07.28.06 - Issue # 229 Forward This Article to a Friend

The Real Power of Influence: Using Nonverbal Communication to Increase Your Credibility


Dr. Nancy Haller
Executive Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Research shows that when you talk with your employees - and your patients - your words account for only 7% of the message. The remaining 93% is communicated nonverbally.

Humans are sensitive to things like body language, facial expression, posture, movement, and tone of voice. Is there ever any doubt in your mind as to the mood of an employee when they walk into the office?

More than words, nonverbals cue you into what is on another person’s mind. The most successful leaders are alert to the power of the emotions and thoughts communicated nonverbally.

As an example, read the sentence below out loud twice. The first time, say the words in a deep voice and finish in a low tone. The second time, use a high voice and read the words as if you were asking a question.

It’s important that you arrive to work on time.

Same words. Totally different meaning.

The first is a clear message said with credibility. But in the second, the words and the questioning tone do not match. This kind of discrepancy sends a ‘mixed’ message. The communication is confusing. And because language can be censored, your employee will not trust your words. Your questioning tone sabotages the real intention of the message. Not likely that your chronically tardy hygienist will be punctual.

The old saying, "It's not what you say, it’s how you say it" underscores the importance of nonverbal communication and believability. Even on an intuitive level you know that the influence of nonverbal communication. Think about the idioms we use:

It’s not what you say but what you do.
A picture’s worth a thousand words.
Talk is cheap.
Actions speak louder than words.

The ability to influence others continues to be the most important factor for successful leadership. To deliver the full intention of your messages, use the following nonverbal behaviors to raise the impact of your communication.

  • Eye contact. It has been said that the eyes are the window to the soul. By making eye contact, you show interest in the other person and you convey empathy and sincerity. 
  • Facial Expressions. When you smile, you convey approachability. Your employees and your patients will feel more comfortable around you and they will listen more attentively. Be careful, however, to avoid smiling when the message is serious.
  • Voice. The volume, rate, tone, pitch, and inflections of your speech are major factors in communication. When you use a soft voice, you may be seen as lacking confidence. On the other hand, using a slower, quieter voice in stressful circumstances signals strength and control. A strong voice shows confidence. Yet in matters of disagreement, a booming voice often escalates the conflict.
  • Body Language. The way you stand, walk and move speaks volumes. If you are too fast-paced, you convey tension much more than efficiency. A relaxed, calm posture signals confidence and receptivity. Your posture also influences whether you are seen as competent. Slumped shoulders undermine credibility. Stiffness conveys nervousness. Unfold your arms and uncross your legs when engaged in important conversations.
  • Gestures. When gestures are natural and flow with your words, they enhance the impact of your message. But be careful of distracting gestures – fiddling with pens and clothing, foot-tapping and fingernail clicking. These are seen as signals of discomfort. They show a lack of confidence and diminish your credibility.

Your leadership effectiveness is directly related to your ability to win trust and gain respect through communication. You may think you have credibility but your employees and patients are the final judge. By aligning your verbal and nonverbal communication, you increase your power to influence. Yes, it is awkward at first. Choose to focus on improving one aspect of your nonverbal communication at a time. With consistent practice you will feel more natural. And you’ll be more successful in leading your team, and your patients.

If you are interested in registering for our two day, Leadership Training Lab email Training@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in learning more about Dentist Coaching with Dr. Haller email coach@mckenziemgmt.com.

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