Non-Verbal Communication: What the Things You Don’t Say Can Say About You

When engaging in any type of communication, there are two major components: the verbal element and the non-verbal element. The verbal element includes the actual words that you say and actually account for a small percentage of what gets communicated. In contrast, non-verbal communication includes everything else – your tone, posture, appearance, facial expression, and movements. Leaders and executives want to ensure that they are giving off the correct impression as they interact with others. Their conversations should convey their authority, express thoughts in a clear way, and build trusting relationships.

Executives should consider the following as they prepare for meetings or hold one-on-one discussions:


What you wear says a lot about you. Executives want to make sure that they look the part and are dressed professionally. In a more casual setting, men may not have to wear a tie and women can wear slacks; in formal situations, a jacket and tie or business suit are better received. Those in leadership roles do not want to show up to a situation underdressed. This could convey a lack of concern or that they do not take things seriously.

Looking professional can also help to build confidence. People often feel more confident and serious while wearing a suit or dress as opposed to shorts and a t-shirt. This can help them to stay in a leadership mentality. You do not want your attire to be distracting or give off the wrong message. Modest, straight-forward apparel is commonly preferred. Avoid wearing strongly scented perfumes or colognes as well.


One common habit that many people are prone to is slouching. When they sit at a table or in a chair, their shoulders are hunched over or they may be leaned back. Assert yourself as someone who is attentive and focused by sitting or standing up straight and looking forward. Try to stay relaxed and keep your arms and shoulders in a natural position. Being too rigid can make you appear anxious or uptight. Also be aware of what you are doing with your arms. Keeping them crossed in front of your chest can be perceived defensively.

Facial Expressions

The expression on your face should match what you are saying. When listening to others, be wary of what your expression might convey. Don’t let the look on your face give off the wrong impression before you have had a chance to speak. Focus on appropriate and more neutral reactions while listening, and then you can display more emotion in your response. People often read expressions as a more genuine reflection of thought before they hear the words that accompany them.

When talking to others, maintain eye contact to show that you are engaged. Scan the group and look to various people rather than focusing on just one. Hold contact for three to five seconds before moving on. In addition, nodding your head can subtly demonstrate agreement or disagreement during a conversation. Avoiding eye contact can make it appear as though you are distracted, disengaged, or even hiding something.


Your movements should be planned, deliberate, and controlled. They should add emphasis and align with what you are saying. Being in control can help to minimize swaying or pacing which can be perceived as nervousness or insecurity. Maintaining a strong stance and casually taking a few steps from time to time can hold audience attention while conveying confidence. Using your hands strategically for emphasis is acceptable as long as gestures are not overused or misinterpreted.

While it is important to monitor your own non-verbal cues, pay attention to those from the group as well. By gauging their actions and responses, you can tailor your reactions and presentation accordingly. This also provides some natural feedback as to how messages are being received.

To learn more about conducting yourself in a professional manner and how your actions and image are perceived, contact JP Kantor Consulting today. Our professionals can work with you to create a stronger presence that allows you to more effectively convey your message and build respect.