Does Your Boss Care What You Wear? Nonverbal Communication: Your Communication Kit

We talk to connect with people. We make energetic and loudly meaningful noises from the moment we’re born. Most of our communication, though, involves more than words. Many people find it easier and more meaningful to communicate visually than through their other senses.

For most of us, the way we make sense of the world is mostly visual. Our visual input is huge. We watch films and video games for entertainment, go to the theatre or sports events, decorate our houses and buy clothes, our eyes constantly open for the way things look. Beauty calms us and makes us happy.

Even our language is full of visual references. We talk or write about having bright ideas and may describe the experience of being let down as “seeing someone in their true colours.”   

Painters, sculptors and filmmakers, fashion (and kitchen) designers, interior decorators and gardeners all rely heavily on our love of visual stimulation. Even writers provide their work on the page.

Connect visually
Since sight is so important to us, it makes sense to watch out for ways to increase our connection with each other through visual means.

Nonverbal communication tells us more about meaning than the words we choose. Mehrabian found that over 80% of communication about emotive subjects came through body language, gesture, facial expression and posture, so it pays to think about the way you ( and others) use body language.Don't fall into the traps set by clever salesmen!

All of us, even (or especially) children are amazingly quick to recognize when your body language is different from the words you say. That’s why they complain when you keep glancing at your iPad. They know you’re not really giving them your attention.

How to spot a “looker.”

A looker may gesture constantly and speak quickly as though she’s describing a film. Maybe her eyes turn upwards up as she talks, as she accesses her visual memory. She pays attention to her clothes and hair and likes her house decorated beautifully.

Seven ways to communicate with lookers.
  •  Take care that your nonverbal signals match the mood of what you say. Smile when you’re angry and you look false. It’s almost impossible to completely fake your body language, unless you’re a brilliant actor, so don’t try.
  • Think happy thoughts about the person as you talk. If you tell yourself you like them (or just their shoes or hat) the warm thought will come through in your expression. Your eyes will crinkle, just so, and your lips relax. (NB muscles of mouth). If your mind is full of fury, you may find yourself pointing, folding your arms or standing too close. You just can’t manage all those little give-away signs at once.
  • Use verbal imagery to a looker. Talk about being on the same page with them, tell them to watch out for a bright idea you’re about to explain. Ask them to let you paint the picture.
  •  At work, they may prefer an email approach to a phone call. But, take care with your emails: they can be a minefield of misunderstanding. Read every one over at least twice before you hit the “send” button.
  •  Check your appearance, especially if your boss is a looker. A hem that’s falling down, baby sick on your shoulder, a skirt that’s too tight: she’ll spot them all.
  •  Describe things with pictures and diagrams and put them in writing. Verbal directions may be too confusing. Write things down whenever you can.
  •  Use colour carefully. Red is energetic, but it can look aggressive. Blue is relaxed but can seem cold. Yellow looks bright and cheerful, especially in winter, but too much can tire the eyes. Use colour to match the mood you want to convey.

I write this Communication Blog

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Frances Evesham: on the run around Europe for years, with only a husband, three children and a succession of opinionated cats to keep me out of trouble. Somerset stopped me in my tracks. Now I walk in the country and breathe sea air. I will get around to cleaning the house soon.

I've been a speech therapist, a professional communication fiend and a road sweeper. I sometimes work in the criminal courts to uphold fair questioning of people with special needs.

I smell the roses, lavender and rosemary as I cook with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other. Writing historical romances and books on communication leaves enough time to enjoy bad jokes and puns and wish I’d kept on with the piano lessons.