You may have heard the saying “actions speak louder than words”. The same is true about nonverbal communication. Our posture, gestures and other nonverbal cues send messages that reach people in a much deeper level than words. Our nonverbals can add validity to our words or do the opposite. Becoming self-aware and improving our nonverbal communication can be a valuable tool in gaining trust from others. What is nonverbal Communication?
Nonverbal communication is defined as communication without words. It includes behaviors such as facial expressions, eyes, touching, and tone of voice. Also included are dress, posture and distance. UCLA did a study which found a majority of communication to be nonverbal. 7% of any message to be relayed through words, 38% through vocal elements such as tone, and 55% through nonverbal elements. Nonverbal communication plays a vital role in how we communicate (whether we are aware of it or not). Whether you are a salesperson, public speaker, or a social engineer, much of your success depends on effective nonverbal communication. The following are three ways you can use the power of nonverbal communication to build better relationships and gain trust.
Have you ever met someone for the first time and had the feeling that you could not trust them? Or were you speaking to a friend who was looking at their phone while you spoke to them? Eye contact is a form of body language which is essential during communication. In western culture, keeping eye contact is part of active listening. It lets the person we are talking to know that we are focused on what they are saying and that what they say matters. Ideal eye contact should last between 4-5 seconds, as you look away, do it slowly. Looking away too quickly can make you appear nervous. As the conversation unfolds, you can continue to look at the person’s face (nose, mouth, chin) and make eye contact intermittently as prolonged eye contact can be intimidating.
Also, consider the other person’s culture and find out if making eye contact in their culture is considered respectful. Eye contact is a crucial step in building trust. The person whom you are talking to will be more likely to trust you as eye contact indicates an openness in communication.
Mirroring is the act of copying another person’s body language, mannerisms, and repeating their words. You may have noticed that when people are having an enjoyable conversation, they subtly (often unconsciously) imitate each other’s behavior. You can intentionally create rapport and gain trust by mirroring their body language. For example, if they’re leaning forward, lean in, or if they’re gesturing with their hands try to use similar hand gestures. You should do this subtly and naturally. The last thing you want is to make the other person feel you are mocking them or to make them feel uncomfortable. Mirroring is a skill that takes time to master. When done correctly, mirroring promotes positive feelings and helps to covey feelings of trust. The goal is to make the other person feel that we are like them. This will make it easier to develop trust at an unconscious level.
It’s Not What You Say
It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Much of how you gain trust, depends on being aware of your vocal nonverbal cues. You may be thinking – how can nonverbal cues be used if I’m using my voice? According to Quantified Communications, a communications analytics company “It is hard to hear the sound of your own voice. But that sound may affect other people’s impressions of you even more than what you say.” Our words convey a message, while our tone conveys feeling. For example, the phrase “that’s too bad” can sound quite different depending on who you are talking to and the message you’re trying to convey. In one situation it may sound sarcastic, while in another your tone may convey empathy.
Our tone of voice is particularly important when speaking over the phone. In his book “Silent Messages,” Albert Mehrabian says that if there is a discrepancy between the person’s words and tone of voice, 85% of the time, people will trust what they hear in the tone of the voice over the actual words. Whatever the sound of your voice is, it’s most important that your tone conveys sincerity. Keeping a steady pace, not speaking too fast or too slow. As well as smiling when appropriate, can turn your voice into a tool for persuasion.
Practice Makes Perfect
All of us express ourselves using nonverbal cues by instinct, however mastering the art of nonverbal communication takes time, awareness, and practice. By becoming more aware of other people’s nonverbal cues, we can gain a better understanding of what a person is really trying to say. Being more aware of our own nonverbal cues, enables us to communicate with others more effectively as well as create an atmosphere of trust and empathy.
This article barely scratched the surface of nonverbal communication, would you like to learn more? This year’s Human Hacking Conference taking place March 11-13, will include workshops taught by world-renowned leaders in behavior, physiology, deception, technology, and psychology as well as specialized learning including Nonverbals, SE Pentesting, Physical and Psychological Influence, and Personal Development. These skills and insights will benefit attendees both personally and professionally, from learning how to “read” someone’s mind, to spotting deception and other key body language indicators, to understanding how people make decisions and how to influence their decisions, and much, much more.