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Improving Nonverbal Communication
Tips, Techniques and Strategies

Are you looking for a way that helps improving your nonverbal communication skills as quickly as possible? The following nonverbal communication tips will help with that. Their approach varies from a holistic one to focussing on details and types in certain situations.

1. Match your feelings with your words
Nonverbal Communication Tips

Focussing on one or two details or types of nonverbal communication often doesn’t help fast enough. Sometimes it’s even confusing.

As a quick start and to keep the big picture in mind I recommend focussing on your feelings, as they are the ones that usually determine what and how you communicate nonverbally.

For Example:

If you want to show interest,
then looking at your child when she speaks is only the first step. You’d also want to nod and make understanding expressions at the right times, ask further questions using an engaged voice, and turn your whole body towards her, to name a few.
I find it much easier to really become interested than just trying to show interest. Look at her and remember how much she’s learned already. Be amazed by how much she understands and is interested in now. What is it that makes her interested in that particular thing? Doing that you might find that you’re able to see the world through the eyes of a child again – just amazing!!!

Do you want to act firm but gentle?
Then you’ll need to feel the gentleness first. Try to understand your child’s point of view also. Acknowledge it, and show your understanding. That doesn’t mean you’re giving up your point of view nor that you’d be giving in. It makes it just easier to find creative solutions that suit you both.
One strategy that certainly helps with that is to follow principles instead of rules. Why that? Rules are rigid, but don’t necessarily serve the point you want to make. Take the example of a 2 year old. You could have the rule to always hold his hand in streets or stay close enough to grab him. But at times that might not be necessary or suitable. In the end you want your child safe. Don’t you? Following this principle you have many more options to do so and at the same time it’s much easier to be consistent.

Did you ever try to appear firm and gentle just by adjusting elements of your verbal and nonverbal communication? Using a firm voice but gentle facial expression, or the like? That would just be confusing.

As for negative feelings like anxiousness or being stressed – disperse them before you try to improve your communication skills. Otherwise they’ll work against your efforts.

Of course there are also times, when paying attention to or changing just one or two elements of your verbal and nonverbal communication, makes a whole lot of sense. For example just changing the way you consciously position yourself, hold your head or relax those muscles of your face can make a big difference in how you feel.

2. Watch your child’s reactions
Nonverbal Communication Tips

Nonverbal signs that don’t match the spoken language can be irritating. Usually when that happens people tend to pay more attention to the nonverbal signs than to the words. So watching your child’s reactions can be a good way to get an instant feedback on your verbal and nonverbal communication. What do your kids reactions tell you about them and their feelings? What do they tell you about the way your children understood you?

3. Ask your kids about the nonverbal signs you see
Nonverbal Communication Tips

Do they look happy? - Tell them.
Do they look irritated? - Ask them why. It’ll give insight to both of you.
Do they look frustrated? – Then you can still ask them if you can help. Or you choose to let them experience their frustration a little. They might overcome it themselves and be proud of it later. But make sure you acknowledge their achievements using your observations.

What if your kids seem irritated? This might be a hint to a mismatch in your verbal and nonverbal communication. Or you are changing your mind in a way they can’t follow. Ask them about it. It’s just a matter of taking this feedback constructively, not blaming anyone in return, to keep the communication open. If you feel like you can handle it – try it. If you’re having a bad day, not slept enough, are hungry or otherwise not on top of things – leave it for another time and try less confronting strategies.

4. Become aware of your own nonverbal signs
Nonverbal Communication Tips

Watch yourself. Listen to yourself. What are you saying? What are you feeling? How do you sound? Get some ideas where to look from the list of types of nonverbal communication above. An audio – or video tape will help a lot. Alternatively you can ask good friend to give you feedback. Become aware of your own nonverbal signs. Do they support what you want to say or do they contradict? Are you angry but try to make a kind face? – chances are, your voice will tell and your posture (clenched fists, tight shoulders?). Do you turn to your children when they try to tell you something or are you saying things like “keep talking, I’m listening” while your eyes are almost glued to the TV or computer screen? Find those contradicting messages and make a list to work on them.

Other ways to become aware of your nonverbal signs I mentioned above already - watch your children’s reactions. Especially if you find them irritated or they react in a way you don’t expect. Try to remember what you just said and did and/or ask your kids about it, like “You seem irritated. What’s wrong?”

5. Practice, a lot
Nonverbal Communication Tips

No one is born with those skills - even though some people are lucky enough to have the right models and help in early childhood. Learning always takes time. So be gentle on yourself and stay optimistic. With some perseverance you’ll get better and better too.

Pay careful attention, not only to your own communication habits and those of your children, but also to the verbal and nonverbal communication of other parents and their kids. Find yourself some models you want to follow.

Practice whenever an opportunity arises and create opportunities. Take care that everyone’s basic needs are met first to enable a good conversation. Leave the TV off for a while and find out how your kids and partner are feeling, what they enjoyed during the day, what bothers them? Stay relaxed. No quick fixes necessary, just attention and understanding. Common meal times, walking the dog, doing dishes together,...

There are so many potential situations you can create for this kind of practice.

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