In part one of this series, we learned that some conflict is our own fault due to our own conflicting thoughts and desires. In part two, we examined how what we say, intentionally or unintentionally, can stir the workplace conflict waters.
This installment will focus on your non-verbal skills. What you say with your body and facial expressions can speak volumes in and of itself. Sadly, what it says is not always positive. As a matter of fact, your non-verbal communication skills can have a negative effect on your workplace environment and cause conflict.
Your body language is speaking
The way you listen, look with your eyes or move your body tells the other person whether or not you care. Body language also shows if you’re being truthful and how well you’re listening. When your nonverbal signals match up with the words you’re saying, they increase trust, clarity and rapport. When they don’t, they generate tension, mistrust and confusion.
If you want to become a better communicator (one on one, small group and large group), it is vitally important to take inventory. Become an expert of your body language and the nonverbal cues you relay. These include your facial expressions, your posture, space, eye contact, use of personal space and gestures.
My first job out of college was for a company that sold gauges of all sizes. I was in accounts receivable, also performing credit assessments for companies asking for a line of credit. One of the salesmen was a very tall, former football player with a big presence.
The office was set up with numerous cubicles and often this large coworker would come up behind me and ask me a question. He towered over me. He usually was asking if I approved one of his leads for credit. Each time he approached, I felt very intimidated but did not speak up about this.
Looking back, that co-worker could have approached me at the side of my cubicle (instead of behind me). He could have even pulled over a chair to talk to me by my desk on my eye level. Your size, the type of questions you ask, and how and where you stand can send an intimidating feel to those around you.
For nine years, I worked remotely for a non-profit organization. I spent the lion’s share of my time coaching people in my four-state region over the phone. After a routine evaluation administered by my company, I was shocked to read some of the comments about my leadership and coaching role. Others said I talked them into a corner, they felt they could not disagree with me, and that I only cared about the bottom line, not about them personally. Further comments said I came across as demanding and commanding.
It was sobering to read. I was absolutely surprised to receive this feedback and did care about them personally! I was completely open to being disagreed with, and truly wanted the best for the people reporting to me. Where was the disconnect? I felt driven to figure out how to make adjustments so that the way I came across matched up with the way I really felt.
Instead of making excuses, I took responsibility and made several changes. The biggest change of all was that I stopped using the phone as the primary coaching communication. I began to use GoToMeeting. The people I was talking to could not only hear my voice but now could also see my expressions.
On the phone, my lower voice and passion seemed authoritative. However, when matched with my expressive face, smiles, nods of approval, eye contact and leaned forward in listening, I actually NEVER got the harsh feedback again. People needed to see me (and my non-verbal communication skills) to understand my coaching fully. In my case, my non-verbals skills were my assets. The lack of showing them was my downfall.
How are you coming across to others? It would be highly beneficial to ask others about this, review past evaluations or look to future evaluations to see where you can improve. The use of non-verbal skills will either enhance your workplace environment or be the perpetrator of workplace conflict. You can change and better yourself and your workplace!