body language

More Than Words

Did you know that only 7% of communication is ever done through spoken words? Effective communication is about more than words - it is about body language, a tone of voice, and so much more. A deep understanding of communication is essential to any successful agent's business, so here are my top 5 tips to enhance your communication skills. 

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1. Be an active observer of your environment. Many of us are taught the skill of active listening but ignore the skill of active observation writing it off as an inherent skill. While it is true that some people are inherently better observers than others, like most skills, it can be learned and improved. Just as hearing is not the same thing as listening, looking is not the same thing as observing. In order to effectively observe, you must put in the effort and intention in your mind to understand what is before you. 

2. Observing in context matters. Sure, observation helps, but without context - actions can easily be misinterpreted. For example, during a job interview, it would make sense for someone to fidget nervously at the beginning of the interview and for it to go away as the conversation goes on. But if you notice that they begin to nervously fidget again during a certain line of questioning, you likely said something that triggered that action. 

3. Try to establish baseline behaviors and get to know personal cues.  While you want to ensure that you maintain a professional relationship with your clients, it is also important to spend time getting to know them and establishing a relationship and rapport with them. Body language can easily be misinterpreted if you aren't aware of someone's baseline. For example, I frequently put my hands on my chin when I am concentrating/thinking, which can be interpreted as disinterest; however, in my case, it is when I am most interested. Anyone that knows me well knows this mannerism about me and what it cues, but had they not taken the time to get to know this about me, they may misinterpret and communicate with me ineffectively. 

4. Be mindful of your own nonverbal cues. In addition to observing others, you must be aware and mindful of your own nonverbal cues. Over time, many of us develop habits and mannerisms that we don't even realize. Find someone (a co-worker, friend, assistant, etc.) to help you be aware and hold you accountable of potentially negative nonverbal cues so you can communicate more effectively. 

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5. See the triggers. Once you have established the baseline behaviors and understanding of nonverbal cues, it is important that you are noticing exactly when in conversations and/or the chain of events that the cues occur. What is triggering the action? That is what you must address. 

Effective communication is about far more than exchanging information. It is about understanding the emotions and the intentions, not just the words. Communication renders itself ineffective when it becomes about winning or losing as opposed to coming to an agreeable solution for all parties involved. In order to communicate effectively, you must be able to both clearly convey your message as well as actively listen to the other party.