start today; start to learn about people’s nonverbal communication and increase your capacity for empathy, which in turn will help you to develop a deeper understanding of your friends, your clients, and your business partners.
Like I have said earlier, there are many benefits and advantages from your understanding of Nonverbal Communication skills. Those few we have discussed are merely for illustration. With that said, let’s consider some of the Nonverbal Communication skills to learn today for more effective communication.
Of all the Nonverbal Communication skills out there, body language is one of the commonest. Every day we communicate with different people, family members, friends, clients, and even strangers.
Do you know that of all the communication we are involved in on our daily basis, only a small percentage is actually verbal? Such nonverbal communications as body movements, facial expressions, eye contact, and hand gestures all contribute to how we communicate and understand ourselves on a daily basis.
Living in Italy, one of the things I have observed among many Italians is the habitual and almost compulsory use of hand gestures during conversations. It’s so ingrained in the people that it can be considered a cultural code of sending and receiving messages among many Italians.
Just like the Italians, different people and cultures have their common body languages and coded ways of communicating among themselves.
Now, there is something about facial expressions in that they are directly tied to our emotions.
Our eyes are powerful instruments in the body and they are the mirrors to our hearts and therefore can easily reveal what we are thinking even before we ever say them aloud. For this, we can say that facial expressions are some of our biggest nonverbal communicators in everyday life.
The question of facial expressions can again be stressed even to a cultural angel, in that depending on your cultural upbringing, what you should focus on can be different in some ways.
Among many Africans and in my place, Esan culture, Nigeria, for example, a mere facial look can explain anything from hierarchy, authority, or seniority if you like. When an elderly person is talking to a younger person, you, the younger person is expected to slightly bow your head as a sign of respect to the person talking to you.
Whereas in some other cultures, say among many Europeans, you are expected to look into the eyes of the elderly person talking to you, otherwise, it will be considered a sign of disrespect or that you are actually lying.
These mere differences in facial expressions and the way we position our faces during communication might appear nothing to you on the surface but they are very deep and can have serious consequences, depending on the situation. Let me explain what I mean.
You see, in the more than 5 years research project (The Journey) I did in northern Italy, leading to the creation of A-classes, I talked to hundreds of people – teachers, parents, students, and school directors in the region of Veneto, Italy.
What I wanted to understand was not simply the discrimination of immigrant children in Italian, Veneto schools, as the real motivation for that section of our research project. I really wanted to hear the different opinions about the argument of multiculturalism in the Italian schools, as a reflection of the society and I did.
Now, this is one of my takeaways and it can comfortably be extended to other western societies, like the UK, Canada, France, and others.
Behind what the school teachers in these places often refer to as disrespect from non-European children are in most cases a pure misunderstanding of cultural practices and the different value systems.
Before the children get to school, they have been educated by their parents and the local immigrant community about their basic cultural values, like “you should never look into the eyes when an elderly person is talking to you”, and these children get into the school system and they are told exactly the opposite.
What do you think the children will do? I leave you to reflect on that.
Before I forget, you can request a copy of the book I was referring to a while ago. It’s titled, “The Colour Of Our Children”.
Of course, this does not mean that people always look away when talking among themselves in Africa. That would be absurd.
So, learn about the different messages that are communicated through facial expressions and adjust yourself according to the cultural values of the person in front of you. There is more to this than meets the eyes.
These are only a few examples of how our nonverbal communication can help or hinder us in achieving our objectives when talking with people, and learning about them will definitely serve you well.
That is where we will end today’s conversation and I hope you have gotten some value from it. Subscribe to our Mailing List to be notified of our next publication and don’t forget to leave your comment below. I remain Obehi Ewanfoh and talk to you soon