Some people think that communication is first of all a way to transfer information, the most important way to relate to each other. But how is it possible to make our message effective and, most importantly, credible? Yes, I said credible. Because whether what we say represents the verbal message, we should also take into consideration that there are other factors that determine the success of our speech. First of all, what our body says about it.
In order to make our message credible for our interlocutors, we must pay attention to our way of communicating. What we say could not be enough to convince people that what we are saying is true: our facial expressions, gestures and eye contact also contribute to make us more or less persuasive. All these forms of nonverbal communication should be coherent with what we say: we cannot talk about a joke without smiling or condole with somebody with a hungry face. In the same way, would that be weird if you kissed your partner looking at someone else? Or if you yawned in your boss’ face during a conversation? All these examples make us think about how important body language is.
Anyway, verbal and body language are supposed to work together in specific circumstances. The first requirement is to talk face to face with somebody: your interlocutor will be able to perceive both your verbal and body language only if you are in front of him, so that his ears and eyes will catch the double messages simultaneously. In the case you are talking on the phone, the situation would be different. Your verbal message will be the most effective, but not the only one. In fact, even if the other person is not looking at you –and cannot see your gestures of facial expressions – your tone of voice could betray you if you are lying. The intonation is a decisive factor to confirm or contradict what you are saying.
On the other hand, also body language could play the main role in such circumstances. For example, we have just considered what our interlocutor would perceive when we are talking on the phone. But what about people around us? What would they understand about our conversation just by looking at us? Maybe they are too far to hear what we are saying, or because of the noise in the street are not able to hear our words clearly. In this case, the only way for them to understand our message is to interpret our body language, by looking at the way we are moving around or the facial expressions we are making. They probably won’t be able to catch the object of our conversation, but will understand – in most of the cases – our state of mind or mood.
It is clear that everyone runs several risks when involved in the communication process, that is why misunderstandings often occurs and we are not able to avoid them.
To sum up, if you really want to avoid arguments or embarrassing situations, a good exercise could be to imagine being your own mirror during conversations: being aware of what you do together with what you say will help you to succeed in your aim and to be a nice interlocutor.
by Giovanna Tranchese