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More Than Words: What Your Nonverbal Cues Are Saying
  • 19 May 2019
  • Maya Harper

More Than Words: What Your Nonverbal Cues Are Saying

We spend much of our work lives perfecting the way we communicate, from practicing presentations aloud to finessing the art of the elevator pitch. However, as important as it is to choose our words wisely, it is easy to forget how much the things we do not say impact the message we want to get across.

First impressions are made in less than seven seconds. That does not leave a lot of time for talk, which means nonverbal communication has to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. So what qualifies as nonverbal communication, and what is the best way to manage it? Everything from body language to personal space has an impact on how your priorities are communicated, whether you are meeting with customers, dealing with vendors or presenting to a crowd, so being aware of these sometimes-subconscious messages is an essential step to finding success. To help you take stock of these subtleties, we have pulled together a cheat sheet so you can make sure your nonverbal communication cues are saying exactly what you want them to say.


For instilling confidence:

  • Brush up on what it takes to make a strong impression with a confident handshake.
  • Pay attention to the space you are taking up in the room. Try to make your presence known, but do not monopolize the area.
  • Find a posture that conveys authority but still feels comfortable. A recent Harvard study showed that people who adopt power poses with strong postures and intentional body positions are proven to do better in mock interviews due to increased self-assurance.
  • Plant your feet firmly, as shifting your weight around can undermine confidence.
  • Identify the right kind of eye contact for your situation. A one-on-one chat with a potential new customer may require a more focused gaze, while presenting to a group can call for you to shift your focus.

Pro tip: Giving a big presentation? Choose three people around the room who seem particularly engaged — one in the center, one on the left and one on the right — and remind yourself to catch each person’s eyes throughout.

For showing compassion:

  • Throughout the conversation, be sure to smile, nod or give other signs of affirmation and understanding.
  • Keep your eyes off the clock. Cutting out distractions is key, even if you have somewhere important to be in five minutes.
  • When using email or other forms of e-communication, reply within a respectful time frame, and keep your message concise to show appreciation for their time. This may seem simple (and it is), but a delayed response is one of the most common ways to undermine an important conversation.
  • Keep the conversation balanced by reading the expressions of the person you are speaking to.

Pro tip: Need to have a delicate conversation with a customer or vendor? Avoid using phone or email. Meet up with them one-on-one, and put them at ease by reading their body language and reflecting a similar energy back to them.


For inspiring passion:

  • Do not be afraid to use your hands. Gesturing while you talk conveys excitement, which in turn has the power to inspire those around you.
  • Pay attention to the volume, intensity and speed of your voice. Speaking in low tones can undermine any enthusiasm you have for the topic, while going too fast puts you in danger of losing your audience.
  • Lean in. Nothing shows eagerness like being truly engaged in a conversation, and physically angling your body toward the action is a great way to show your interest.

Pro tip: Spice up your next sales call by ditching the telephone and opting for video chat. Being able show your excitement through expressions and body language will often imbue another level of energy into the conversation.

No matter what you are trying to communicate, the most important step is to understand and take control of your nonverbal cues. Watch yourself in the mirror, or take a video of yourself speaking to see what kinds of messages you may be giving off. Then, once you pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses, take steps to correct any nonverbal barriers that might be getting in your way. As you finesse and perfect your nonverbal cues, remember that we are here to help: The UPS Store has a dedicated communication division to help you cultivate strategies for using everything from your eyes to your email to ensure the message you are sending is the right one for you and your business.

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