The Pulse

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Renowned business consultant and visionary Peter Drucker once said, “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”


Like any conversation, there are many different ways Drucker’s words could be interpreted. Unsaid things could include reading between the lines or considering the speaker’s bias. It could also have nothing to do with the verbal communication itself – it could have everything to do with body language.


How much of an impact does it have? According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, when someone is speaking on a matter related to feelings or attitudes, up to 55 percent of communication is non-verbal, which includes facial expressions and gestures. On the flip side, words themselves only account for 7 percent of a message, while 38 percent is attributed to “vocal elements” such as pitch, tone, speed and rhythm.


It is obvious body language is an essential component in communication, one we too often fail to consider. Let’s look at five of the biggest body language blunders to avoid.



1. Poor Posture


Your grandmother may have made you sit up straight at the dinner table, and for good reason. Poor posture can not only cause a host of ergonomic issues including serious back pain, but can also give the wrong impression. Slouching can make you appear passive or disinterested, or even disheveled. It can also indicate lack of confidence. Simply sitting up tall and pulling your shoulders back can give you more credibility. If only everything were that easy.


2. Fidgeting


No matter how many cups of coffee you pounded back before your meeting, fidgeting is never cool – it’s downright distracting. Whether you’re stroking your beard, shifting constantly in your chair, playing with your hair or spinning your pen on the table, train yourself to recognize and tone down your unnecessary movements. Twitching can make you appear nervous or even worse, dishonest. Nobody likes a liar.


3. Still as a Statue


We just told you that restless movement should be avoided, but so should the other extreme: being too still. According to behavioral analyst Dr. Lillian Glass, those who don’t move at all could be preparing for the worst.


"This may be a sign of the primitive neurological 'fight,' rather than the 'flight,' response, as the body positions and readies itself for possible confrontation," Glass told Business Insider. "When you speak and engage in normal conversation, it is natural to move your body around in subtle, relaxed, and, for the most part, unconscious movements. So if you observe a rigid, catatonic stance devoid of movement, it is often a huge warning sign that something is off."


4. Engage with Eye Contact


Just like body movement, too much or too little eye contact can cause issues. If you maintain eye contact for too long, you can come across as intense or creepy, whereas lack of eye contact can make it seem as if you’re anxious or uncomfortable. Seek out the happy medium, ensuring you’re making eye contact but not holding the gaze for too long. Controlling your blinking can also be beneficial. Being on the receiving end of an unblinking stare is awkward, and if you spend a whole conversation fluttering your eyelashes non-stop, the other person may end up puzzled and wonder if you’ve got something stuck in there. Bad impressions all around.


5. Don’t Sneak in Your Smartphone


Now you might want to pipe up, “But my phone isn’t part of my body!” Quite frankly, because of our smartphone addiction, they may as well be an extension of our hands. Our phones are our lifelines and most people don’t like them too far out of reach. Resist the urge to pull out your phone during a conversation, and make sure it’s stashed away during meetings unless there is a good reason to have it in front of you. Our brains are conditioned to gaze at them regularly to check for the flashing notification light, so it’s guaranteed to be a distraction. Be present and pay attention to the people in front of you. Email and social media can wait.



Just as we choose our words carefully, we need to be cognizant of our bodies and the messages we are sending to those around us. Harmonizing your verbal and non-verbal communication can lead to greater success and fewer misunderstandings. Time for us to step up … with good posture and proper gait, of course.

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