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How to master non-verbal communication – the 7 key areas to watch out for...

Nonverbal communication is of huge importance in the Deaf community. Body language, gestures and facial expressions help the d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing to understand and they receive many information and communication cues from our body language.

The lack of a primary communicative channel (ie hearing) brings a compensatory sensitivity in other areas. Deaf and Hard of Hearing people perceive emotional expressions much more accurately than hearing people.

According to Professor Mehrabian "communication is only 7% verbal and 93% non-verbal. The non-verbal component is made up of body language (55%) and tone of voice (38%)".

93% of our communication works unconsciously! This is a strong indicator of our emotional state, but we also need to be aware of the environmental factor too, as it might influence our body language; the room temperature, other noises, tiredness etc...

It is hard work to master our non-verbal communication, but with work we can improve our body and analyse that of those around us (and many surprises will await you...)

So, let's focus on each area of the body:

1. Face movements

  • If you cover or touch your mouth while talking, this means you could be trying to hide something.

  • If the person you are talking with starts touching their ear, that could mean that they want to speak (or make you stop speaking...).

  • Don't believe the person that is making a compliment about your new hairstyle while touching their nose or rubbing their eye. It's a sure signal of lying!

2. Head position

Pay attention to an exaggerated posture as this means the person is doing their very best to influence you.

  • Lifting the head and projecting the chin forward is a sign that communicates aggressiveness and power.

  • If you want to transmit good vibrations, interest and understanding just nod your head. However, be careful of doing this several times very quickly because it might communicate that you have heard enough.

  • Tilting your head means submission because you leave your neck exposed for the kill!

  • Stop boring your conversation partner with your holiday pictures if he/she has their chin on an opened hand. Keep going however if the hand is closed; he/she is interested in what you are talking about.

3. The eyes talk too

  • Don't pretend blinking your eyes repeatedly is flirting! This means that you are trying to block the vision of the other person because of boredom or lack of trust.

  • Pay attention to the pupils of your conversationalist: A dilated pupil means love and that they like watching something you show, display, etc... while a contracted pupil expresses hostility.

  • Looking from side to side? This is a real giveaway that you are bored!

  • No wrinkles around the eyes while smiling? Ask her for her eye contour cream - I'm joking!... It's a fake smile. A natural smile produces your characteristic wrinkles around your eyes.

4. Different types of smiles

  • You can catch a fake smile from your colleague if the left side of the smile is higher or more pronounced than the right. The half of the brain's cortex that specialises in facial expressions is in the right hemisphere and sends signals mainly to the left side of the body.

  • A natural smile (or Duchenne smile) produces wrinkles around eyes, elevates the cheeks and descends the eyebrows:

  • A tight smile means that the person doesn't want to share their emotions with you. A clear rejection signal.

5. What about the arms?

  • Change the topic of the conversation if you see your conversational partner is crossing their arms. It's a sign of disagreement.

  • Never cross just one arm to hold the other arm, you will show lack of confidence! Instead of this you can hold your hands behind your back. You will reflect a "no fear" stance because of leaving exposed your weak areas like stomach and throat.

  • Folded and crossed arms with thumbs up is a defensive posture.

7. Legs position

The way people place their legs in a conversational situation is a good clue to great non-verbal communication. See for yourself!

  • Someone could be interested in you if an advanced leg points to you. That means you are the most attractive or interesting person on the room. If you don't feel comfortable just point to the door with your feet. The conversation will dry up! It will be a clear signal that the conversation should be ended and you want to leave.

  • Crossed legs are a tough one because women and men do this naturally. What the crossed leg does is change your upper body position. If the upper body is back in the seat the person is comfortable, check the crossed leg foot, if it points to you that’s a good sign, if its pointing away it’s the opposite. If the person’s upper body is leaning away from you; you are not in rapport. If the upper body is leaning into you; you are.

  • Some of the most typical masculine poses for legs are sitting with a leg elevated over the other leg where the foot rests on the knee. That reveals a competitive attitude or that they are ready to argue. Men sitting with their legs apart ("manspreading"), at varying degrees will more than likely transmit dominance and territoriality.

  • Us ladies, are you sitting with a leg wrapped or twisted around another leg denotes shyness and introversion.

  • Try not to let your leg get the shakes because it shows anxiety, irritation and your internal dialogue to speed things up.

Great rapport means your conversationalist will emulate or follow your body language. If you break matching body language your conversation will end or breakdown.

So now you have absorbed this information, why not practice your new skills at your next social or business event? You will be more confident and be aware of other peoples’ behaviour (and of course your own too).

Now you can feel ready to face these situations with a clearer insight into body language.


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