Communication is not only about verbal conversation through small talk, but it’s also about nonverbal communication; they work hand in hand. It helps us gather exactly what someone is trying to say, not through their words, but how they deliver them physically. We gather a lot through people’s body language without even realizing it. When you practice small talk, you must find ways to incorporate nonverbal communication to help make your message clearer.
Our body language, mannerisms, and facial expressions all add to what we’re saying and thinking. This is why it is so important to be mindful of your nonverbal communication, as it helps to add on to your verbal statements, as well as helps you to say things you struggle to put into words. Our nonverbal expressions show when we’re happy, upset, or uncomfortable in a situation.
The Value of Nonverbal Communication
You may be thinking to yourself, How on earth does your body language impact a conversation, especially when you’re merely engaging in small talk? However, how you use your body language, mannerisms, and facial expressions tells other people a lot more than you realize. These are the five roles nonverbal communication can play in your conversation:
- Repetition. Our nonverbal communication can repeat and emphasize the words we verbally say. When your body language and facial expressions reflect the words you’re saying and the tone you’re speaking in, it essentially repeats the message you’re trying to get across. This emphasizes to the other person what you’re trying to say to them, and they can tell you mean what you’re saying verbally.
- Contradiction. On the other hand, your nonverbal communication could contradict what you’re saying verbally. Your mouth may be saying one thing, but your mannerisms and body language are saying another thing. This can be confusing for the people you talk to, as they don’t know whether you really mean what you say or not. For example, you may be saying you’re upset with someone, but you’re smiling with a happy facial expression. This makes it seem as though you aren’t genuinely upset.
- Substitution. When you’re experiencing a situation that is hard to talk about, all you can use is nonverbal communication. We often find ourselves overwhelmed by emotions and thoughts that we don’t know the right words to use to express ourselves. This makes it valuable to substitute verbal communication for more nonverbal tactics. You can say a lot with your body language, as well as show others how you feel. If people can see that your body language is closed off in a situation, it may show them that you’re feeling uncomfortable.
- Complementing. Using nonverbal communication can even complement what we’re trying to communicate. As with repetition, using body language to emphasize your message can make it a lot more impactful. For example, you may be consoling a friend, and after you say kind words, you give them a hug. This action complements the words you’ve used, and they help your friend to feel even more special and heard.
- Accent. Sometimes words aren’t enough, and you have to use nonverbal communication to accent what you’ve said. Nonverbal techniques can often act as statements that bring attention to your words and force people to listen. For example, if a parent is really frustrated with their child’s behavior, they may reprimand them and stomp their foot afterward, to show how truly frustrated they are. Actions can speak louder than words sometimes, and when people see physical movements and gestures as you speak, it adds on to what you’re trying to communicate verbally.
After reading how nonverbal communication adds value to your words, you may discover that you use it on a daily basis in your life. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you use your body language to communicate with others. Not only do we use our nonverbal communication when talking to others, but other people use it around us. Believe it or not, but you interpret people’s body language toward you all day, and this often happens subconsciously without you even noticing it.
Types of Nonverbal Communication
There are various types of nonverbal communication that can mean different things. We all use nonverbal communication on a daily basis without even realizing it. You may consider nonverbal communication as how you use your hands as you speak or the facial expressions you use, but nonverbal communication can be exemplified in many different ways.
We don’t realize all the various ways we use nonverbal communication within every conversation we engage in. Here are some different types of nonverbal communication that you’ve used at some point in conversation.
- Facial expressions: This is one of the more obvious ways of using nonverbal communications, as we all use facial expressions to reflect how we feel. Some of us may have more pronounced facial expressions than others, but no matter how subtle or obvious your facial expressions are, they are a clear way to communicate with people. If you want to show someone you’re angry with them, your facial expressions display this rage. When people are quiet because they’re going through emotions, you can tell by their facial expressions what they’re feeling.
- Hand gestures: Our hands communicate with others so much more than we give them credit for. Using hand gestures is a clear way to accent your communication or even retrieve someone’s attention altogether. If you want to welcome someone and beckon them toward you, you can use hand gestures to show them you want to talk to them. If you want to bring peoples’ attention to something, you can point or wave your hands. You can also use hand gestures in a more subtle way, by using them during conversation to add on to your words.
- Posture and body placement: Consider your posture and body placement as you speak to someone. Something that seems so small and insignificant can have some real meaning behind it. When you have a slumped posture, your arms are covering yourself, and your feet and entire body are pointed away from the person you’re talking to, it signifies that you don’t want to be in conversation with the person you’re talking to. It may be a sign that you’re uncomfortable or disinterested. When your posture is good, you’re standing upright, and your body placement is open and welcoming, it indicates that you’re confident and happy to be talking to the other person.
- Touching and space: Another form of nonverbal connection is how you touch people and use space. There are ways you can communicate through physical touch which don’t have to be seen as intimate and romantic. When you give your child a pat on the back for doing a good job, it shows that you are communicating your pride. The way you utilize space with your body also says a lot about what you’re thinking. For example, if you stand far away from someone, with your back facing them, it can show that you don’t want to be near that individual.
- Tone: Nonverbal communication is not only expressed through physical movements and actions, but also through the tone of voice you use. How you say things makes a big impact on the message you’re trying to get across. As people, we listen to the tone people use when they talk to us as it can portray exactly how the other person is feeling. If you use a stern and assertive tone, the listener will know that you’re being serious in the situation. However, if your tone is happy and calm, they know that you’re engaging in a friendly conversation.
All of these nonverbal forms of communication occur naturally when we speak to people. We use every single one of these nonverbal communication tactics, and it enhances and influences the messages or ideas we verbally communicate with people. Being aware of how you use your nonverbal body language can help you to utilize it in a more effective way.
How to Utilize Nonverbal Communication
If you want to take your communication to the next level when you’re engaging in small talk, you should consider utilizing nonverbal communication. You may find yourself saying one thing verbally, but your nonverbal communication portrays something different. You want to be able to use your body language to emphasize and add on to the message that you want to get across.
Positive Body Language
If you want to work toward utilizing body language to improve your communication, you should know how to make the most of positive body language.
There is a way for you to positively portray yourself by merely using the right type of body language. You may be wondering how on earth you can portray positive energy with the use of your body, but the answer is actually quite simple.
By opening up your body, using space wisely, and giving the right facial expressions, you can exude a more positive energy. Positive body language may be something you’ve never actively noticed before, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t had an influence on your behavior before.
The SOFTEN Technique
One way you can work on displaying more positive body language is by utilizing the SOFTEN technique. This technique can remind you to be more positive and friendly to others as you speak to them. It can be so easy to forget about your mannerisms and facial expressions, which may make you appear in a way you never intended. When you find yourself forgetting how to express yourself nonverbally, you should consider the SOFTEN technique, which stands for the following:
- Smile: A simple smile can go a long way when you’re trying to make a good impression. When you smile at someone as you talk to them, it makes you appear friendlier and softer.
- Open posture: You should then consider what your posture is like at that moment. Are you slouched and closed off? If you notice that you are, you should work on opening your posture so that you can appear more welcoming.
- Forward lean: If you’re trying to get closer to the person you’re speaking to, don’t be afraid to get close to them. By appropriately leaning forward, it shows you’re more engaged in the conversation. When using this body language, ensure the other person is comfortable and happy; you don’t want to invade someone else’s personal space.
- Touch: Using touch effectively within your conversation to emphasize your point can be quite effective, e.g., giving them a tap on the shoulder, hugging them, or giving them a pat on the back. As with leaning forward, you need to be able to know when it’s appropriate to touch the person you’re talking to. If they are uncomfortable with being touched, avoid doing it.
- Eye contact: Eye contact is a valuable way to show someone you’re present in the moment. When we give eye contact to the people we’re speaking to, it shows that we’re focused on them and the conversation at hand. Different forms of eye contact can also communicate different things to people. For example, you may give a flirty glance to your crush that you want to have a date with.
- Nod: You’re in a conversation with someone, you’re listening to every word they’re saying, and you want to find a way to show them that you’re attentively listening to them. A great way to show that you’re engaged and focused on what someone has to say is by nodding your head as they speak. Using nods can also signify other forms of communication that are often positive, such as greeting and agreeing.