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Strong communication skills are something that we all can spend a lifetime building. In our personal lives, and in the world of business, good communication skills can immediately set us apart. Whether you’re negotiating for more money in a contract or simply trying to network, knowing the ins and outs of successful communication is imperative.

When Communication is Nonverbal

When it comes to communicating well, many of us focus on what and how we are going to say something. While verbal communication is undoubtedly a large part of our lives, the truth of communicating well goes far beyond using words– for the most part, communication is nonverbal. Focusing on building your nonverbal communication skills is a great way to guarantee success in every area of your life. Read on for some of the best ways to embody these nonverbal communication skills.

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1. Consider Your Eye Contact

The best place to start when improving your nonverbal communication is by focusing on eye contact. Great eye contact during a conversation will easily make you appear more likable, engaged, and memorable to whoever you are speaking with. While it may be natural for some people to hold eye contact, it can often make other people comfortable. When you avoid making eye contact during a conversation, you will inadvertently communicate that you are uncomfortable, as well as give others the impression that you are evasive and dishonest.

When speaking to business partners, coworkers, family, friends, or simply having a conversation, pay careful attention to your eye contact. Be certain to deliberately look the other person in the eye, making sure to act as naturally as possible. However, do avoid staring the other person down, as this will be uncomfortable as well. Blink regularly and even look away occasionally during the conversation. Moreover, when speaking to a large crowd or audience, be sure to make careful eye contact with a few key people in the audience.

2. Positioning and Body Posture

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The way that you position and carry your body can communicate a lot about you, even if you haven’t yet said a word. Open and interested body positions make you appear more approachable. For example, someone that is leaning forward slightly with good posture will always be easier to talk to than a person that is slouching with their arms folded. Moreover, slouching communicates that you are a defensive, disinterested, or a submissive person. The crossing of the arms shows that you are more closed off to new ideas as well as uncomfortable or unhappy. Do your best to ensure that you are always communicating confident body posture as you go through your day.

3. Maintain a Healthy Sense of Personal Space

When you are communicating in a face-to-face conversation, be sure to establish an adequate amount of personal space. Although each person’s comfort level will differ when it comes to personal space, there is a standard rule of thumb that you can start with. Generally, it’s a good idea to keep three or four feet of space between yourself and the person that you are speaking to. Getting too close during a conversation will almost certainly make the other person feel uncomfortable and can convey the wrong message, especially in a professional environment.

4. Distractions Speak Loudly

Distracting habits can easily translate to poor communication skills. Such habits as constantly pulling out your phone, staring at your watch, or regularly zoning out will easily communicate disinterest. Oftentimes, people only resort to these habits out of intimidation or nervousness. Instead of trying to assuage your fears by checking your text messages, try to dive into a meaningful conversation by being fully present with your conversation counterpart.

5. Note Your Facial Expressions

Of all the nonverbal forms of communication, your facial expressions are by far the most obvious. It’s difficult to know what your face looks like in every instance, but it’s important to avoid any expressions that convey boredom, anger, or any other off-putting emotions. When participating in professional and social settings, be sure to have a handle on your facial expressions. Do engage expressively in conversations, but be sure to avoid any frowns, eye rolls, and the like.

6. Mannerisms May Mean Different Things

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Depending on where you are in the world, your conversational mannerisms may be offensive in and of themselves. While you may not know what every hand gesture means in every society or to every person or audience, it does help to keep in mind that certain mannerisms may be offensive to some. If you are unsure of the societal expectations, try to keep things simple and only mimic the actions of the individual or group you are talking to. This will help you develop an understanding of what to do during a conversation, hopefully, keeping you from unintentionally insulting someone.

Developing a working knowledge of nonverbal communication will help you in every facet of your life. Take some time to study these six strategies and learn how to apply them in your professional and private life. By mastering the expressions and behavioral mannerisms of successful communicators, you will be able to be all the more engaging in any situation you find yourself.