Nonverbal communication can change the meaning of the words we speak in ways you may not realize. It’s obvious to most people that saying “have a nice day” through clenched teeth sends a contradicting message, but did you know how frequently you blink is a form of nonverbal communication?
In a business setting, what we say with our body and tone of voice can be the difference between having our ideas ignored or taken seriously. With the advent of video conferencing, our limited opportunities for nonverbal communication are more important than ever. In this guide we breakdown what nonverbal communication is, why it’s important, and the different types of nonverbal communication you can leverage for video meetings.
What is nonverbal communication?
Nonverbal communication is the body language and tone of voice we use when we communicate with others. Our posture, gestures, eye gaze, voice tone, the way we dress, even how close we stand to our conversation mate send signals that impact how our words are perceived. There are many business scenarios where what we literally say with our mouths can be bolstered (or undermined) by the nonverbal cues we send.
Why is nonverbal communication important?
Humanity’s ability to communicate is one of the core reasons we have been able to survive for over 300,000 years. Our modes of communication are complex and speaking without words is an important component to our day-to-day interactions and survival. Like when we widen our eyes at a friend across a crowded bar during an interaction with an unsavory individual, our body language and tone of voice can say so much more – and say it much more expediently - than actual words. According to Psychology Professor and nonverbal communication pioneer Albert Mehrabian, 55% of our communication is nonverbal.
The 4 types of nonverbal communication important for video meetings
The expressions displayed on our face are one of the most significant ways humans send nonverbal cues. According to David Matsumoto, Professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University and renowned expert in the field of facial expression, facial expressions can be extremely fleeting and are often unconscious. These are called micro expressions, and they can send big signals to the people reading our face, though it’s often hard for them to determine what they meant. These can be a subtle raise of the eyebrow, a quick upturn of the corner of the mouth, or a slight suck in of the bottom lip.
Other facial expressions are easier to decipher, like a giant smile that lights up the entire face or a furrowed brow that indicates you are confused or bemused. Whether big or small, our facial expressions can say something to the people we’re talking to.
Conversely, a lack of facial expression can also speak volumes and sometimes send the wrong message. With more and more meetings taking place over video, facial expressions are one of the few nonverbal cues we have to convey our meaning and intent, so it’s important to use your face to indicate that you’re invested in the meeting and the people in that meeting. To do this, make sure to affect the following facial expressions: smiling, slight raises of the eyebrow, and turning up the corners of your lips when at a “neutral” facial position.
Our eye gaze can take on different modes and tell a story – direct and indirect eye contact, sleepy eyes, even the frequency of our blinking can send signals that mean different things. Eye gaze is usually an unconscious facial expression, so it’s important to be conscious of it when you want to make sure your literal words are perceived a certain way. If you want to make sure you’re taken seriously and the person you’re speaking with feels respected, then direct eye contact is recommended. Eye gaze is another important nonverbal cue during a video call because it is one of the few ways we can communicate to our colleagues that we are actively interested in what they have to say.
Our posture can say many things to the people we communicate with. It signals to people what we think about them, and what we think about ourselves. There are 3 main types of posture one can affect in a business setting:
Open Posture - portrays friendliness and positivity. In an open position, your feet are spread wide and the palms of your hands are facing outward.
Closed Posture – gives the impression of boredom, hostility and detachment. Crossing your arms across your chest, crossing your legs away from someone, sitting in a hunched forward position, showing the backs of your hands and clenching your fists are all signs of closed posture.
Confident Posture – to display confidence, stand at full height, hold your head high, keep your gaze at eye level, pull your shoulders back and keep your arms and legs relaxed by your sides.
These postures can be adapted (or in the case of closed posture, accidentally used) for the sitting position, so remember them when you’re on your next video call.
It may sound cliché, but many studies have found that our appearance impacts how people perceive us. How we look is a leading nonverbal cue, and it can be impacted by how we dress, style our hair, our use of make-up or facial hair, and more. With the advent of video calls, lighting is an added layer that affects our appearance.
Personal preferences affect how individuals perceive the little details of how we look, but if you want to send the right signals on your next video call, the following rules are recommended:
Dress for the office, using neutral colors, pastels, and cool shades. Do not veer from the office dress code when participating in a video call for a business meeting. However, it is a good idea to stick to neutral and pastel colors, or cool shades of blue and green because these look best on camera. Avoid very bright colors, black, and busy patterns.
Use proper lighting. Try to leverage natural light to illuminate you, since this will make you look the best. You want the largest light source to be in front of you. If the light is behind you, you’ll look backlit and shadowy. If natural light isn’t an option, then invest in a ring light.
Keep your camera at eye-level. An ideal video call will make meeting participants feel like they are talking directly to you as if you were in-person. If the camera angle is too low, it will give you a double chin. If it’s too high, you’re all forehead.
With BlueJeans Video Conferencing, you can leverage a robust video platform with best-in-class security and capabilities like Smart Meetings. It takes the worry out of running a video conference call, letting you affect the various nonverbal cues needed to show you’re ready for business. If you are interested in learning more about our video conferencing solutions, contact us, read more on our website or take a test drive.