What people say is only one aspect of good communication.  Effective communication involves more than talking to a person.  How things are said, words chosen, tone and inflection are all aspects of good communication.  Good listening skills and congruent body language are also crucial to effectively converse with others.

What Body Language Adds to a Conversation

Body language, a prevalent form of non-verbal communication, can support or contradict what a speaker is saying. Studies have shown of the information we receive from other people, only 10% is from what they actually say and 40% is from the tone and speed of their voice. [1] The other 50% is gleamed from their body language.   Reading body language is part of developing social skills.

Professionals such as law enforcement officers, governmental security agencies and therapists become adept at reading the more subtle types of non-verbal communication of others to assist in their jobs.  Poker players, fortune tellers, and con artists use non-verbal forms of communication to aid them in their work. While professionals look for specific signs; the average person reads some body language subconsciously; for example, whether or not a person makes eye contact or displays nervous habits such as bouncing a foot when sitting.

Body language can involve one aspect such as the eyes, or a combination of body parts such as the eyes and head both moving in a direction while hands point.  Where the body is positioned in relation to another person or a door or at a table is another piece in communicating what the person is feeling. 

Eye Contact: Body Language of Good Listening – Photo by Cheryl WeldonCredit: Photo by Cheryl Weldon

Throughout the history of relationships, much of the courtship ritual has depended upon the cues of body language given by the parties as to whether or not the relation should be pursued further.  Flirting involves more non-verbal communication than casual conversation.  Troubles arise when body language is incongruent with the feelings of the transmitter or the receiver picks up a wrong signal.

Incongruent body movements are evident when the timing and duration of an emotional gesture is off normal pace.  Perhaps the gesture is delayed, or stays longer than would be naturally occurring and then suddenly stops.  It could be when the words expressed and the timing of the accompanying gesture is off, such as a person saying they love a gift and smiling after the statement instead of smiling at the same time the statement is made.  Another example of incongruent body language is when what the body says is obviously contradictory to the words spoken such as frowning when saying “I love it.”   Restricted body language can also show incongruence with the spoken words for example when someone gives a “half-smile” rather than a smile that engages the entire face. 

Good Listening Skills Enhance Communication

 Good listening skills clear the way to a complete clear message while bad listening skills create barriers and roadblocks which can confuse, stop or block the message.   Good listeners:[1]

  • Use congruent non-verbal communication by nodding occasionally to show interest and understanding.
  • Make eye contact with the sender (in western cultures)
  • Repeat some of the words and feelings; asking for clarification when needed
  • Match the energy of the sender
  • Summarize what they heard
  • Avoid communication roadblocks

 Poor listeners rarely communicate effectively.  Barriers they commonly use can include:[1]

  • Interruptions
  • Inappropriate humor
  • Judgments
  • Criticisms
  • Unrelated questions 

Barriers and Their Affects

 Many people are quite adept at talking and listening.  The issue is more about the effectiveness—healthy versus poor skills.  Nothing stops a healthy conversation quicker than these barriers:[1]

  • Demanding
  • Lecturing
  • Blaming
  • Analyzing
  • Ordering
  • Giving unsolicited solutions
  • Criticizing
  • Threatening
  • Judging
  • Ridiculing
  • Ignoring

People who are attempting to communicate with a person who continually throws out barriers will often:[1]

  • Stop talking
  • Feel inferior
  • Feel guilty
  • Feel misunderstood
  • Feel frustrated
  • React defensively
  • Feel resentment
  • Feel unaccepted
  • Feel as if their feelings are wrong
  • Feel accused
  • Begin to argue
  • Get angry
  • Feel like the listener is not interested

Healthy minded people are able to communicate with others effectively by avoiding these barriers.  They are able to let their partners know what they want regularly and clearly.  Unfortunately, most people while able to communicate what they want to salespeople, mechanics, grocery clerks etc., find it much easier to let their partners know what they don’t want rather than what they do want.


 The copyright of the article Effective Communication Involves more than Talking is owned by Cheryl Weldon and permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

Observing Body Language

What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide to Speed-Reading People
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