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Body Language and Nonverbal Communication Skills

Body language and nonverbal communication skills

Body language and nonverbal communication skills

Face to face communication is of two fundamental types:

  1. Verbal communication
  2. Nonverbal communication

Verbal communication is the use of words; language.

Non-verbal communication is made up from: voice tone and body language.

You can glean a lot of information about another person from the way they look and how they sound, apart from the words they use.

Let us look at each category of non-verbal communication and see what benefit we might glean.

Body language non-verbal communication consists of:

  1. Posture
  2. Appearance
  3. Touch
  4. Gestures
  5. Eye contact
  6. Facial expression
  7. Orientation
  8. Proximity

1. Posture

Posture is how you stand or sit.

If you are leaning or slouching, this implies you are lacking in energy, sick or sleepy.

Be sure to stand or sit up straight. This will imply that you have energy, good health and are awake.

2. Personal Appearance and dress

How are you dressed? Are you well groomed and tidy?

Generally speaking, people do judge others on appearance.

Your brain says to itself "if it looks like a lion, it probably is a lion"; "If she is dressed in a police uniform, she is likely to be a police officer".

If you look well groomed and "together"; you will be judged as "together" in other habits. Whether that is true or not.

If you are scruffy and shabby in appearance- you are likely to be judged as shabby in other habits. Whether that is true or not.

So why risk it?. Dress in clothes twice as good and buy half as many. Don't look sloppy.

3. Touch

Sometimes you have to touch people.
Touch includes handshakes.
You gain information from people from their handshake.
Make your handshake firm and slightly longer than is normal.
Look at the person as you are shaking his-her hand and as you do; memorise their name.

4. Gestures

These mean hand gestures.

Avoid at all costs;

  1. Pointing with your finger
  2. Pointing with a pen

Instead use open handed gestures to emphasise points.

5. Facial expressions

Facial expressions counts for a lot.

Do not frown too often or for too long. A frown suggests "danger" to the subconscious mind. It will assume "this person is in trouble - and it pays to keep away from trouble".

Smiling suggests confidence, friendliness and success.

So smile frequently.

6. Eye contact

The best rule is to give as much eye contact as the other is giving you.
If they are not looking directly into your eyes, do not glare at them.
If they are looking into your eyes, reflect their eye contact back.
Don't evade the eye contact of another.

7. Orientation

Orientation is the angle at which you stand or sit relative to the other person. Avoid the square-on position.

Square-on raises the intensity of emotion and suggests either aggressive thoughts or sexual thoughts

In business context you do not want either, so sit at an angle to the other person - an angle of 45 degrees is about right.

8. Proximity

Proximity is the measure of how close you are to the other person.

This varies considerably depending on;

  • The context
  • The relationship
  • The activity
  • The gender of people involved
  • The age of people involved
  • The person's cultural norms
  • The person's character

My best advice on distance is similar to that for eye contact. Notice the others responses and operate according to their habits.

If the other person is distant, don't crowd him. If the other person wants to get close, don't back away.

Reflect the other person's character in your own movements.

Non-verbal Communication Summary

Posture: Stand with a straighter posture.

Appearance: Dress in clothes twice as good and buy half as many.

Touch: Make your handshake firm and slightly longer than normal.

Gestures: Use open handed gestures to emphasise points.

Facial Expression: Smile frequently.

Eye Contact: Reflect the other persons level of eye contact.

Proximity: Notice the other's responses and operate according to their habits.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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Further Reading in Communication - Nonverbal Communication

  • Communication skills training - Voice tone
    Your communication skills training should include the effect of your voice tone on others. Learn how to control your tone with Corporate Coach Group.
    Read Article >
  • How to use eye contact
    Eye contact is an important part of communication. Giving too much, or too little, eye contact can be seen as being rude in Western cultures. So what is the correct amount to give?
    Read Article >
  • Effective Body Language
    Body language is an important part of being an effective communicator. You can make a positive impression with other people, when you learn to use good body language. Effective body language is well known to improve your self-confidence.
    Read Article >
  • Personal Space - Proxemics
    Personal space is a form of non-verbal communication. It is important to recognise that the physical space surrounding each person has dedicated zones, which should be respected according to the rules of Proxemics, in order to gain trust.
    Read Article >
  • What is Passive Behaviour in the Workplace?
    Passive behaviour is a failure to communicate, either affirmatively or negatively, to conversations or events taking place. We examine why is it dangerous and why it should be discouraged in the workplace.
    Read Article >

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