Have you been struggling to hear? Do you dread attending or leading meetings at work, feel like you miss half of what’s being said, or worry that your boss will be upset? Along with treating your hearing loss, learning more about non-verbal cues can help you navigate meetings with ease.
Sign Language Experts and Nonverbal Cues
The people that know the most about nonverbal cues are sign language experts. Reading body language is a big part of how those using sign language communicate, and they can certainly teach us a thing or two about reading the room. Body language, gestures, and facial expressions are a lot more important than you might think, and if you miss what someone has said, you can observe these nonverbal cues to help you understand. One expert when it comes to reading nonverbals is Laurie Achin. She is a faculty member at Northeastern University in the American Sign Language department, and is deaf.
Reading Body Language
Achin explains that picking up on the nuances of communication is often just as important that what’s actually being said out loud. She says she observes people’s behaviors and mannerisms, and can tell what they’re thinking or feeling by how they walk, sit, stand, drink, or write. She catches “the little behaviors, the small movements, the small changes in people’s expressions, body language, and even how the person is saying something” to help her understand the meaning of what’s been said.
While we mainly rely on verbal cues to help us communicate, both in meetings and on the job, we don’t learn about reading body language, or how some simple principles of nonverbal cues could make us far better at communicating.
Backchannels are part of how we let our conversation partner know we’ve understood them. For hearing people, this is the “uh-huh-s” we say to show we’re following the argument or story we’re being told. We assume that people have understood us, even if the words we use are vague, or unclear. And if we’re having a virtual meeting, it can be even harder for someone to understand the meaning behind our words.
Those who read nonverbals are much better at picking up on these backchannels by reading body movements like raised eyebrows, which direction a person is looking, or even blinking. Even simple nodding can indicate that the person has heard and understood you, so watch for these cues during your next meeting to make sure people are following what you’ve said.
Noticing When Another Person Wants to Speak
When we’re presenting our ideas in a meeting, we often plow straight ahead and assume everyone is understanding us. But just because you’ve been thinking about these ideas for a while doesn’t mean it will be clear to everyone else. Someone may want to interrupt to ask for clarification, but if you miss the nonverbal cues, you may never explain yourself clearly.
When someone wants to interrupt or ask a question, they usually get restless in their chair. They might sit up higher, or lean forward, trying to get the attention of the speaker. Don’t get too focused on what you’re saying, but take the time to look around the room and make sure everyone is understanding you.
Everyone wants to be heard, and in some meetings, it seems that people are interrupting each other a lot. If you’re leading the meeting, encourage everyone to take turns speaking, and look for body cues that indicate that someone is frustrated. Frustration is all in the shoulders, says Achin. When someone’s shoulders are tensed, or scrunched up towards their ears, they are uncomfortable or frustrated. When the shoulders are relaxed and back, the person is content.
My Hearing Centers
If you’ve been struggling to hear, think about how nonverbal cues could help you in your next meeting, and in other areas of your life. Then, visit us at My Hearing Centers to talk about your hearing health. We want you to succeed at work, participate in meetings, and get the promotion you deserve. Learn how a quality pair of hearing aids can change your world, give you the ability to hear clearly and communicate affectively, and participate fully in every area of your life.