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10/09/2011 / melgardener

How do you communicate?

Communication – all forms – is a topic that has interested me for a long time. As someone who works with words and is …ahem… naturally verbose I’ve always concentrated on the verbal side of communication. But more and more lately, I’ve become very aware of non-verbal communication and how we use it.

More importantly, I’ve been thinking about our responsibilities when communicating. How much responsibility should we take to ensure that both our verbal and non-verbal communications are heard and understood?

Do any of you have a friend who always seems to know when you are hedging or not being 100% truthful? Someone who seems to have a sixth sense about people – who to trust and not to trust? Someone who can size up a newcomer in a matter of seconds and decide if they are the right fit? And, annoyingly, someone who is pretty much always right in their assessments?

Someone like this would likely have been burned at the stake as a witch back in the day but what’s more likely today is that they are very well versed in reading and interpreting non-verbal communication.

If you’ve ever been in a situation where you felt something wasn’t quite right or you felt you were receiving mixed signals from someone – it probably wasn’t and you probably were. Your brain has likely noticed a range of miniscule cues that have set off warning signals that it can’t match to the corresponding verbal communication it’s receiving. Even small things like eye-contact, facial expression, hand movement, body position and a plethora of other signs can give away another person’s true feelings or intentions.

But, what happens when we are the communicator? We’ve all been in situations where we’ve chosen our words carefully, or put much time and effort into preparing a verbal presentation. But how much time have we spent considering the non-verbal signals we will also utilise. Well, not much for most people is the answer. And this is partially because many of these signals are involuntary – we do them without thought or conscious decision.

But I don’t believe that has to be so all of the time. I think if we take the time to be more aware of our physicality when communicating we can ensure that our non-verbal messages are just as effective as our words.

One of the benefits of taking the time to consider your non-verbal messages is that you stand a chance of becoming a better communicator in all aspects of your life. Of course, today many of our communications take place without the benefit of sight (Facebook, email, text) but, even when voice is your only tool, you can still utilise tone, cadence and rhythm while speaking to ensure that you are heard.

And isn’t being heard something we all desire? To feel that another person has received and understood our message – whether loud or quiet, forceful or gentle, happy or sad?

How do you see the role of communication in your life? Are there things you do to ensure your message is received?

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