Communication is critical in any engineering work. It is that component which allows for the effective implementation of tasks and smooth flow of work operations. But more often than not, the term is limited to verbal and written means, forgetting that there is a third category which is equally important: nonverbal communication.
Nonverbal communication is one which expresses messages through facial expressions, gestures, and body language. It also includes how we modulate the tone and pitch of our voice and how we place ourselves relative to others.
But why is this important?
For one, nonverbal communication can give clues and additional information and meaning over and above verbal communication. It helps people to reinforce or modify what is said in words, convey information about our emotional state, define or reinforce our relationship with others, provide feedback to the other person, and regulate the flow of communication.
Body language, being the best form of nonverbal communication, is manifested through different expressions as listed below. Engineers should be careful in making these expressions because they can affect impressions:
When in meetings or casual conversations, engineers should always appear confident. One way to do this is to move around with a good posture.
“In business, you’ve got to remember that when you walk into a boardroom, people have already made a decision about you by the time you sit down,” Eliot Hoppe, an author and expert on body language, told CNBC.
“Stand upright, have a brisk walk, you want to convey that you want to be there and are confident. If you slump your shoulders–what message will that give?” he said.
There is also politics in handshakes, Hoppe implied by saying that there is “power play” that can take place.
If the handshake is firm, if the other person tries to turn the handshake so that his or her hand is on top, or if he or she uses the second hand to shake your hand and pat your arm, there is a meaning: the one you are shaking hands with is trying to be dominant or aggressive towards you. If you subconsciously do this, it could also leave the same impression to others.
“When you see someone touch their face you instantly distrust them or feel uneasy about them,” Hoppe said. This is why you should never touch your face when talking with others: it conveys deceit, insincerity, and mistrust.
According to Hoppe, there are two things that you should be mindful about the tone of your voice.
“When you’re making a statement, command or directive, your voice goes down at the end of the sentence. So if you’re trying to convince someone of something, make sure it goes down.”
Meanwhile, a person who is trying to deceive someone will tend to raise the voice at the end of a sentence – trying to convince either himself or you.
Think twice about wearing anything red and yellow as they are considered to be colors of power. They can either be interpreted as confidence or arrogance by your boss.
“When we feel vulnerable we protect our neck area. When another person feels vulnerable too they will try to protect themselves–holding a book or papers over their chest or touching their neck–these are all self-assurance techniques,” Hoppe said.
In this aspect, it is also important to note how your items could affect impressions: if you have a pen or glasses or pen with chewed ends, it could say something about your thought process and confidence.
Hoppe said that there is research indicating 75% of the people being more comfortable when they talk to a person with the right eye directly facing his or her colleague’s right eye.
For this, he recommends that you take a small step to your left for a higher chance of the other end to experience comfort while having a conversation with you.