Body language is defined as the process of communicating nonverbally through conscious or unconscious gestures and movements. It is stated that our communication consists of 35 percent verbal communication and 65 percent non-verbal communication. Moreover, body language is typically an instinctive rather than conscious action. Given that non-verbal communication makes up such a large portion of our total communication, it is important to be cognizant of not only our own body language but that of others to ensure we are truly communicating as intended.
As discussed by Edward G. Wertheim, Ph.D. in The Importance of Effective Communication, non-verbal communication can play five roles:
- Repetition: It repeats and often strengthens the message you’re making verbally.
- Contradiction: It can contradict the message you’re trying to convey, thus indicating to your listener that you may not be telling the truth.
- Substitution: It can substitute for a verbal message.
- Complementing: It may add to or complement your verbal message.
- Accenting: It may accent or underline a verbal message.
Types of non-verbal communication:
- Facial expressions: Real and genuine smiles are seen in the eyes not the mouth.
- Body movement and posture: Crossed arms and legs can signal resistance. Standing up straight with shoulders back illustrates a position of power whereas slouching displays anxiety and isolation.
- Gestures: Raised eyebrows are a sign of discomfort and excessive head nodding can signal anxiety regarding approval.
- Eye contact: Holding eye contact for longer than normal can be a sign that someone is trying to overcompensate and cover up that they aren’t being truthful.
- Touch: Is it a genuine handshake or a condescending pat on the head?
- Space: Is the person too close and not respecting the need for personal space? This can display affection or dominance depending on the situation.
- Voice: Tone and inflection are very important and can illustrate sarcasm, anger, affection, or confidence to list a few.
We are not mind readers but we do have the ability to decipher the body language of others to understand the complete message an individual is conveying. Being able to read body language also allows us to improve our awareness of an individual’s reaction to what we are saying. Remember, body language is instinctive and unintentional. Understanding this is important when evaluating even our own body language. Are you communicating as you truly intend? This is where emotional awareness comes into play. Being emotionally aware allows you to gain control over both your verbal and non-verbal communication especially in unpleasant or stressful situations.
Becca joined Aureus Group Healthcare Leadership in September 2013 and has more than 15 years of experience in the healthcare industry. With experience on the provider, payer, and insurance broker sides of healthcare, she possesses the operational, clinical, and regulatory knowledge necessary to adequately assess and screen candidates. As a recruiter, Becca focuses on healthcare administration searches across the United States with a priority focus in the Midwest. Becca graduated from East Carolina University in Greenville, NC with a bachelor’s degree in exercise sport science. She also earned a Master of Healthcare Administration as well as an MBA from the University of Maryland University College in Adelphi, MD.