Communicating Without Words: A Soft Skill Worth Learning
By Tiffany Underwood, CPA
Whether you are interviewing for your next job or facilitating an important meeting, recent studies suggest soft skills like communicating could come in handy and are becoming more sought after in the workplace. In addition to communicating, soft skills consist of dependability, teamwork, critical thinking, and leadership, among others. According to research from the American Psychological Association, employers were more likely to hire a candidate that was likeable. Results from a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management showed soft skills such as dependability, teamwork, respect and integrity were all vitally important for hiring entry-level jobs. A CNBC article listed five top soft skills to get hired; communication was a soft skill among these.
Communication seems easy, and we would all like to think that we do it well, but that is contrary to what perspective employers are saying. We have been told to be prepared, so we choose our words wisely. We try to speak as clearly and concisely as possible, but there is more to communicating than simply writing or speaking well. There is much debate on the amount of nonverbal communication that occurs in a conversation, but we can all agree nonverbal signals are continuously being sent. We each have experienced a conversation where someone’s body language does not match his or her words.
Nonverbal communications are messages sent without speaking such as posture, pitch, eye contact, emotional expression, hand gestures, listening skills and attention, among other traits. Nonverbal communication can make a good or bad impression and could be a determining factor for a job offer. The type of nonverbal communication used should be representative of the message and audience receiving the communication. For example, at an interview or meeting, proper posture and a more serious tone may be necessary for delivering a message. Eye contact is also important, but not too much or it becomes uncomfortable.
The best way to develop nonverbal communication skills is to practice communicating and watch and listen for nonverbal signals being passed throughout the communication. Nonverbal communication can be practiced with a mirror or video tape. Having another person watch and critique nonverbal signals may also be helpful. Whatever method you choose to practice nonverbal communication, it is important to learn and understand the messages being sent without words.