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Consultant Proficiency Resources: Non-Verbal Cues Matter

Following CPR's post on effective communication, today, CPR positions its lens on nonverbal cues. In the 21st century, nonverbal communication is more critical than ever. Non-verbal communication, also called manual language, sends and receives messages without using spoken or written words. One of the first advocates for the power of nonverbal communication was the renowned behavioral psychologist Dr. Albert Mehrabian. Mehrabian’s extensive research on body language resulted in the 7-38-55 rule. The 7-38-55 rule indicates that only 7% of all communication is done verbally. In contrast, the nonverbal component of our daily communication, such as the tonality of our voice and body language, make up 38% (of the tone of voice) and 55%(of body language), respectively.

From communication, written communication did not make Dr. Mehrabian's rule. According to CPR, revising the rule by incorporating written communication, the revised rule may look like the 5-10-33-52 rule. That is, 5% of written communication, 10% of verbal communication, 33% of tone of voice, and 52% of body language. Together, the above still dictates that non-verbal communication makes up 85% of overall communication. The adage is not what you say but how you say or what you do takes front and center stage in today’s episode. This is an area where leaders can make a difference.

There are many different forms of nonverbal communication, according to the 2021 Master article. However, the main categories of nonverbal cues include:

1. Kinesics (or body movements) include deliberate hand gestures and head movements like a thumbs-up or affirmative head shake. This is one of the most easily controllable nonverbal forms of communication. Other motions include folding the arm and shaking the head up-down o right-left. This all transmits a message.

Example: A coworker is giving a presentation, but they are uncertain about how others are receiving the information. A casual yet discreet "thumbs up" can show them it's going well.

2. Proxemics (or closeness/personal space): This measures the physical distance between people when communicating. The standard amount of personal space someone expects varies depending on the setting and is somewhat culture-specific.

Example: Before you sit down for a meeting, you can select a seat closer to a coworker to hear them better.

3. Posture: How you sit or stand and how to open your body to others around you communicates a lot about your attitude and emotional state.

Example: You are tasked with presenting a new idea to your supervisor and want to communicate effectively. You can sit or stand with your shoulders back to convey your confidence and why you believe your idea will benefit the company.

4. Eye contact: This is one of the primary ways human beings gauge interest or disinterest. Wavering eyes tend to communicate unease or even dishonesty.

Example: A coworker approaches you with an idea to increase collaboration in your department. Show that you actively listen by maintaining eye contact and nodding in agreement.

5. Touch: Many interactions begin with an exchange of physical touch, like a hug or a handshake.

Example: In the United States, shaking a person’s hand firmly shows respect or that you’re pleased to meet them. In other cultures, it might be misconstrued as a sign of aggression. If you sense that it’s appropriate, a slight touch on the arm or pat on the shoulder can also be a way to show your support or encouragement without vocally expressing it.

6. Paralanguage: This category covers vocal qualities like loudness or tone of voice. Paralinguistic signals are any aspect of the sound of a voice outside a direct verbal translation of words being spoken. Though speaking is a part of verbal communication, how you speak can be considered nonverbal communication. Whether you are communicating in person or participating in a video conference call, always be aware of your tone of voice so it reflects your intended message. For example, maintaining a positive tone while talking with a coworker or supervisor can affect the energy of your whole conversation. Example: An employee proposes a new client engagement plan. They use an energetic and positive tone to spark enthusiasm for the project. This increases the level of interest from senior management as they notice the employees express excitement and passion for the project.

7. Facial expressions: Facial expressions are one of the leading indicators of someone’s attitude. An emotional expression like a frown or smile can be hard to control consciously.

Example: A coworker is telling you about their recent vacation, so you can smile and nod while you listen to show you’re enjoying their story.

8. Physiology: This category includes changes in body physiology, like increased sweat or blinking rapidly. These are nearly impossible to control deliberately.

9. CPR added-Personal Appearance: The way you present yourself can create an impact more significant than words might say. Your workplace appearance, such as looking neat and prepared—even if you are in the comfort of your own home office—or keeping a tidy workstation, can convey your self-confidence and make a positive impression on coworkers

Example: You hope to speak with a supervisor to ask for a raise or promotion, so dress in business attire to showcase your dedication to both the position and professionalism in the workplace


Record yourself ahead of time and listen to the sound of your voice. Your tone, while being applied during verbal communication, is another form of nonverbal communication, according to Inc. Practice beneficial nonverbal communication through effective eye contact while giving a presentation to large groups of people by alternating various approaches. For example, scan the audience, make eye contact with different areas of the audience, or make four- to five-second eye contact with individual audience members. Rather than standing in one spot during the presentation, stroll around the stage naturally. Also, be mindful of other body movements like crossing arms and practicing.

Warm Regards,


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