Understanding Nonverbal Communication

Communication is more than just an exchange of dialogue. Sometimes, even the most powerful messages are unsaid or nonverbal. Nonverbal communication reminds you of what is inside another person’s mind. Emotions and thoughts are usually conveyed without the use of words or voice, but the best communicators are sensitive to its messages. Nonverbal communication includes facial expression, gestures, body language, and the use of space.

A study over at UCLA indicated that around 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues. Another study shows that the impact of a singing performance was determined seven percent on the words used, 38 percent by voice quality, and 55 percent by nonverbal communication.

Nonverbal behavior also reflects a person’s true emotions and thoughts. A speaker may try to say one thing, but his body language and the tiniest of facial expressions tells otherwise.

However, multicultural differences in body language and gestures are usually open to misinterpretation. Greeks would nod their heads when they mean "no," which we would instantly misunderstand for a "yes." Brazilians, meanwhile, would find the OK sign vulgar. With the thumb and index finger forming a circle and the three other fingers are extended, for them it means "you’re an a-hole."

With these in mind, nonverbal communication can be a vital tool in screening job candidates. If you want to determine what is really on each interviewee’s mind, you need to pay close attention to the following.

Watch their body language

People communicate on many level. Their facial expressions, eye contact, posture, hand and feet gestures, body movement, and even appearance can determine a person’s confidence level as well as the emotions conveyed. In fact, how a job applicant sits in the lobby can say a lot about his skills, strengths, weaknesses, and concerns.

Check if the verbal and nonverbal communication agree with each other

If a person says one thing but his body gesture tells you otherwise, give more weight on what he does not say. He may try to mask his thoughts by saying things differently, but his nonverbal behavior would most likely show it.

Practice reading nonverbal communication

We do not become experts in nonverbal communication overnight. Understanding this types of communication takes time and practice. The first step is to recognize the power of what is unspoken, as well as following your gut whether what the applicant said is true.

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