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Improving Nonverbal Communication

Non-verbal communication plays a significant role in the communication process. Most of the times, words are not able to pass on the message as effectively as nonverbal communication like gestures, facial expressions, body language, voice modulation, eye contacts etc. This is because words form a very low percent of the total communication process while the rest depends on the nonverbal way of communicating. If we are not good in our nonverbal communication skills then our communication cannot be perfect.

We cannot get the desired results and in extreme cases due to our inappropriate nonverbal communication there can be misinterpretation of what we want to convey. This can lead to misunderstandings. Therefore it is extremely important for us to improve our nonverbal communication skills. We can do this in the following ways: Maintain eye contacts – If you are speaking with confidence but are not able to make good eye contacts, the listener would automatically be informed that what you are speaking is not credible.

Apart from all the measures of improving nonverbal communication skills, eye contact is a significant tool especially for the criminal justice professionals to understand whether the person they are interrogating is speaking the truth or not. It has been rightly pointed out in Wadsworth / Thomson Learning that, “The eyes are often been called “the windows to the soul. ”…. The key for a criminal justice professional is to learn to “read” those visual clues so that information is not overlooked. ” (2003, p. 73)

Try to remove physical barriers of communication while communicating – When speaking to someone or even while listening to someone make sure that there are no physical barriers in the form of living or non-living objects. You should be able to see the person you are communicating with and vice versa. At least the face, which is the most exposed part of a human beings body, should be clearly visible. Suppose you are speaking to a mother whose six-year-old child is sitting on her lap. It will not be possible to study her facial expression and body language clearly.

So to improve the quality of communication it would be better to make a separate sitting arrangement for the child. Similarly, if there is a curtain that is hampering your visibility then you will have to set it aside so that there is no barrier between you and the person you are communicating with. Make use of appropriate posture while talking – Whether you are standing or sitting while communicating or whether you are speaking to one person or a group of people, be sure to use appropriate posture so that the person or people you are communicating with are assured that you are taking active interest in the conversation.

Your posture should indicate that you are actively involved in the conversation even when you are not speaking much. Suppose you are in a meeting with a group of people. If you sit lazily on the chair or lean back on the chair in a manner as if you are watching TV, the whole meeting would be negatively affected. The ideal thing should be to sit straight and look interested throughout the meeting. Appropriately decode what the speaker is conveying – This means apart from maintaining good eye contacts, try to decode what the person speaking to you has not conveyed through words but communicated through his facial expressions and gestures.

This means if a woman whose husband is stationed in some other country due to work, says that she does not miss him much because she is busy with her children all day, with moist eyes, you can make out how badly she misses him even when she is speaking just the opposite. Similarly if a waiter spills water by mistake on a customer’s clothes and apologizes. The customer might say, “it’s alright” but the frown on his face and the tone of speaking would make it clear that he did not like it at all. These are the factors on which the criminal justice professionals should focus on to build strong nonverbal communication skills.

Don’t misinterpret – If you are interacting with a person from a different culture, be sure about the way people of his culture interact before misunderstanding him. For e. g. we generally nod our head upside down in affirmation. But in southern part of India, people nod their head that way when they mean ‘no’ and vice versa. So if we are travelling in a bus or if we are in a library and by chance the only empty seat is next to a south Indian, and if we ask, ‘excuse me, is anyone sitting here? ’ He will nod his head upside down and say ‘no’.

We will naturally be confused whether he means yes or no. So gestures like this can create misunderstanding and specially in such situations where you have not much scope to make out that the person belongs to a culture where our gesture of ‘yes’ means ‘no. ’ Try to clarify if you are confused – In the situations like the one mentioned above, instead of remaining confused and without a seat, it is better to clarify. “If nonverbal cues contradict the spoken message, you should politely seek more information. ” (Wadsworth / Thomson Learning, 2003, p.77)

After further probing, you will automatically be able to know that whether your perception of what was being communicated was accurate or not. So whether it is day to day communication or communication for a specific purpose, like the one adopted by the criminal justice professionals, if we improve our nonverbal communication skills, the outcome would be more satisfying and the rate of success would naturally be higher.

References

Wadsworth / Thomson Learning. (2003). Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Nonverbal Communication.

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