We often believe that the most important part of communication is what you say. And sometimes that is true. Using your words to better communicate is very important. But if your non-verbal communication is off or doesn't match what’s coming out of your mouth, you’re still doing a poor job communicating.
But why is that so? What about non-verbal communication is so important?
Non-verbal communication is necessary to master because it is such a huge part of how we communicate, though we often overlook the importance of this skill. Keep this in mind: Not seeing non-verbal communication’s value doesn't make it any less valuable.
Within the workplace (or just life in general), we won’t always have time to use our words. We live in a society of gestures. A simple thumbs-up or wave of your finger can be dynamic when communicating with someone. They symbolize the meaning of what you aren’t using your words to say. You’re saying the same thing but by different means. When you stop looking at non-verbal communication as a small, unimportant practice, but rather as a meaningful way of conveying your emotions, you will become a more skilled communicator. Looking at non-verbal communication through this perspective reminds us how much we use non-verbal communication and how life would be much more complex without a grasp of this skill.
Non-verbal communication is not only used to replace words but also alongside words. There is an old phrase, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” How you say something has a great deal to do with non-verbal communication. Facial expressions, mutually understood symbols, eye contact, and body language are all aspects of non-verbal communication that can change the way others perceive our words. For example, when in an argument, the words coming out of your mouth could be “I’m so sorry”, but alongside crossed arms, a sour facial expression, and lack of eye contact, the person probably is getting the idea that you’re not truly apologizing.
Let’s look at these factors more closely…
- Expressions - Think of this as what the look on your face tells the other person. When communicating with someone, a smile vs a frown or a scowl vs a smirk can make a huge difference. You don’t want your expression and your message to conflict. When they do not match, you may give the person you are communicating with the idea that you are insincere.
- Eye Contact - Eye contact depends on the society you live in. In some cultures, a lack of eye contact is a sign of respect. While in American culture, eye contact is necessary for the person to believe you are paying attention and respecting their words. It is important to adjust your contact to the culture you are in and use this knowledge to communicate with one another. So much of the communication that stylists have with clients is through eye contact. There are the constant glances to the mirror to see how you or they feel. Be intentional with eye-contact and make clients feel welcome in your salon chair!
- Gestures - The use of gestures also depends on the culture you are in. In American society, a thumbs up is synonymous with ‘it’s all good’. But in other areas, this may mean something much different. Again, it is important to study up on the mutually understood gestures of a given area and use the ones only appropriate to what you are trying to tell another person. Good communication through gestures depends on the phrase ‘mutually understood’. Your gestures are useless and your communication is ineffective if both parties do not understand the underlying purpose of their use.
- Body Language - This is SUCH a big deal. Body language can change whether or not you are invested in a person's words. Turning around or busying yourself with your fingers may give the person the idea that you are nervous or uninterested. This may not be true at all. By controlling your body and using it to tell the person you are communicating with what you want to tell them, you are non-verbally communicating much more efficiently.
Being able to apologize, negotiate, show compassion, and so much more relies on your ability to control not only your words but also what you’re telling other people without using your words. Conclusively, gaining control of the factors of non-verbal communication makes you a better communicator as a whole.