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Actions speak louder than words

Non-verbal messages are often less conscious, but we tend to believe them even more than the words people use. In a normal two person conversation, the verbal component carries less than 35% of the social meaning while at least 65% is carried by non-verbal messages. We communicate by our manner of dress, physique, posture, body tension, facial expression, eye contact, tone of voice, spatial distance and touch - apart from our words.

To be effective in our communication we must be concerned with the non-verbal messages as well as the verbal ones, if not more so. Our non-verbal signals are those that very often convey and powerfully communicate acceptance or rejection, likes or dislikes, interest or boredom.

Feelings, in particular, are communicated more by non-verbal messages - facial expressions, smiles and tone of voice can convey emotional meanings far more readily than words. People often say one thing, and do another. Feelings shown can often be misread if not supported by verbal communication. For example, crying can be caused by sadness, pain, anger, happiness, grief or confusion. It is therefore difficult to make accurate judgements about the feelings of others unless verbal and non-verbal communications reinforce each other. It is often easy to pre-empt or presume knowledge of another's feelings by "reading" body language or other non-verbal signs.

Let us beware and take special care that our verbal and non-verbal messages are congruent - especially in relation to our management of others on a daily basis. We often think we KNOW our staff well, and we READ INTO their actions what we BELIEVE, but it may not necessarily be the correct assumption.

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