Emotional Intelligence involves sharpening our communication skills, particularly in how we listen and respond nonverbally to others. It also pertains to our ability to assess and interpret the body language of others. How we say things is far more communicative than what we are saying, because nonverbal behavior represents two-thirds of overall communication.
Nonverbal signals, or body language, can include hand gestures, the way we sit or stand, the pace in which we speak, how close we stand to the other person, and how much eye contact we make. Our nonverbal communication indicates to others how trustworthy, attentive, and receptive we are, depending on how well our body language matches our verbal message.
To transmit appropriate nonverbal cues, we must be able to manage our stress in the moment so that we are less anxious and more present with the person or persons to whom we are communicating. When we are able to maintain our emotional balance and accurately identify our emotions, we are not caught up in our minds, but are actually attentive to the other person and the signals they are sending our way. We are also aware of and in control of sending the appropriate signals that truthfully express how we feel.
The following tips can cultivate stronger nonverbal communication:
Be attentive to signals: Your body language often reveals your level of attention, so if your arms are crossed, you may be communicating that you are uninterested in the other person’s opinion. Try standing with your arms at your side and shoulders relaxed to indicate that you are receptive and interested in what the other person has to say. Likewise, be conscious of the signals the speaker is sending your way by resisting distractions and increasing your attention to the speaker’s overall message.
Value eye contact: By maintaining eye contact with the other person in a conversation, you increase trust and demonstrate that you respect and value their thoughts by communicating genuine interest. Eye contact also helps you to stay focused on the conversation and avoid distractions, which sustains conversation flow.
Identify nonverbal cues: By recognizing the nonverbal cues you’re sending and receiving—such as facial expressions, tone of voice, posture and gestures, physical touch, and the timing and pace of the conversation—you can increase the efficacy and honesty of your communications. Practice recognizing these cues in front of a mirror, or ask a friend to act out various scenarios with you to build your awareness of nonverbal cues.
Your nonverbal behavior is closely correlated with your emotional awareness: when you have a strong EQ, you are more in touch with your moment-to-moment emotions and can communicate accordingly through your nonverbal behavior. On the contrary, when you are not aware of your emotions, your nonverbal behavior often reveals your true feelings about a conversation, issue, or person and can result in misunderstanding and confusion. Cultivating your Emotional Intelligence provides you with the freedom to communicate more clearly, effectively, and honestly and to better express yourself through speech as well as body language.