What is the Link Between Nonverbal Communication Habits and Your Credibility?

Guest blogger Pat Noel of Talent Development Solutions LLC continues her thoughts on Mehrabian’s 7%-38%-55% Rule. Today’s focus is on nonverbals:


Smiling, looking away, crossing your arms, leaning forward

These are all considered a part of nonverbal communication, and just one of the ways we share and send messages to others. Nonverbals constitute about 55% of what makes your communication believable to others.


A definition of nonverbal communication is ‘communication without the use of spoken words.’ I group nonverbal actions into 3 main categories: (1) body language and posture, (2) gestures, movement, and touch, and (3) facial expressions and eye contact. Nonverbals are interpreted and ‘read’ by the other parties in a conversation. It’s important to recognize that nonverbal communication can support or be in conflict with your verbal message and usually shows your true intentions and feelings. You may be mentally engaged in a conversation, but if others perceive from your nonverbals that you aren’t, that is the reality to them.


Your body language is how you position your body, like crossing your arms and legs (considered a defensive position, deflecting incoming information) or leaning forward in or away from a conversation. I include posture in this category because sitting up straight is usually perceived as being alert while slumping may give an impression of being tired or uninterested.


How you move your hands and arms, how quickly or slowly you move, and if you tend to touch someone during conversations also convey information about you and your intent. If you are speaking with someone who is very factual and methodical , but you are waving your arms around or very fidgety, your conversation partner may be distracted from hearing the message you want to share. Keep in mind that in today’s world, touching someone can be misinterpreted, possibly annoying or distracting and could have health implications for some. Be certain to give people space and respect their personal boundaries for a variety of reasons.


“The face is a picture of the mind as the eyes are its interpreter.” Cicero (106-43 B.C.)

We ‘read’ emotions on someone’s face when they are smiling, frowning, crying, or laughing but do we interpret those actions correctly? I’ve known people who cry when they are happy and people who laugh when they think something is stupid. Be aware of what your facial expressions are saying about you. Cicero probably wasn’t thinking about “poker face,” but he sure did define it for us, didn’t he? We interpret with our eyes, or eye contact. A rule of thumb is to hold connection for about 5-7 seconds before briefly looking away. If you are uncomfortable looking directly into someone else’s eyes, look at the bridge of their nose. They will think you are looking right at them!


Learn about your nonverbal ‘habits’ by asking others you trust to give you their feedback and work to be effective in all aspects of how you send messages to others without saying a word. Additionally, observing others’ nonverbals will inform your own habits. How do those around you communicate 55% of their message and is it believable?


Next month, Pat will be back to reveal more about Mehrabian’s Rule and how we can use his research to improve our communication outcomes. Subscribe here to receive all of our blogs directly to your inbox.

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