It is the rare profession that does not place a premium on an individual’s ability to communicate clearly, concisely, and with the tone appropriate to the circumstances. The difference between success and failure in many of life’s endeavors, whether professional or personal, can be an ability to communicate. Just an important is understanding spoken words or a written memo or letter is the importance of understanding nonverbal communication. People consciously and subconsciously communicate using facial expressions, hand gestures, leg movements, and spatial orientation. Depending upon one’s situation, the ability to “read” such gestures or movements and, as importantly, the ability to remain conscious of one’s own body language, can prove the difference between success or failure in any given endeavor involving interpersonal relationships.
In fact, cognizance of one’s own body language can be more important than a sensitivity to that of others. Poker players look for “tells” when sitting across from opponents at a card table. “Tells” are the little subconscious facial or hand movements many people make when under stress or in a heightened state of emotion. Once a skilled poker player determines that his opponent always scratches his chin when he has a good hand, the poker player knows not to bet big. He has exploited his understanding of nonverbal communication to achieve success. His opponent, however, probably has no idea that he habitually scratches his chin when he has a winning hand. The same principles apply in business, especially in sales, when a skilled salesperson recognizes particular hand gestures or facial movements as consistent with a particular mentality. Nonverbal communication can be used to deliberately convey to another party that what one is saying is pro forma and does not represent the individual’s real beliefs or intentions. Hand gestures can be used to emphasize the importance of a point one is making verbally. Crossed arms are often interpreted as a sign of defensiveness or rejection of what the other individual is saying. These are all examples of nonverbal communication, and the more one can interpret them, the less likely they are to experience a possibly egregious miscommunication.
In any business or personal relationship, nonverbal communication can be as important as oral or written forms of communication. In fact, it can be more important.