The Role of Body Language and Nonverbal Communication when Having Difficult Conversations by Violet Dhu

Effective communication is a vital aspect of any healthy relationship, whether it is personal or professional. However, having difficult conversations can be challenging, and emotions can often run high. In such situations, nonverbal communication plays a crucial role in conveying emotions and messages. Body language and nonverbal cues can often speak louder than words and can have a significant impact on the outcome of a conversation. Good nonverbal communication can help with difficult conversations and poor or inappropriate nonverbal communication can escalate a difficult conversation.

  1. The impact of nonverbal communication: 

One of the most important impacts of nonverbal communication is that it can convey emotions and attitudes. These nonverbal cues can convey your confidence, emotions, and credibility, and can greatly impact the way that your message is received by others. 

Research shows that nonverbal cues can have a greater impact on the outcome of a negotiation than the actual words used. For example, a confident and assertive body language can convey a sense of strength and power and can lead to better negotiation outcomes. Conversely, a lack of eye contact, a weak handshake, or a nervous tone of voice can signal weakness, uncertainty, and anxiety, and can negatively affect the outcome of a negotiation or interview.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book “What The Dog Saw”, also observed the impact of nonverbal communication on job interview success. 

  1. Enhancing your message: 

By using effective body language and nonverbal communication, you can enhance the impact of your message during difficult conversations. For example, maintaining good eye contact, using an open posture, paying attention to your facial expressions, and paying attention to your tone of voice.

By using effective body language and nonverbal communication, you can enhance the impact of your message and increase the chances of a positive outcome. 

Empathy and active listening are key to successful difficult conversations and are best displayed nonverbally. We have all seen someone who has stated “I am listening”, when their nonverbal communication clearly shows us that they are not listening.

  1. Conveying confidence: 

Confidence is an important aspect of effective communication, and body language and nonverbal cues can help to convey this confidence during difficult conversations. By maintaining good posture, speaking clearly, and avoiding nervous gestures, you can project a sense of confidence and authority.

Additionally, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the topic or issue being discussed and to be prepared with relevant information or data to support your points. This can help you to speak with conviction and authority, which can further enhance your confidence. 

It’s important to remain calm and composed, even in the face of challenging or difficult situations. Taking deep breaths and practicing mindfulness can help you to stay centered and focused, which can in turn boost your confidence.

I have always stated that “it is best to remain calm while under fire”.

  1. Avoiding distractions: 

It is also important to be aware of the nonverbal cues that can be distracting or unprofessional during difficult conversations. This can include fidgeting, avoiding eye contact, or speaking too quickly. 

By avoiding distractions and staying focused during difficult conversations, you can demonstrate your professionalism and commitment to resolving the issue at hand. This can help to build rapport, increase understanding, and facilitate a more productive conversation.

I remember a consultant taking a brief from me and his attention was focused on his phone and messages that he was receiving and calls that he was missing. I chose not to work with that consultant.

  1. Conclusion: 

In conclusion, nonverbal communication is an essential component of effective communication, especially during difficult conversations. By paying attention to your own body language, as well as the nonverbal cues of others, you can improve your communication skills and build stronger relationships with colleagues, friends, and family members. Remember to use positive nonverbal cues such as good posture, sustained eye contact, and active listening techniques, while avoiding distractions and nonverbal cues that can be unprofessional or distracting. By doing so, you can create a more positive and productive environment for difficult conversations, and achieve more positive outcomes.

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