The Science of Non-Verbal Communication

While verbal communication is extremely important, we also must consider that more than half of our communication is non-verbal.

Have you ever left an interview feeling dissatisfied with your ability to get your message across? Maybe your qualifications and preparation were there, but something else prevented you from getting the job. While verbal communication is extremely important, we also must consider that more than half of our communication is non-verbal.

At my company, Body Talk, we have helped business leaders worldwide to increase their impact for two decades. Along with the University College of London (UCL) and the head of Psychology, Professor Adrian Furnham, we created one of the largest studies of non-verbal influence ever. The study, published in peer-reviewed scientific journal Psychology, showed that simple changes in your non-verbal communication style can improve your results as follows:

  • 25 percent more people think of you as knowledgeable.
  • 42 percent more people are convinced by your message.
  • 44 percent more people think you are a good leader.

These are qualities we all want to convey, especially in a high-pressure situation such as a job interview. You can achieve these simply by putting our research into practice.

Factors to Improve Non-Verbal Communication

1. Posture

A strong posture will communicate that you are grounded and confident, enabling you to maintain your listener’s attention by simply speaking. To do this, aim to lift your sternum to appear more confident (but not too much, as this can appear arrogant).

Try this exercise: Square your feet on the ground, shoulder-length apart. Then reach up as if you are grabbing a rope, and pull the imaginary rope down directly in front of your chest. When you release the rope, let your arms float down to your sides for a centered and relaxed posture.

2. Gesture

 Be sure to gesture above the desk (and for virtual meetings, within the camera frame) and use gestures that are congruent with the message you’re communicating. Palms-up gestures suggest openness and warmth and convey the message that you’re open to opinions and responses. Palms down gestures imply strength and confidence and suggest that you are firm in what you’re saying.

When we gesture, we can speed up our thought processes and provide better answers to questions, as proven by research conducted by Susan Goldin-Meadow at the University of Chicago, so it’s particularly important to implement gestures when under pressure in an interview.

3. Tension

Whether we are consciously acknowledging it or not, we can sense each other’s tension, and it does not communicate confidence. Before you go into the room, do a quick body scan and release your tension. You need a healthy balance between too soft and too hard, so your movements appear assured and centered.

4. Breath

Breathing is one of the most effective ways to release tension. In high-pressure situations, we may forget to breathe completely. To get your mind and body ready to succeed, try box breathing. Breathe in for a count of 5, hold for 5, breathe out for 5, and hold for 2. Repeat this as needed. Another great exercise is physiological sighs. Take two full breaths in, followed by one long sigh out. This will lower your heart rate, relieve stress, and calm your mind, allowing you to enter your interview feeling grounded.

5. Values

You may be wondering how focusing on your values can impact your non-verbal communication, but taking a moment to focus on your personal values and how proud of yourself you are will give you a sense of internal validation, reducing the appearance of neediness in the meeting. Businesses do not want to hire a person who is desperate to impress; they want to hire someone who appears to want the job but doesn’t need it.

By implementing these techniques, we can’t promise that you’ll land the job, but you will make a positive impression on those around you, enabling you to go into your next job interview with confidence.

Richard Newman
Richard Newman is the CEO and founder of Body Talk, a global leader in evidence-based training on the psychology of communication, and author of the new book, “Lift Your Impact,” which demonstrates how to transform your mindset, communication, and influence to achieve your goals.