Effective communication depends not only on what we speak about but also on how we do it. It’s a proven fact that our gestures and body language transfer much more meaning than our oral presentation, hence the need to control them while speaking in order to achieve our communication goals.
Basically, gestures are the movements of our body parts which may include our hands, legs or shoulders. Often gestures are involuntary, and we don’t even realize them. They express our feelings, and people with whom we communicate can interpret them quite easily, since many of our gestures have a universal nature. For example, when somebody shrugs their shoulders, it probably suggests that this person has some doubts or doesn’t understand something.
Gestures transmit plenty of useful information about our mood and emotional state. Excessive arm gestures are signals that a person is agitated or nervous; clenched fists indicate anger or aggression; tapping on the table demonstrates impatience or lack of interest. Pointing with a finger is a strictly informal gesture and cannot be used in the business environment or in a formal setting. Fiddling with pens, papers or phones are indicators of stress and lack of confidence, therefore these gestures are not advisable.
Body language and verbal communication are inter-connected, and the use of non-verbal cues may facilitate acceptance and a better overall understanding. Our Academy has designed a special video lesson to teach the nuances of body language. Here are a few important tips:
– The main rule is to be relaxed and natural, which means that gestures should be used moderately and appropriately. To reduce arm gestures, put something in your hands — a folder, a book or a pointer. This item should be related to the topic of your conversation and will help you create a good impression.
– You can also spread your hands apart, in front of you, palms facing slightly toward your audience. This demonstrates an openness and willingness to cooperate and to share ideas.
– There is a common belief that a person who touches their face during a conversation is being dishonest or hiding the truth. Whether true or not, avoid touching your nose or rubbing your chin, especially when answering difficult questions.
– Moreover, it is necessary to be aware that not all gestures are universal and can have a completely different meaning in different cultures. If you don’t know the background of your audience, use common neutral gestures.
– Probably the most sensitive aspect of using gestures is touching people. Depending on the context of the situation, touching gestures could be considered a violation of personal space. Therefore, be cautious and refrain from touching strangers or just touch them lightly on the forearm.
Understanding body language is a key to effective communication. When you control your gestures, you portray confidence and deliver a positive non-verbal message. At the same time, knowledge of other people’s non-verbal signs guarantees you a better position in any conversation or negotiation. Why not?