I gave this talk at my local Montgomery Country Business Alliance (MCBA) meeting in June on Interpersonal Skills. Here are the notes from that talk!
MCBA Talk on Interpersonal Skills – Ken Carfagno 6/21/22
This is a HUGE topic to cover! I will barely scratch the surface in 30 minutes. Therefore, let me give you a few books to check out on your own. My story: I was a selfish, shy, introverted engineer when I left PA in 2000. Teresa and I joined Amway in 2002 and I started devouring books on business, personal development, people skills, goal-setting. Here are a few of my favorites in the people skills / developing meaningful relationships genre.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Wealth of Connection
Every day we communicate with our family, friends, colleagues and even strangers, but only a small percentage of what we communicate during each of these conversations is verbal. Research shows that the vast majority of what we convey through our interactions with others is innate and instinctual, known as nonverbal communication. Nonverbal behavior like body movements and posture, facial expressions, eye contact, hand gestures and tone of voice all contribute to how we communicate and understand each other. Often, we are unaware of our participation in interpersonal, nonverbal communication because these actions are inherent to how we converse as humans and ingrained into our daily lives.
For business professionals, clearly and effectively communicating with clients, customers and teammates is vital to the success of the company. Yet, all too often business is conducted via phone, chat and other forms of communication where these nonverbal context clues are lost. Conversely, using high quality, face-to-face video conferencing technology guarantees that nonverbal communication is maintained during business-critical conversations.
There have been a number of studies on the complex topic of nonverbal communication with varying results. However, most experts agree that 70 to 93 percent of all communication is nonverbal.
One of the most well-known research projects on nonverbal communication was led by Dr. Mehrabian in the 1960s. In his first experiment, subjects were given three recordings of the word “maybe” — one to convey disfavor, one to convey favor and one to convey neutrality. Participants were then shown photos of female faces expressing the same three emotions and were told to determine the emotions of both the recordings and the photos. The subjects more accurately guessed the emotion conveyed in the photos by a margin of 3:2.
In a second study, Dr. Mehrabian’s subjects listened to recordings of nine words. Three were designed to convey affinity (“honey,” “thanks” and “dear”), three were meant to convey neutrality (“oh,” “really” and “maybe”) and three conveyed dislike (“don’t,” “terrible” and “brute”). The recordings were of speakers reading each word three times, each with a different tone: positive, neutral and negative. The result? A subject’s response to each word was dependent more on the inflection of the voice than the connotation of the word itself. These studies led Dr. Mehrabian to devise a formula to describe how the mind determines meaning. He concluded that the interpretation of a message is 7 percent verbal, 38 percent vocal and 55 percent visual. The conclusion was that 93 percent of communication is “nonverbal” in nature.
7 Examples of Nonverbal Communication in the Workplace
“Imagine your co-worker storms into her office after lunch. She’s red-faced, tight-lipped and speaks to no one. She throws her briefcase on the desk, plops down in her chair and glares out the window. You ask, ‘Are you all right?’ She snaps back in an angry tone, ‘I’m fine!’ Which message do you believe: Her nonverbal signals (behavior and voice tone), or her verbal one (words alone)? Most likely, you believe the nonverbal message,” says Darlene Price, author of Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results. Price says studies show that when messages are mismatched, most recipients will believe the nonverbal message over the spoken words. That’s why being aware of nonverbal cues, especially in the workplace, is so important to effectively communicate with your colleagues, partners and clients. You need to be able to pick up on certain nonverbal cues and mannerisms in the workplace for effective communication. Here are seven forms of nonverbal communication in the workplace and how you can use them to improve your communication skills.
1. Vocal Tone
Speaking style, pitch, rate and volume all contribute to understanding the speaker. Changes in vocal tone during a conversation are also a noticeable nonverbal cue that contributes to your understanding of the person speaking. For example, during a friendly conversation with your boss, you ask her if you can take next week off. She says “Sure. Take all the time off you need,” but her tone of voice went from warm and sweet before your question to cold and sharp when she replied. Although her words seem positive, her tone of voice indicates she is not happy about your request.
Are you shaking your knee, biting your nails or playing with your pen very noticeably as someone else talks in a meeting? This may express to the speaker you are bored or nervous or are disinterested. According to Jim Blythe, author of Consumer Behaviour, fidgeting is a displacement behavior and external release for whatever you are feeling within.
3. Facial expressions
Since facial expressions are closely tied to our emotions, they reveal what we are thinking and are perhaps our biggest nonverbal communicators in everyday life. Imagine pitching a new product to a client with a fearful and worried look on your face or with a lack of eye contact.This would convey to your client that you have little faith in the product. Instead, if you really want to sell your product, show positive energy and enthusiasm with your facial expressions by allowing your face to be animated and smiling as you talk. The excitement on your face will help get the customer excited about your new product.
4. Head movements
Head movements are especially rich conveyors of communication and one of the easiest nonverbal cues to understand. Certain head movements tend to be culture-specific, such as nodding in agreement for within western cultures. For example, when presenting in a meeting, you can gauge participants’ understanding and interest in your presentation by observing their head movements. If they are shaking their head in a “no” manner, you may need to pause and ask if anyone has any questions to try to understand if they are confused or in disagreement with you. Conversely, if meeting participants are actively nodding their heads in a “yes” manner, it is a good indication they are engaged and understand what you’re trying to communicate.
5. Hand gestures
Hand gestures punctuate the spoken word and can offer useful context about both the speaker and what they are saying. Sometimes hand gestures give clues to the speaker’s emotional state. Trembling hands could mean the person is anxious or lying. Animated, grand hand gestures could indicate the person is excited or passionate about what she is discussing. Other times hand gestures give literal meaning to the spoken words. Your boss may give you very detailed verbal instructions about a task with added hand gestures to reinforce his spoken words. For example, he says, “I need three circular objects placed over there.” As he speaks these words, he gestures with his hands by holding up three fingers, followed by drawing a circle in the air and finally pointing to where he wants them.
6. Body posture
Body posture can be used to determine a participant’s degree of attention or involvement during a conversation. Bad posture, like slouching, may indicate the listener is bored or uninterested in the conversation. In contrast, if the person you’re speaking to is standing or sitting still, upright and leaning forward, they are signaling that they are focused, attentive and engaged in the conversation. Body posture can also give hints about personality characteristics, such as whether a person is confident, happy, friendly or submissive.
7. Physical distance
Physical distance between people can set the tone for the conversation. An employee who comes extremely close to speak with you while you’re seated at your desk may indicate they have something confidential to say. Other times, getting extremely close or touching someone as you speak could be considered intrusive or even hostile. However, physical distance can be misleading since different cultures require different amounts of physical distance for communicating in the workplace. Most North Americans prefer at least 18 inches of personal space. Anything closer is viewed as too intimate in a work environment. A coworker from South America, on the other hand, may be comfortable getting much closer to talk.
Nonverbal Application in the 2022 Virtual Workforce
With so many working virtually, the subtle non vocal queues they give off is amplified. Can you tell when a participant has the camera facing them but they are obviously doing something else and highly unengaged. What do they communicate? Do you notice another participant that is engaging through facial gestures and body posture (like leaning forward)? What do they communicate? They are engaged. It's no different than the corporate meeting where 8 of the 10 participants are checked out on their phones or laptops. They communicate disinterest.
Check out my interview with the CBF Founder, entitled "A Buffalo Charges the Storm with Debbie Sardone". Debbie is offering free consultations to listeners of this show through the Smart Cleaning School Resources Page at smartcleaningschool.com/resources to see if CBF could be the right solution for you.
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