We all strive to say the right thing by choosing our words with care – especially during the holiday season! 


But only 7% of any message we seek to deliver is conveyed by our words, 38% by our voice, and 55% thru our nonverbal elements (body posture, gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, attire, etc). This means that a whopping 93% of our communication is non-verbal.


This means HOW we say something is perhaps even more important than WHAT we say!


Even if it’s as low as 70% say in certain situations, that’s still means the vast majority of our connection with others is non-verbal.


Why does this matter?


It makes a difference in all our relationships!  And particularly for those folks in leadership positions, in the front of the room, and in front of the camera. By attending to our own body language, and not making assumptions about the body language of others, we can better understand each other, and most effectively ensure our message is getting heard accurately. 


In a recent client workshop with a team where there had historically been a fair amount of mis-communication, we integrated a session on non-verbal communication to demonstrate just how bad we can all be at interpreting each other’s intentions based on body language alone. 


The exercise was simple, yet effective. We divided the whole team into groups of 5-6 people, and gave each group a stack of cards with one word per card (such as happy, tired, frustrated, disappointed, sad, angry, etc). All groups got the same words, shuffled in a different order. 


One person (the actor) in the group would pick a card, and act out the word until their group guessed correctly.  The person who guessed correctly would then become the actor, and pick a card with a word to act out for their group members. Within a certain time limit, the group that guessed the most words correctly won a prize. 


Afterwards, participants reflected back that:

* It was surprisingly difficult to act out the word for others effectively, without using words to explain it


* It was challenging to guess the word their actor group member was expressing, without being told in words 


* Feedback from the actor was the best way to get to the correct non-verbal communication being acted out


Do you recall a time when your message was misunderstood by someone else based on your own body language? 


Or when you felt that the words you were hearing and the speaker’s non-verbal messaging was not in sync?


One way to understand the impact we have (and make sure our intentions match our results), is to practice what’s called mirror work: delivering a talk, important message or presentation to ourselves in the mirror to see our own facial expressions, gestures and posture. 


We can also record ourselves (it’s easy enough these days even just with the video or audio on our phone) speaking to catch any repetitive words, phrases, um’s, pauses, etc that we often say and don’t even realize it, as well as hear the sound of our own voice.

Sometimes I find that just the audio (without video) can be super helpful: we listen to ourselves speak all day long but how often to we actually hear our own voices?


How do you practice aligning your own non-verbal communications with your words? 


Share with us in a blog comment below!




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