So often the message your listener receives is not the message you sent…or meant to send. Why? Because we all have our own unique filters that delete, distort, and generalize what was said and heard. If the message you sent wasn’t received the way you intended, it’s time to take a look at your nonverbal signals, or gestures.

Nonverbal signals reveal more than words can say. So it’s important to choose your signals... and not let them choose you. Avoid gestures that are random movements.

* Make sure your gestures are intentional.
* Make sure your gestures match the words you are using.

The nonverbal signals you send and gestures you use can produce a wide range of responses. Unless you intentionally choose a nonverbal signal, you often don’t know what signals or cues you are sending. Result: misunderstanding and miscommunication…despite the words you used…despite your best intentions…. But why does that happen so often when everyone wants to be understood? It could be that your body language is sending a different message than the one you think it is.

There’s an old song lyric that goes something like this: “Your lips tell me No No but there’s Yes Yes in your eyes.” That, my friends, is a mixed message! Mixed messages confuse. The body is saying one thing, the mouth is saying another. If the listener doesn’t make a move, he’s wrong. If he makes a move, he’s wrong. Mixed message can really foul up relationships!!!

Clearly, words are only a small part of communication. The most influential part of communication is our nonverbals. That’s why it’s so important to master the message your body sends so that our nonverbal message is in sync with our verbal message.

Since gestures lose their effectiveness when they’re out of sync with your verbal
message, you want to coordinate your gestures with the words you’re trying to emphasize.

Be sure that your gestures are in unison with the most important part of your message. If I’m telling people there are five things I want them to remember, I wouldn’t hold up two fingers. That would be an incongruent message. By the same token, if we want to keep people’s attention, we wouldn’t drop a gesture before we’re finished speaking. But we do it all the time. Our message and gesture are out of sync. As your use of the intentional gesture becomes natural, you’ll add refinements, such as the length of time you hold the gesture. This will vary with the gesture’s intention.

You want to help the listener in any way you can by coordinating the two parts to an intentional gesture—the actual movement and the timing of the gesture… with the words you’re saying….

A refinement to the intentional gesture is to use gesture when you are not talking. There are two parts of a verbal message — the actual spoken word and the silent pause between the segments, sentences, and thoughts. The silent pause allows the speaker to breathe. A silent, gestured pause allows the speaker to breathe and emphasize key parts of the message. Holding a gesture still (keep the same gesture, do not move it) throughout the pause allows the listener’s mind to see, feel, interpret, and internalize the message, which adds more impact to the verbal message. The listener has the greatest opportunity to internalize the message during the speaker’s pause. They are not busy listening to what else they might be missing at that time. The gestured pause allows the listener to catch up, comprehend and make correlations, and put the message in the proper place in memory. Move the gesture only when you begin to speak again.”

In my latest book What Your Body Says (and how to master the message), you’ll learn which length of time is appropriate for which gesture. You’ll learn when and how long to pause…between words…between gestures. You’ll learn about the power of the pause, the verbal pause and the silent pause.

Author's Bio: 

Sharon Sayler, MBA, is a Communications Success Strategist who trains professionals on how to become stronger, more influential communicators and leaders. She teaches people how to communicate with confidence and clarity by matching their body language to what their mouth is saying. Sharon's new book What Your Body Says (and how to master the message) teaches business leaders and communicators how to make their body match what their mouth is saying.

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