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Just How Important is Non-verbal Communication?

by Tammy Lenski
July 2016

Conflict Zen Blog by Tammy Lenski

Tammy Lenski

For decades, non-verbal communication has been lauded as an important part of establishing connection and understanding with others. Now a new study suggests non-verbals aren’t as key as we think.

If you want to establish connection and build understanding, it’s probably more important to converse and ask questions than try to convey your intentions with body language, according to a new study from the University of Texas.

The study, which examined how people “get in synch” linguistically, concluded that pairs of strangers achieved higher levels of mutual understanding when they exchanged more words with each other, acknowledged each other, and asked more questions than pairs who relied more on non-verbal cues.

Researcher and psychologist William Ickes says,

Beginning in the 1970s, many researchers touted the power of non-verbal communication in creating first impressions and connecting with others.

Our research indicates that the exchange of words in conversation is all that is really needed for the development of common-ground understanding in initial, unstructured interactions.”

Nothing in the research suggests that non-verbal cues have no merit, just that words may be all you really need.

As you wait at the conference room table for your next negotiation, or sit down on the couch to broach a difficult conversation with a loved one, this study suggests you can free up some working memory for the important task ahead by letting go of the mental reminders to sit or gesture in certain ways.

Biography


Dr. Tammy Lenski helps people resolve conflict in ongoing business and personal relationships and bring their "A" game to difficult conversations. Since founding her NH-based conflict resolution firm Myriaccord LLC in 1997, Tammy has worked with individuals and organizations worldwide as a master mediator, executive coach, speaker, and educator. Author of the award-winning book, Making Mediation Your Day Job, she recently received the Association for Conflict Resolution’s prestigious Mary Parker Follett award for innovative and pioneering work in her field. Her second book, The Conflict Pivot, was released in 2014.

 



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