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If the person across the table is sighing and tapping his foot while you’re talking it can be unsettling to you as the speaker. What is he telling you if he is stroking his chin? What if you’re making a presentation to a client team and all are leaned in, nodding and smiling?
Every waking moment in your day, you’re emitting signals to others, and either making a connection or a disconnection. And you’re doing this by not even saying a word out loud.
By giving polite and encouraging non-verbal responses, you help set a tone of ease, openness and mutual respect. Try to practice the following positive feedback, whether you’re in a one-on-one or group setting:
- Face the speaker. Turning your body even slightly away signals disinterest in the conversation or subject matter.
- Sit or stand straight, and lean in slightly in a comfortable position. This indicates you’re engaged and actively listening; slouching or hunching shows you’re not.
- Maintain eye contact and keep your head tilted up. Looking elsewhere or downward tells the speaker you’re not tuning in.
- Keep your arms uncrossed. Put your hands in your lap if you’re sitting, or at your sides if you’re standing. This conveys openness, receptiveness and willingness.
- Thumbs up. When your hands are in your lap or on the table, intertwine your fingers and then point your thumbs upward. This is a great way to non-verbally demonstrate to the speaker you’re agreeable.
- Smile, nod, laugh and mirror the speaker as appropriate. Let the speaker know you’re enjoying what he’s saying!
- Don’t fidget, twirl your hair, pick at the label of your pen or show signs of boredom. Be a polite listener.
- When in a group conversation, create an open “V”, which lets others in the room know they’re invited to the conversation or group.
Remember, you’re always communicating whether you’re speaking or not. Make it a positive experience for everyone around you.