Non-Verbal Cues: Not the Whole Story
There are some important benefits to understanding and recognizing unspoken expressions and gestures that others make. This non-verbal component of communication helps us become more aware how the people around us are feeling, it can enhance our relationships and allow us to feel more empathy for the people we interact with. Here are some things to consider about non-verbal communication that can get in your way or negatively impact how you interact with others.
Forgetting to Listen
People are complex and the only sure way to determine if you are reading their non-verbal cues properly is to talk to them about how they’re feeling. Observing non-verbal cues is by no means a perfect science. As with anything related to human interactions, it should be utilized within a larger context of communication.
We’re all guilty of occasionally checking our phone during a conversation. However, this is a form of non-verbal communication that indicates to the other person that you’re not paying attention to them. Habitually choosing to interact with your phone over your friend or family member will likely take a toll on your relationships.
Jumping to Conclusions
In some ways we all have that “gut feeling” response when meeting new people and they’re probably mostly judgments based on non-verbal signals. Though these feelings may often be right and should be noted (because they may be providing useful information) they are also subject to deeper biases and stereotypes that we may not even be aware we have. Therefore, it’s important to recognize that you are making a snap judgment about someone (because we all do it!) and to at least attempt to understand how your beliefs might be influencing your reactions. Even though non-verbal communication is very useful for our understanding of the social world, we need to remember that our first (and even later) impressions may be wrong. We also need to remain open to reevaluating our perceptions and judgements of people around us as we get to know them better.