Have you ever walked into an important meeting and ‘felt’ the tension in the air? To some degree it could be your own nervousness, but it is a fact that we pick up on non-verbal cues when dealing with other people. Studies done since the 1960’s have indicated that non-verbal communication makes up between 65-90% of face-to-face interaction.
As leaders, it’s important that we minimize the impact of this effect. Having a good ‘poker face’ is important for a manager, as so much of what we are thinking can be conveyed by what’s on our face. What shows in our eyes, or if we smile or frown, can send a message tht may not match our words. This can be especially important when dealing in an international situation where cultural considerations are important.
Some people ‘talk’ with thier hands, and this is another area where we may want to take care. Gestures are an important way to communicate, but they can also send unintended messages.
To the point of a ‘tense’ room – posture can convey quite a bit of information. Body language can clearly seem closed off or welcoming. A rigid posture may send an unwelcome message, while a relaxed posture would do the opposite.
Even how we dress could be sending unintended messages. There have been many studies on the effects of color, so it may be something we want to look into before dressing for an important meeting.
As leaders we need to understand the impact of non-verbal communication. We should try to overcome it for ourself, and learn to effectively read it in others.