How to Use Non-Verbal Communication Effectively

Experts say that less than 10 percent of communication between human beings takes place verbally. If that's true then body language, or non-verbal communication, is doing most of the talking. Understand the non-verbal cues of others and become more aware of the messages that your own behavior may be sending. Here are some ideas about using non-verbal communication effectively.

Look at their face. Facial expressions reveal much, but it's not always clear what that expression means to onlookers. Remember that the Mona Lisa's smile has been debated for centuries. Some people frown when concentrating or squint while listening intently.

Pay attention to their body. Unconscious body movements convey much of our thoughts and feelings. Young women and girls who are flirting will make "grooming" motions, such as caressing their hair, licking their lips or smoothing their clothes. Men will flex muscles, stick out their chests and cock their heads in the same courting scene. Legs and arms crossed indicate a protective attitude, while hands and legs in a relaxed, open position show availability and trust. A tall, upright posture indicates confidence and health, while a head-down slouch suggests the opposite.

Respect each other's personal space. Most people, unless they are very intimate with each other, do not like another person to stand, sit, or lie too close to them. A rule of thumb is to leave at least 12 inches between your body and someone else's, especially with strangers or in public places.

Touch others only if it's invited or you are intimate. Like invading someone's space, unwelcome touches, caresses or even bumps can cause social discomfort. Unintentional body contact can show disregard for others; intentional, unsolicited brushes, rubs, arm touches and knee bumps can be interpreted as harassment. Shaking hands is the most acceptable and problem-free form of social touching.

Watch physical adornment for cues such as availability, attention-seeking or attention-deflecting. Men and women who dress in bright colors, wear eye-catching fashions, show a lot of skin, cover themselves with jewelry and bathe in perfume are sending non-verbal cues that they want to be noticed.