Understanding Nonverbal Communication

Relationship skills can be complex.  As I stated in the previous post about empathy, there are four skills we can develop that will build intelligences – empathy, nonverbal communication, listening, and conflict resolution skills.  This post focuses on nonverbal communication skills.

Most people recognize that human beings use nonverbal forms of communication for more than 70% of our communication…a fact that I became profoundly aware as I began to develop relationships online.   Words are the way our rational minds communicate.  But nonverbal messages convey our emotions and mood.  When someone says “I really like this”, the words convey pleasure.  However, if the phrase is spoken through hissed tones and the speaker has his hands balled in fists by his side, I think we can assume that he does NOT like whatever it is, despite his words.

And most people pay attention to our nonverbal signals, and not our words.

Teaching awareness and discernment of our moods and emotional context is a great way to build both inter and intra-personal intelligence.  Furthermore, teaching multiculturalism helps children and adults understand the cultural norms that influence nonverbal communication.

Acting and role-playing are one of the best ways to enhance nonverbal communication skills.  As is writing.  I know I have found myself watching how people communicate with their bodies while I drink my coffee at my favorite Starbuck’s.  Learning the ways in which people communicate nonverbally has enabled me to pay close attention to my own nonverbal signals.  And that has taught me how to keep things balanced.

Ideally we want ourselves, and our children, to have their facial expressions, body movements and words match in intent and mood.

I’ll cover the last areas next week.

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