So far in my communication for the home series, I’ve covered why we need good communication skills in the family, the importance of being intentional and setting appointments, active listening, and filtering our thoughts before we speak them.
Today for my last post in this series, I’m going to delve into the silent part of communication for the home, aka nonverbal communication. I have touched on it briefly already, but I’ll share a little more today.
The first nonverbal to keep in mind is eye contact. There’s a common saying that “eyes are the window to the soul”. There is a lot of truth in that. When we can look into another person’s eyes, we can often understand much more than simply what their mouth is saying. In the eyes, you can often see underlying sadness or joy, or perhaps you can see uneasiness or deception. Also, the lack of eye contact conveys a lack of investment in the conversation. Nothing says “I don’t want to talk to you right now” like shifting eyes or no eye contact does. If you are speaking to someone, please look at them in the eyes. If you are listening to someone, please look at them in the eyes.
Along the same lines as eye contact is matching the eye level between speaker and hearer. What this means is that if you are having a discussion, it is important for the eyes of both parties to be approximately the same level. If one person is standing and one is sitting, the one sitting is naturally going to be looking up at the one standing. This works well to convey authority or command attention for a teaching or preaching situation, as seen below – 🙂
You see when one is standing and the other is sitting, it sets up an imbalance of power, which is the goal in some types of communication. But for a two-sided conversation or discussion to take place, you don’t want this imbalance of perceived power. It can tend to make the one sitting to feel small, insignificant, or powerless, and is not conducive to a healthy two-sided discussion. This is especially important when talking to children. Get down on their level, stoop down, bend down or sit down with them, so you can look them in the eyes face to face.
The next thing to be aware of in a discussion is what you’re doing with your arms. Crossed arms say “I’m not changing my mind.” or “I don’t want to be here right now”. This is very subtle, and you may be rolling your eyes right about now thinking this is unimportant, but these subtle changes in your body language can make a big difference in how others perceive you. So try to keep your arms open and relaxed, which makes you appear open and relaxed.
Along the same lines is body position – are you leaning slightly towards the person you’re talking to or slightly away? To show interest and care, its best to lean slightly forward. See this little guy? He’s leaning in, making good eye contact, open arms, inviting you to engage with him. 🙂
By leaning in, I don’t mean being so close that they can feel your breath on their face. Please don’t invade personal space! Keep a proper distance – if others tend to back away from you when you’re speaking to them, then you are too close, and they are feeling uncomfortable.
Lastly, be aware of the power of physical touch. A light touch on the hand or arm can go a long way in saying “I care”, “I’m listening”, or “please tell me more”. Always be respectful of other’s personal space, and if they shrink back when you touch them then of course remove your hand. But using touch can powerfully show love in your family relationships for most situations.
These all may seem insignificant or even bordering on silly, but when combined with the other skills I’ve already written about, they can go a long way in making your family members feel cared for, loved, and heard.
That’s all for now friends. Be fruitful, happy, and healthy!