There is no denying the importance of a well-delivered message. Tone of voice, congruence with body language – even the setting – all have an impact on how the message is received. So here are a few ideas to help you improve your non-verbal communication.
Show genuine interest
Give listeners the impression you are enthusiastic about talking to them. People love to feel important, and you can make this happen by making them feel that you would rather be talking to them than anyone else at that precise moment. When you make them feel better about themselves, they are far more likely to open up to you.
Simple visual clues will demonstrate your interest to them, like nodding your head, making eye contact and of course the universal facial expression for ‘interested’. What, you haven’t heard of this? You can do it with me now if you like: bunch your eyebrows towards the top of your nose, tilt your head slightly to one side, imagine making eye contact and very slowly nod your head. Easy, huh? Remember to react also to what they say, if they make a joke and you maintain that expression it might get awkward.
Try not to focus too much on what you want to say next as they speak. Instead, listen attentively to their words and respond as relevantly as you can. This will demonstrate you are engaged and interested in what they are saying.
Listen to all opinions and encourage everyone to speak up, especially those who usually keep their opinions to themselves. Show that you respect what they are saying and that they are valued. This in turn will create an atmosphere of mutual trust, respect and teamwork.
Truth be told, people are really interested in themselves first. By being interested in them, they will naturally like you more. You can still lead the conversation, just make sure it stays about them, which will make them feel like they are in charge.
For example, let’s say you are at a networking event talking to a new contact and they mention a recent holiday. You can base your questions on this: Where did you go? Was it activity based or relaxing?
Who did they go with? All of your questions lead to answers, which in turn can lead to more questions.
The more open-ended your questions are, the more likely it is that you will gain insight into their wants and needs and be able to offer fresh new perspectives about their situation. This will deepen your connection and make them feel heard.
What do I mean by this? Well, in a business context, I have observed that most first-time interactions tend to be a little formal. People talk about work or their business without trying to connect on a human level. In the past, when we ran networking events, we would let people arrive and mingle for a period of time before interrupting them and introducing an icebreaker which got them speaking about non-work related things, such as hobbies and interests, family and pets, achievements and charitable activities. During this exercise you could hear the difference in the noise levels in the room, with people smiling more and laughing.
Our conclusion: you will build rapport so much quicker if you can get people talking about their passions rather than the usual small talk. In the UK we joke about talking about the weather to fill awkward silences; instead, ask someone what they did over the weekend and see where that leads.
Disclaimer: This article is an excerpt with edit from the book, Influence: How to Raise Your Profile, Manage Your Reputation and Get Noticed by Warren Cass (Capstone; June 2017; Paperback; ISBN: 978-0-85708-715-7)