7 Ways to Be a Powerful Communicator — It’s More than Words
Good communication is more than the words we use. Here are 7 more effective ways to communicate.
Communication without words
If you were in a foreign country where you didn’t speak the local language, and you didn’t have internet or Google Translate available, how would you communicate?
Wouldn’t you use your facial expressions and body language?
Perhaps gesturing madly to communicate what you want or need?
I once traveled a long distance on a bus in the Dominican Republic. I couldn’t speak a word of Spanish, which is the common language there, and I had to communicate with the driver.
That day I was feeling very motion sick, and I really needed the driver to pull over and stop so I could get out and, well, you know… vomit.
Can you imagine how I tried to communicate that very urgent request?
Well, I found that body language and gestures got the point across and he pulled over to the side of the highway.
I won’t tell you the rest.
When you really need to communicate without language, you can do it.
Why is that? Because spoken language is only a small percentage of communication.
“It is insight into human nature that is the key to the communicator’s skill. For whereas the writer is concerned with what he puts into his writings, the communicator is concerned with what the reader gets out of it. He therefore becomes a student of how people read or listen” — William Bernbach
According to research, spoken language or the words you choose are about 7% of communication. The rest is the tone of voice and facial gestures or body language.
There’s a bit of controversy over these percentages, but most people agree that tone of voice and body language are a big part of communication. Wouldn’t you agree?
Here’s the research.
Albert Mehrabian, a Professor of Psychology at UCLA published a study describing three elements of effective communication. It came to be known as the 7–38–55 rule.
The study focussed on the need for congruence (or agreement) in communication.
To a large degree, these percentages determine the meaning of your communication.
- 7% Verbal — What you say (the words you choose)
- 38% Vocal — How you say it (your tone of voice)
- 55% Facial — The look on your face when you say it (your body language)
Your body language, the look on your face, and the sound of your voice, communicates more meaning to people than what you say.
A husband looks at his wife and says “Good dinner”, but his tone is serious and he doesn’t look her in the eye. Will she believe the compliment? Probably not. His 93% spoke louder than his words.
Most people trust non-verbal cues more than words.
Having travelled and lived in many countries where I could not speak the language, I found that most of the time it wasn’t a problem.
I have a friend in another country who is deaf, and he taught me to communicate with my face and body. It was an experience that has improved my 93% skills greatly. We can learn a lot about communication from the deaf.
Here are 7 Ways to Be a Powerful Communicator using the 93% portion of communication skills, tone of voice and body language.
- Look them in the eye. The eyes communicate feelings and often intentions. Would you buy a used car from someone who didn’t look you in the eye? Exactly. So communicate your honesty to others by looking them in the eyes, without staring or glaring. If you’re online, look at the camera.
- Smile more. Most people respond positively when they see a smile. It doesn’t have to be a big grin, or a fake smile, as if you want to sell them something. Just a slight friendly smile can go a long way. Facial gestures, or using your face to express feeling, are also part of the 55%, so learn to use your face more.
- Use your voice tone to express your feelings. If I raise the tone of my voice at the end of a sentence it probably sounds like a question, doesn’t it? If you’re speaking with compassion to someone who’s very sad, you use a soft, steady tone. One that communicates, “everything will be okay”, “I care for you”. If you speak in a monotone, it may come across as you don’t care.
- Posture can communicate confidence and interest. How does someone who is not confident stand? They slouch a little and keep their hands in their pockets, don’t they? When you stand up straight, you will appear more confident, even on screen (with Zoom). That confidence appears as personal interest when used with good eye contact, as mentioned earlier.
- Don’t cross your arms or legs. This does not always mean that you’re emotionally closed, as some people say, but because of the common perception it’s best to avoid doing that.
- Descriptive gestures. There are two kinds of gestures, descriptive and emphatic. Descriptive gestures are used to express action, size or location. Imagine describing something without words. Most people use these every day. This may come naturally for you.
- Emphatic gestures. This is when you want to emphasize an important point and you move your hands dramatically. Some cultures naturally gesture this way. In fact, for some people, if you tie their hands, they wouldn’t be able to speak. Other cultures find it more difficult to express themselves so openly.
When you use these during online communication, such as with Zoom, you’ll develop better audience contact and engagement. Remember to look at the camera.
These are just a few of the ways to use your tone of voice and body language when communicating.
You can probably think of more ways to communicate using your 93%
The language of friendship is not words but meanings — Henry David Thoreau
The point is this
It’s important to improve our skills with words, but words alone are not enough to communicate effectively.
Today, with communication through Zoom and other online business platforms, it’s even more important to use all the tools available to communicate well.
When you learn to use your non-verbal communication skills more effectively, you will become a powerful communicator.
Remember that good communication is more than words.
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