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How to understand body language…

Dear H2

Is it true that a huge proportion of what we communicate comes not from the words we're speaking, but from our 'boby language'?.

If this is the case, then I'd like to be able to understand and use body language more at work. I think it could help me when interracting with customers, and when in meetings with colleagues. I sometimes get a hunch that people aren't taking what I say seriously and would like to be able to know more by observing their more subtle behaviour.

Can you give me some tips?

Thanks, E

Dear E

Yes, the sound of your voice, your posture, your eye contact and your gestures are collectively known as "non-verbal" communication - and it is thought that these can account for over 90% of what you communicate to others!

Learning to understand the non-verbal elements of communication and being aware of your own body language can give you a distinct advantage in many situations. There are numerous books and training courses available that will help you with this (H2 offers bespoke training/coaching in Communication Skills and your local library will have a selection of books on the topic). Whatever you decide is the best way for you to learn, we recommend that you also raise your awareness by focusing and reflecting on your own observations. A word of caution though - remember to look for clusters of clues, as interpreting one piece of non-verbal communication on its own can often be inaccurate and/or misleading. For example, leaning forward can just as easily be an indication of interest, or of aggression; and looking up can either be seen as a sign of boredom, or that the person is simply thinking. The best way to get the most likely interpretation is to allow your sub-conscious to piece together everything that you see and hear.

Finally, we believe that positive non-verbal communication often comes naturally as a result of good intentions, and being honest with yourself and with others. It can be easy to become paranoid about looking out for minute gestures and non-verbal signals in others. You can also come across as 'fake' if you are obviously self-conscious about your own body language. If you get the feeling that your colleagues aren't taking you seriously, then perhaps you should follow your instincts, and try asking them some questions that will enable you to specifically 'check out' their feelings.

Best of luck!

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