Monday, July 3, 2017


Sight is the strongest of the five human senses. And so when you communicate, your audience relies greatly on what they see as you deliver your message.

Words come out of your mouth and convey some meaning, but how you are perceived as you speak can alter that message. And importantly, even when you say nothing, you are communicating something.

Non-verbal cues communicate a lot of key information about you. How you use your eyes, move your head and facial muscles, stand, sit, physically approach a person, utter non-specific sounds (mmm, aahh, uh) within conversation, all present clear signals about your competence, your ease in dealing with information, the cooperative give-and-take you exhibit, your willingness to be helpful and non-threatening, and your comfort level in social situations.

This is a subtle process, instinctively understood by native speakers but a confusing challenge for many people from other cultures. In the American workplace you must learn to decipher non-verbal cues, to recognize them in others, and to use them effectively yourself.

If you are from East or Southeast Asia, for instance, you will tend to control your movements and expressions more than Americans would, leaving the impression you are either less enthusiastic or enigmatic about what you think. If you are from a Latin or Mediterranean culture, you may use gestures in ways that, to Americans, over-state your feelings, again giving your listeners the wrong impression.

Tips appearing in the coming weeks will talk more specifically about this topic. You may discover some elements you may not even be aware of, areas can greatly change the image you project to others.

In the meantime, observe and study native speakers’ movements and gestures. Watch scenes from movies and TV with the sound off. And try to “mirror” –or imitate-- some of what you see to create the same effect, beyond your words.