by Dr. Randy Gilchrist, LDS Psychologist
www.LDSdimension.com (FREE LDS online dating site)
There is an old saying: it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Some theorize that 90%+ of communication comes from non-verbal communication: tone of voice, body language, and facial expression, with the final 10% or so being the actual, literal words being used in the discussion. With those numbers in your mind, it becomes easier to see how common miscommunications, offenses, and erroneous assumptions occur when only the literal words are used to communicate, such as in a note, text, or email. That is not to say that written communication doesn’t have an important place in relationships. However, I think it is a safe to say that when written communication in these forms—especially texting nowadays—is the predominant communication method, misinterpretation, confusion, and hurt feelings will follow.
So, in your relationships—especially with the opposite sex—please have as much real, interactive communication in person as possible, face-to-face, or at least talking over the phone. Phone calls having the words and tone of voice is a plus, but it still lacks the facial expressions and body language. Still, phone conversations are usually still superior to the written word alone. Plus, both face-to-face and phone conversations allow for a back and forth flow of words in real time, versus the choppy flow when giving and waiting to receive the written response. When you do manage to talk person to person, here are a few tips to help improve your non-verbal communication:
Tone of Voice
In my opinion, the single best and more powerful element of non-verbal communication is tone of voice. Also known as voice fluctuation, tone conveys emotion, intent, reaction, and so much more. Without a person’s tone of voice as a part of a communication, truly knowing what a person is trying to convey can be very challenging indeed, if not impossible. In general, an assertive tone of voice is a balanced tone of voice: not too sensitive and submissive to overly convey submission, but also not so forceful or insensitive to the other that a more aggressive tone might convey. Balanced elements of an assertive, effective tone of voice often include sounding open, honest, clear, and direct, as well as respectful, civil, considerate, and sensitive. An assertive tone tries to capture some seriousness like aggressive communicators, while also maintaining the civility to not offend. Conversely, an overly soft passive tone will usually not be respected or taken seriously. Assertive tonality is usually best.
An assertive body language will usually be received the best by others. Assertive body language usually involved decent posture, good eye contact, open arms, and sitting or standing close enough to connect, but not too close to violation space and boundaries. Conversely, passive body language can include slouching, poor eye contact and looking away, and an overall message of submission. Aggressive body language comes across as overpowering and hostile, and may include such things as crossed arms, hands on hips, flailing arms or hands, and getting too close or otherwise acting imposing to the other. Not effective either way. Again, and assertive body language usually does best in communication.
The look on a person’s face rounds out the main elements of non-verbal communication. Eye contact (or lack thereof) is only part of this. The particular expressions on a person’s facial muscles tell an entire story on their own. Certain facial contortions send certain conscious and subconscious messages of what a person is feeling and thinking. Some of these expressions are subconscious and automatic, whereas others are done more purposefully. A facial expression showing warmth, acceptance, interest, and validation will be taken much differently than contortions that are seemingly upset, bored, irritated, annoyed, etc. To become much more educated and aware of the different messages sent by different facial expressions, you may wish to study the subject directly. Two sites offering decent online video courses in facial cues and interpretation include:
Your non-verbal communication will go a long way to determine the impression you make with others in your conversations and interactions. Be aware of your tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions. Work to make the adjustments and improvements needed to convey what you’d like, and more importantly, how you’d like it to be received. You may wish to video tape and watch yourself in practice/mock conversations with another. When you watch these videos back, notice the impressions you are conveying and make the needed adjustments accordingly. Improving you non-verbals will greatly improve your communication and your relationships in general. Knowledge is power, and this adjustment will give you a great asset in the dating and relationship arena. And it is worth it. Because "…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:11).
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About the author
Hello, my name is Dr. Randy Gilchrist (aka "Dr. G"). I am a licensed clinical psychologist, a licensed marriage & family therapist, and a certified hypnotherapist in private practice in Roseville, CA (www.dr-rg.com), practicing since 1997. Also, I am happily married in the temple (Manti) since 1996 and have 4 sons. I am a volunteer writer and contributor to LDS Dimension. I use my training, education, and experience to share insights with LDS Dimension on all things of interest to the LDS dating community. Please read my articles and columns on this site to assist you in your online dating journey. Also, to be considered for an answer in a future Q and A column, please email me your dating/relationship oriented questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, I also offer a powerful, effective worldwide custom hypnosis recording service just for LDS Dimension members for weight loss, pornography, and many other issues of concern to those in the LDS dating community (please learn more now at www.dr-rg.com/lds; email me questions to email@example.com).