When people work on improving communication skills, they naturally focus on what they are trying to say. What’s even more important, thought, is how you say it. The entertainer Mae West once said, “I speak two languages, Body and English.”
As Mae West suggests, our gestures, facial expressions, tone, and posture combine to communicate in one language while our words communication in another. Consider a team member who answers your questions using all of the right words; however that person stares you down with intense eye contact while maintaining a posture that relays impatience. Would you consider that person to be a good communicator? What kind of impression would that make on your dental patients?
Or how about a dentist who, when confronted with tough questions from patients or staff, becomes noticeably stiff in the shoulders. And when she replies to the questions, her voice is shrill and her eyebrows are raised. Does that type of body language build trust?
Most of the time we are unaware of our body language. It is only when we pay closer attention to our emotional states that we start to understand how we communicate that emotion with our bodies.
To fine-tune your non-verbal communication, pay attention to your eye contact. Are you making eye contact, which is important for connecting to other people, and are you holding eye contact an appropriate amount of time? Also pay attention to your facial expressions. Are you smiling if smiling is appropriate? Finally, consider the tension you are holding in your body. If you are having a tough conversation with a team member, are you heightening the tension based on your stressed-out body language?
Not only pay attention to yourself, but also watch the body language of others. As you raise your awareness about the effects of non-verbal communication, the better you will be at getting your message across effectively.