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  • Writer's pictureMarleen Greenleaf

Non-verbal Cues That Get People Talking

Being a good listener builds more meaningful relationships and helps people feel comfortable talking to you. Using tools like active listening and empathy can help, but there is one tool that makes a huge impact over them all…non-verbal cues.

Non-verbal communication makes up most of the back and forth that people engage in when they are talking. Non-verbal communication is subtle and influences people without them knowing it. Skilled non-verbal communication can make a big impact on the dynamics of a conversation and make listening easier.

Examples of non-verbal communication

  • Facial Expressions

  • Tone of voice

  • Personal Space

  • Voice inflections

Used together, non-verbal cues can encourage deep and dynamic conversations that bring people closer together. They can also help you listen better and be heard. Here’s how-

Facial expressions- Your facial expressions, including eye contact, speak louder than your words. When someone is speaking, they can read your face. Your expressions will reflect your reactions to what they are saying. Empathy, concern, and acceptance will resonate as easily as disbelief, rejection, or confusion.

Keep your facial expressions soft and hold the speaker’s gaze. Avoid furrowing your brow or looking away as that indicates distrust and/or disinterest. If you are confused, simply ask a clarifying question to close any gaps. Great listeners can use their facial expressions to enhance the experience for the speaker and help them feel understood and accepted.

Tone of voice- Your tone should always match the mood and sentiment of how you feel. Good listeners use their tone to draw people in and feel safe and heard. Tone of voice should be absent of sarcasm or judgement and reflect kindness, concern, and acceptance.

Personal space- Personal space bubbles are a real thing. Everyone has a comfort zone for how close they want to be to someone else. Generally speaking, great listeners show their interest in what someone is saying by reducing or nearly eliminating their personal space bubble. Leaning in toward someone is a non-verbal cue that you are interested in what is being said. Also, when appropriate, gentle touch on the arm, knee, or shoulder can also indicate care or concern. While culturally there may be variances on personal space, most positive communication includes reducing personal space.

Voice inflections- Though using your voice is considered being verbal, inflections are different than speaking. Using supportive statements like “umm hmm”, “I see”, or nodding all indicate care and agreement. This is a non-verbal way of letting someone know you are paying close attention to what they are saying. These small utterances help people feel heard and understood and promote positive and rewarding communication.

Being a good listener is vital to build relationships and show up for people when they need you most. Using non-verbal cues enhances your listening skills and makes a big impact on the people you are speaking with. Developing healthy non-verbal cues and paying attention to how you use them will help you have powerful conversations.

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