Professor of psychology Albert Mehrabian researched the non-verbal communication and ultimately published a book Silent Messages in 1971. The book popularized something you could call the 7-38-55 rule saying that only 7 percent of communication comes from words, 38 percent from tone of the voice and 55 percent from body language. The two experiments behind this were dramatically misinterpreted by media and public and the Mehrabian’s rule became a general belief. I’m not going to try to disprove it, way too easy, just read on the original experiments and what they tried to prove. Rather, I would use this as a starting point to talk about body language as a powerful tool when communicating and building a leadership presence.
One of the simplest ways of speaking without words is a slight tilt of a head, a nod. Such a simple gesture has a huge impact on the way you communicate and interact with others. It helps with active listening, it keeps you engaged as it shows you are paying attention, it can communicate approval, encouragement and in subtle ways influence others around you.
Nod to acknowledge
The simplest thing in the world with a powerful impact is just to acknowledge someone. Walking the halls, passing around someone and just nodding to acknowledge his presence is not only polite but it build your presence as well. It shows respect and can mean so many things especially when accompanied by a smile: “I see you. I respect you. I’m aware of your contribution. I’m aware your needs. I care. I’m glad you are here. I’m here to help you.”
Nod to encourage
I have seen it some many time and often done it myself. You are sitting on a meeting or listening to a presentation and you find that the speaker is suddenly looking at you. Just a simple nod can at that stage change the outcome of the discussion, especially when you are in a position of power. You don’t need to jump in and start providing more ammunition to make the speaker’s point. Just a slight nod can give the junior guy all the encouragement needed. It can be really subtle and may not be even seen by others but the meaning is clear: “You are doing well. Go on. I agree. I’m here to support you when needed. Nice job, I have nothing more to add.”
Nod to approve
Again a very obvious way how to communicate your thoughts is when asked whether you agree with something to nod and indicate thus your agreement. We all do it all the time and we shouldn’t. At least not in a professional and multinational environment where anything can be misunderstood. The rule number one in that setting is to over-communicate and that generally means use all the means available, including words. Simple nod may actually be seen as rather noncommittal and to accompany it with “yes, I agree,” is much more powerful and makes you more influential.
Nod to influence
In The Art Of Influencing Others – Lesson 1, Lesson 2, and Lesson 3 I talked about how to influence the world around you and your body language is a part of the game. When you finish this article just start paying attention to the people you see as leaders and be even more conscious of your own behavior. You will most likely discover that the power of a nod is incredible and used frequently by many people. When bundled with a smile and positive goals you can truly increase your influence and provide more support to those around you.
What is your take on how body language may help build a leadership presence? How do you behave when listening to others or trying to influence the environment around you?
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