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Basic Nonverbal Communication for the United States

This article is meant to make you aware of basic nonverbal cues from others and to help make you a better communicator. After all communication is a two way street. We will be discussing nonverbal communication in the United States covering three main areas: body language, space, and eye contact.

Nonverbal communications are important because they convey a majority of the message that you are trying to send. The human face can produce over 25,000 expressions and the body can assume over a 1,000 different postures or poses that communicate nonverbally to the recipient. The average person makes their opinion of others within 30 seconds of seeing them. They do this by sight 82% of the time, 11% through the ears, and 7% through other senses. In fact 55% of what people "say" comes from our body language or nonverbal communications.

The first step in nonverbal communications is to be aware of your posture. There are two basic types of posture. The first is open, which communicates that you are ready to talk, listen or that you're interested in the other person. The second is a closed posture where you look unapproachable and it communicates discomfort and disinterest in others.

The most common forms of bad posture are head forward and slouching. People who slouch or push their heads forward are sending a message of closed posture and lack of confidence. When a person pushes their head forward and rounds their shoulders they are communicating subservience, humility, and disregard for the person speaking to them. If you work on a computer for a majority of your day chances are you have this posture because you sit like this all day. The second most common bad posture is the slouch, which shows insecurity, illness, boredom or indifference.

Next we are going to talk about blocking behaviors. Blocking, no matter how good or poor your posture, will shut down communication with others and can be a sign that you wish they would stop talking or that you are not interested in what they are saying. The most common of these are the fig leaf, where you place your hands in front of you together; some women will use their purse or a coffee mug. Crossed arms are also a big indicator that a person is not willing to listen or that they feel offended by what you are saying. People will also do subtle things like placing a finger over the lips to indicate that they want you to stop talking. People may even rub their eyes so that they can block out what you are saying because they don't want to hear it.

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