There are many old sayings that come to mind when one considers nonverbal communication. These include “your actions speak louder than your words” or “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Work by researchers at the Nonverbal Group indicate that the amount of communication that is nonverbal varies between 60 and 90% on a daily basis. Regardless what the actual numbers are, nonverbal communication can provide a person with lots of information. Sometimes this nonverbal language communicates a different message than our spoken word. The way we talk, walk, sit, and stand provides lot of information that can have an important effect on how others act and react towards us.
As a coach, it took me awhile to realize how my body language was impacting the performance of my team, especially, in the early parts of the game. If I was sitting in a chair on the sideline during the first part of the game, my team seemed to start faster and stronger. When I was not sitting, my nonverbal body language apparently made me an open book as to how I was feeling. At times, my body language painted a picture of frustration to the young ladies I was coaching. When they picked up on my frustration, they began to stress and it was reflected in a diminished quality of their play.
A simple drop of the head after someone misses a shot on goal can have a significant impact on the psyche of the player—regardless of the fact that I would give the player a positive verbal phrase such as “get the next one” or “good choice.” The verbal signals were not consistent with what I was nonverbally communicating. Similarly, nonverbal language can manifest similar response in the classroom or the board room. Breathing rate, perspiration, eye movement and contact, body movements and gestures, posture, muscle tension, tone of voice, rate of speech and pitch of the voice all add to the words being used. When working with others, we may not be able to eliminate what might be interpreted as negative body language, but if you are more aware of it, you may be able to minimize it. This puts you in a better position to communicate effectively with those whom you coach, teach, or lead.