Darlene Price is President and Founder of Well Said, Inc., a training and consulting firm specializing in high-impact presentations and effective communication.
As a 20-year veteran of the speech communication training field, Darlene has personally coached over 5,000 business professionals on the art of effective presentations and interpersonal communication. She has presented to audiences across six continents and coached the chief officers and senior leaders in more than half of the Fortune 100 companies. In addition, her work as a corporate spokesperson has earned her seventeen industry honors including one Emmy Award and nine Telly Awards.
What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Studies show that nonverbal communication carries between 65-93% more impact than the actual words spoken, especially when the message involves emotional meaning and attitudes. These nonverbal cues include facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, posture, body movement, tones of voice, dress, grooming, touch, and even your environment–wordless signals that speak volumes. You cannot avoid sending nonverbal messages to others; however it is possible to train yourself to send the right ones. Here are five nonverbal cues that convey confidence and credibility in the workplace. For a more detailed list, please read my recent interview with Forbes.
1. Use good eye contact. When speaking to others, ideally look directly into their eyes at least two to three seconds before looking away or moving to the next person. Glancing at someone for one second or less is known as ‘eye-dart’ and conveys insecurity, anxiety or evasion. Also, learn to smile with your eyes. Studies have shown that the most genuine smile, known as the “Duchenne smile,” comes from the eyes and has a powerful positive effect on others.
2. Choose your facial expressions. Because your facial expressions are closely tied to emotion, they are often involuntary and unconscious. For example, in a meeting with your boss, he or she may say something to make you angry. However, a pensive scowl, rolling eyes, and pursed lips may not help matters. If instead you want to convey a positive collaborative attitude, choose to hold a slight smile, nod occasionally, raise your eyebrows to show interest, and maintain good eye contact.
3. Concentrate on your voice tone. Has your significant other ever said to you, “It’s not what you said; it’s how you said it.” They were referring to your paralanguage. Separate from the actual words used, these nonverbal elements of your voice include voice tone, pacing, pausing, volume, inflection, pitch and articulation. Try recording your side of several conversations throughout the day. Listen to the recordings and identify what emotions and attitudes your voice tone communicates.
4. Dress the part. Shakespeare proclaims in Hamlet, “The apparel oft proclaims the man.” For men and women, clothing speaks volumes in the workplace. Make sure ‘business casual’ is not ‘business careless.’ Choose high quality, well-tailored garments that convey professionalism. Depending on your corporate culture, wear a business suit or at least a jacket for important meetings and presentations, especially with senior leaders and customers. Avoid showy accessories, busy patterns, and tight or revealing garments. If career advancement is your goal, convey a polished professional presence in the workplace. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
5. Offer your full attention. When speaking with others, avoid multi-tasking during the interaction. Don’t check email, look at your phone, send a text, check the scores, or disengage in any way. It may be perceived as disinterest or disrespect. Also, practice open body language. Keep your legs and arms uncrossed. Square your shoulders and point your toes directly toward them. And lean into the conversation, focusing your eyes, ears and energy on them.
As Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “All credibility, all evidence of truth comes only from the senses.” To ensure your colleagues and key stakeholders ‘sense’ the value you bring to the table, be sure to send the nonverbal cues that convey confidence, credibility and professionalism.