Non-Verbal Communication Speaks Volumes

Non-Verbal Communication Speaks Volumes

March 21, 2018
Annette Maggi

By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Retail dietitians are thrown into a host of communication occasions, which range from managing questions from shoppers in the store aisles to presenting to senior leadership at their companies.  Understanding and perfecting non-verbal communication can help you be more effective in all your communications.

Consider these tips about non-verbal communication:

  • It’s not just the words you say; tone matters, too. Your tone of voice can convey a wealth of information, ranging from enthusiasm to disinterest to anger.  When responding to shopper inquiries, ensure your tone is empathetic and nurturing.  In presentations, an animated tone of voice shows your enthusiasm for the topic.   
  • Eye contact is about balance.  If you fail to look someone in the eye, it may seem like you are not paying attention, you are trying to hide something, or you are avoiding the topic.  Yet, too much eye contact can seem intimidating or confrontational.   To find the right balance, experts recommend intervals of eye contact that last four to five seconds.
  • Verbal and non-verbal communications work synergistically.  Both types of communication work together to convey a total message.  Use body language that reinforces your spoken message. For example, crossed arms can suggest you are closed off and not open to ideas – not the message you want to send in a partnership discussion with a vendor or when engaging shoppers. If your goal during a presentation is to appear confident, stand firmly in one place, keep your shoulders back, and balance your weight between both feet.  
  • Overall demeanor matters more than individual gestures.  While we traditionally perceive a firm handshake to be a sign of confidence, consider that a condition such as arthritis can weaken a headshake.  Look for groups of non-verbal behavior when engaging shoppers, colleagues or retail leadership; at the same time consider your own set of non-verbals and the total message they communicate to others.

Research has shown that when words fail to match up with nonverbal signals, people tend to ignore what has been said and focus instead on unspoken expressions of moods, thoughts, and emotions. This makes it essential that you consider your non-verbal cues in the various settings and engagement your role involves.