Tips for Responding to Nonverbal Communication

Be aware. As you approach your next meeting, keep in mind that all this nonverbal communication is taking place. Notice, but don’t respond to, various cues expressed by meeting participants. It is helpful to develop a sensitivity to nonverbal behaviors before you begin responding in any way.

Stop, don’t assume. Approach people with caution; you can never be sure you fully understand the meaning of their nonverbal actions. Asserting that you know what someone is thinking from their nonverbal behavior may be seen as arrogant. And if you are wrong, it will be a major setback to your relationship with this person as well as with other team members.

Look for consistent responses. It is usually not necessary to respond the first time you notice a specific nonverbal cue. However, if you become aware that the person consistently responds in a particular way in similar situations, you may consider responding in some way. (“Marco, if I am reading you correctly, it seems as if you are not comfortable with the way we are moving on this issue. Is that true?”)

Look for patterns. If you see several members responding nonverbally to a presentation, something significant may be happening. If you observe negative reactions such as heads moving side to side, or people pushing back from the table or rolling their eyes, you can tentatively assume that there are some significant disagreements with or questions about this presentation. Your response might be to intervene with something like, “Gina, let me stop you here because I sense people have some questions about what you have said so far.” You can then ask an overhead question to the whole group or use a direct question to one of the nonverbal responders. (“Does anyone have questions or comments for Gina?” or “Roberto, do you have some questions about what has been said thus far?”)

Make it a question. Since you can never be sure your interpretation of the nonverbal behavior is accurate, it is always best to approach the person with a question. A question gives the person an opportunity to disagree (“No, Glenn, I have no problems with what has been said”) or to join the discussion (“Yes, Glenn, as a matter of fact, I think we are moving in the wrong direction on this issue”). You can book Anubha’s Session and contact anubha@prismphilosophy.com, www.prismphilosophy.com

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