It’s What You Don’t Say That Matters 3


Many people who have loads of talent and are conscientious and hard-working, but who never achieve recognition. What they are lacking is charisma. And yet, it’s so easy, with the right body language, to be charismatic. Charismatic people are always classy networkers and communicators.

“To make an impact you must learn how to project yourself with confidence”, says Karl Smith – founder of Business Networking South Africa. The way you listen, look, move, and react tells the other person whether or not you care, if you’re being truthful, and how well you’re listening. When your nonverbal signals match up with the words you’re saying, they increase trust, clarity, and rapport. When they don’t, they generate tension, mistrust, and confusion.

If you want to become a better networker or communicator, it’s important to become more sensitive not only to the body language and nonverbal cues of others, but also to your own. There are many different types of nonverbal communication. Together, the following nonverbal signals and cues communicate your interest and investment in others.

•Facial expressions: The human face is extremely expressive, able to express countless emotions without saying a word. And unlike some forms of nonverbal communication, facial expressions are universal. The facial expressions for happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear, and disgust are the same across cultures.

•Body movements and posture: Consider how your perceptions of people are affected by the way they sit, walk, stand up or hold their head. The way you move and carry yourself communicates a wealth of information to the world. This type of nonverbal communication includes your posture, bearing, stance and subtle movements.

•Gestures: Gestures are woven into the fabric of our daily lives. We wave, point, beckon and use our hands when we’re arguing or speaking animatedly—expressing ourselves with gestures often without thinking. However, the meaning of gestures can be very different across cultures and regions, so it’s important to be careful to avoid misinterpretation.

•Eye contact: Since the visual sense is dominant for most people, eye contact is an especially important type of nonverbal communication. The way you look at someone can communicate many things, including interest, affection, hostility or attraction. Eye contact is also important in maintaining the flow of conversation and for gauging the other person’s response.

•Touch: We communicate a great deal through touch. Think about the messages given by the following: a weak handshake, a timid tap on the shoulder, a warm bear hug, a reassuring slap on the back, a patronizing pat on the head, or a controlling grip on your arm.

•Space: Have you ever felt uncomfortable during a conversation because the other person was standing too close and invading your space? We all have a need for physical space, although that need differs depending on the culture, the situation, and the closeness of the relationship. You can use physical space to communicate many different nonverbal messages, including signals of intimacy and affection, aggression or dominance.

•Voice: It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. When we speak, other people “read” our voices in addition to listening to our words. Things they pay attention to include your timing and pace, how loud you speak, your tone and inflection, and sounds that convey understanding, such as “ahh” and “uh-huh.” Think about how someone’s tone of voice, for example, can indicate sarcasm, anger, affection, or confidence.

Nonverbal communication can’t be faked. You may be familiar with advice on how to sit a certain way, steeple your fingers, or shake hands just so in order to appear confident or assert dominance. But the truth is that such tricks aren’t likely to work (unless you truly feel confident and in charge). That’s because you can’t control all of the signals you’re constantly sending off about what you’re really thinking and feeling. And the harder you try, the more unnatural your signals are likely to come across.

Book Karl to speak at your next conference or to do in-company training via karl@businessnetworkingsouthafrica.co.za

This article may be copied or republished with the following credit: “By Karl Smith: author, speaker and founder of Business Networking South Africa” Cape Town.

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