Unlike texts, emails or even phone conversations, effective face-to-face communication involves much more than just words. In fact, up to 70 percent of what we "say" comes from the unspoken signals we send through our body language, facial expressions and tone. No matter the social situation, being aware of what message your body language sends is vital for making a good impression and avoiding confusion or misunderstanding.
Eye contact is one of the easiest ways to form a connection with another human being. Eye contact demonstrates interest and active listening, and it deepens the intimacy of your encounter. When you're meeting someone for the first time, strong eye contact can also show confidence. Just make sure you keep it friendly; aggressively holding eye contact can be interpreted as inappropriate or adversarial and make your partner uncomfortable.
Humans have a sense of personal space and can feel uncomfortable if someone else gets too close. Though how big this "bubble" is varies by culture and individual, we usually feel more comfortable when close to friends than we do when close to strangers. Leaning forward or sitting close during a conversation can show that you want to establish a closer relationship with your partner, or that you are interested in what they are saying. Leaning away or maintaining a rigid posture often indicates disinterest or discomfort.
Many facial expressions are universal and instinctive, including expressions of happiness, sadness and disgust. A smile often goes a long way toward putting someone at ease and can create a relaxed atmosphere for your interaction. Be careful to avoid expressions of contempt or disgust, for your partner will read your feelings on your face, regardless of what your words say.
Gestures can be used to emphasize a verbal comment, or to replace one. A fist on the table drives home a point, while a shrug or nod can replace words altogether. Unlike facial expressions, the meanings of gestures are not universal, but when used correctly they can be a great way to express your passion or enthusiasm.
Physical touch is capable of conveying powerful messages, whether accompanied by words or not. A firm handshake indicates confidence and is vital to making a good first impression. A hand on someone's shoulder can be a sign of support, or urge caution and restraint, depending on the situation. Make sure that any physical contact you make with your conversation partner is appropriate to the situation and sends the right message.
Voice is often more important than the words you speak with it. The same phrase, spoken in different tones, can send totally different messages. Tone can even contradict spoken words, as with sarcasm. Vocal volume and intensity can convey a sense of urgency or secrecy, or indicate personal feelings. To keep things light, speak in a measured, relaxed voice so as not to make your conversation partner anxious or nervous.
- Photo Credit business couple talking image by Pavel Losevsky from Fotolia.com
Characteristics of Face-to-Face Conversation
Face-to-face conversation is unique in that virtually all characteristics of communication are included. Other forms offer a few characteristics, but not all....
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