Great listening and excellent communication include something so obvious but frequently overlooked. You can demonstrate either interest or disinterest in another person without a single word. In fact, you can speak volumes without opening your mouth! I’m talking about the non-verbal part of communication.
It has been repeatedly stated that communication is 7% spoken words, 38% tone of voice and 55% nonverbal. If listening is one of the major parts of good communication, listening with more than your ears is even a bigger deal. You can build listening bridges with your body language. Pay special attention to the nonverbal side of how you listen.
Steve Hoke and Myra Perrine do a workshop on “Fostering a Healthy Relational Environment” and they suggest some things that have helped me evaluate my listening style. See if it won’t help you to fine-tune your nonverbal listening skills:
Set aside distractions – Whether it’s your smart phone, iPad, computer, a book, television or newspaper, it must be turned off or put away if the person you are communicating with is to feel valued. Trying to text, checking your emails or glancing at the television is a sure way to telegraph to the person they are low on the priority list.
Ignore nearby distractions – This is the toughest one for me when I’m standing in a public place and there are other people, noises and activity all around me. Tuning out all that other stuff takes a lot of work but it’s vital to great listening–especially in a less than private environment.
Give focused attention – Staying alert and engaged is critical. We all know how it feels when someone falls asleep while we are trying to carry on a conversation.
Maintain appropriate eye contact – This is probably one of the biggest nonverbal gestures that communicates you are staying connected to the dialogue. It takes a lot of focus but it speaks loudly.
Be aware of your body posture – Turning your body toward the person you are listening to rather than partially away from them goes a long way. Unfolding your arms and legs communicates openness.
Touch appropriately – A gentle touch on the arm when someone is struggling emotionally or being very vulnerable sends an important message of empathy and concern.
Sit or stand at the same level – Choose where you sit or stand very carefully. If you sit too close or too far away, you might send an unintended message. If you sit in a chair that is higher or stand while the other person is sitting, you can easily communicate superiority or power that hinders the flow of conversation. Try to have your face and eyes level with the other person.
Since nonverbal contact represents over half of the impression we leave, a communication encounter can be seriously enhanced or hindered by the visible but often overlooked. Pay special attention to the nonverbal cues you give and receive today and watch it potentially increase your effectiveness as a communicator.
QUESTION: What other nonverbal cues did I miss? Share them below. Thanks!