Non-verbal communication

Friends chattingA lot of people seem to think that communication = talking. But face to face communication involves much more than merely speaking. There is often more non-verbal communication involved than actual speech. As an introvert, I’ve spent a lot of time listening. And when you listen, it gives you the opportunity to observe. This has helped me notice the non-verbal cues that people exhibit. Its helped me to understand how a person reacts to what I’m saying. I can tell if people are starting to get bored or distracted and I can adjust the conversation as necessary. People give off non-verbal cues that tell you exactly how they’re feeling and reacting to you. It gives you insight into that person and you can then tailor the conversation accordingly. Here are a few things I’ve noticed:

Vocal tone and inflection.
If they’re excited and passionate while speaking, there’s a good chance they’re enjoying the topic. Their voice can be warm or full of emotion. But if their tone is lower or quieter, they may not be as engaged. They could be bored by the conversation. Or they could also be tired, overwhelmed, sleepy, or wishing they were home in their pajamas (this is me a lot of the time). However, my voice is quiet and on a lower-register even at full energy, so it really depends on the person.

Body movement and posture.
Since body movement and posture is often done unconsciously, it provides great insight into how someone is really feeling. If they appear relaxed and open, they’re probably pretty comfortable.  If they appear stiff or tense, they may feel uncomfortable. They may not be comfortable with the topic, or the people around them. Or they might be having a bad day. I’ll often get more and more tense if I’ve been in an over-stimulating environment for too long and need to get away.

Facial expression and eye contact.
If they are emotionally present , they’re probably interested in the topic. If their face appears inexpressive or mask-like, they may be bored or distracted. When someone shows good eye contact, you know they’re focused on what you’re saying and you feel connected to them. But if they’re scanning the room or staring off into the distance, chances are they’re not being engaged. I often do this when in group conversations that are heading nowhere.

What are some things you’ve noticed?

Image credit: “Bologna Piazza Maggiore – Talking Friends” by Iliyan Yankov is licensed under CC by 2.0


11 thoughts on “Non-verbal communication

  1. Ayumi says:

    I totally agree with you. One can read so much in people’s expressions and postures. Usually, though, I have the feeling that one doesn’t have to do much to please people, just listen and they are happy. Honestly, most of the time I just say “uh-huh” and “okay” a few times and the other person talks and talks and talks… That makes most people pretty comfortable because they enjoy communicating what moves them. I just never understand how you can’t notice that your dialog partner doesn’t get to talk at all. But it’s funny, an overwhelming number of people are exactly this way. Today for example, when I was close to crying, my colleague didn’t even notice and kept muttering about his problems with some formatting issues… Guess that’s one major difference between sensitive and not-so-sensitive people. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ally says:

      You’re right, a lot of people seem to be happy with someone who just listens to them. I had one friend who could talk non-stop for hours. Occasionally, he would ask me a question, but after my response, would return to his own topics. I much prefer a balanced conversation with equal amounts of give and take, but sometimes they are hard to find. There have been many times when I’ve been emotional or close to tears, and the people around me didn’t even notice. Its interesting how the differences in sensitivity really do show themselves. I hope you’re having a better day today 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Warrior Freya says:

    Everything you mentioned are things I pick up on during a conversation. I’m big on body language. If I know a person fairly well I pick up on their subconscious habits, like brushing their hair behind their ear while their thinking, or curling their toes when they dislike something.

    I also notice word choice can change depending on how people feel, but that requires more exposure to a person. Breathing, too. When people start getting uncomfortable their breathing speeds up, or sometimes they’ll hold their breath a little. It’s interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brett de Villiers says:

    I feel like an antenna for what others are feeling. Words don’t sink in as deeply as the tone of voice being used to deliver them.

    The tone and the facial expression screams much more loudly than what they actually are saying. It seems to drown out the words sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

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