Improved non-verbal communication skills can help you in multiple facets of life. People with such skills tend to thrive better in relationships at work, in social circles and with family and loved ones. Colleges and employers rate communication skills higher than other abilities, points out the United States Department of Labor. Your non-verbal communication skills reveal more about your true feelings and opinions than do your words alone. Practice non-verbal skills through exercises to help you communicate in a healthy way, especially in difficult situations.
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Your body posture, movements, facial expressions and gestures all contribute to your non-verbal communication in conjunction with eye contact and tone of voice. Watch televised discussions and note the different ways speakers behave and the emotions their actions arouse. One may lean forward to assert dominance while another may gaze submissively at the floor. Raised eyebrows can signal disbelief or surprise while a loud voice may reveal irritation or anger. Watch for groups of gestures as these give more reliable indications than do single non-verbal movements, writes Jeff Thompson, a Research Fellow at Columbia University Law School, in a PsychologyToday.com article, "Is Nonverbal Communication a Numbers Game?"
Improve your understanding of your own non-verbal behavior by observing yourself in a mirror. Practice a forth-coming speech, recreate your part in a recent conversation or watch as you talk on the telephone. Notice how your face and body convey your emotions. Check whether you gesture aggressively by finger-pointing or rolling your eyes. Monitor the pitch and volume of your voice. Repeat the exercise using different non-verbal behaviors.
Use group exercises and acting games to improve your non-verbal skills. On slips of paper, list single emotions like anger, despair, desire, annoyance or amusement. Distribute written sentences. For example, the instructions for peeling an orange. Then, have each player select an emotion and use non-verbal communication to convey it as they read a sentence aloud. Have the group identify the emotion. Another simple group activity involves allowing one person to monitor a discussion between two others, reporting back on their non-verbal behaviors and its effect on the conversation.
Put in some practice with a domestic pet, using facial expressions, gestures and eye-movements to indicate whether you plan to feed him or take him for a walk. Notice whether you achieve the correct response. If your pet becomes confused, you may be offering mixed messages. Many animals are skilled in non-verbal communication. You can elicit a wide variety of emotions and actions in a horse without using words. For example, changes to your stance and facial expressions can cause a horse to back away in fear.