Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

4.13. Use body language

ryanrori January 23, 2021

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A spoken message is always sent on two levels simultaneously, oral and non-oral. When communicating orally, the following aspects of non-oral communication also need to be borne in mind:

  • Eye Contact – In business culture, it is imperative to make eye contact if one wishes to make a positive impression and maintain a relationship based on trust.  However, maintain eye contact without staring, as this can be perceived as arrogant and threatening.  Avoid blinking too much as this communicates nervousness and can be interpreted as an indication of dishonesty.  Try to keep your eye level on the same level as the other person.  Stand if the other person is standing. If the person is seated, accommodate this by standing back a little.
  • Facial Expressions – Be aware of facial expressions when speaking to people.  Professional service providers who deliver excellent service have alert, lively and appropriate facial expressions.  Avoid the following facial expressions:
  • An expressionless or deadpan face showing no emotion in response to what guests say, as this makes them feel uncomfortable.  This may also be interpreted as boredom, rudeness or indifference.
  • An arrogant or stern expression, which creates the impression of being superior or patronising towards others.
  • A continuous grinning, which only makes one look stupid.  It creates the impression of misunderstanding what is being said or done.  It may also create the impression of being deliberately unhelpful.
  • Gestures – Head and hand movements are common during speech.  Smooth and wide gestures with palms facing upwards, are warm and welcoming.  People react positively to friendliness and helpfulness.  Guests are naturally drawn to people who use calming gestures.  Sharp, short gestures with palms facing downwards, are aggressive and negative.  People react by wanting to either dispute or avoid.  When upset or if there is a need to discuss problems, gestures should be controlled.  Problems are never resolved through aggressive gestures.
  • Posture – The way the speaker stands, sits or walks, indicates a great deal about the speaker’s attitude, mood and self-esteem.  A correct posture entails the following:
  • Stand upright with arms comfortably at sides.
  • Keep shoulders dropped and slightly back.
  • Stand with feet slightly apart to maintain balance.
  • Walk briskly because it creates a professional impression.
  • Sit upright with shoulders back.  Slouching looks lazy.
  • When speaking to guests either face them completely or turn the body slightly sideways towards them.
  • Avoid leaning against walls or furniture.
  • Avoid folded arms – they create the impression of being shy or arrogant.
  • Standing with hands on hips looks arrogant.
  • Swinging when speaking to people suggests a lack of self-confidence.
  • Resting the face on hands while leaning on counters looks lazy.
  • Personal Space – This refers to the space each person has around him / her and into which intrusions are unwelcome.  The exact size of the area around each person differs and depends on a variety of factors including, personality, culture, family background and even the type of sport played.  Shy people usually need a wider personal space than outgoing people do.  People instinctively indicate when their space is invaded – they either move away slightly, look uncomfortable, blink their eyes to show their discomfort, or look behind the speaker to avoid eye contact.

Plan formal communications

Formats, conventions, protocols and contexts 

When planning formal communications we need to pay attention to the formats, conventions and protocols that govern formal language usage.

“Format” refers to the organisation and arrangement of a text, which is governed by certain “conventions”, such as spelling, punctuation, capitalisation, grammar, and paragraphing and “protocols” or generally accepted standards.

Formal communications will adhere to the following “rules”:

  • Adopt a formal tone
  • Use the third-person rather than first-person perspective
  • Maintain a clear focus on the issue or topic rather than on your opinion
  • Aim for precise word choice
  • Avoid jargon, slang, and abbreviations
  • Limited use of contractions; e.g. verb contractions such as: it’s, they’re, don’t and we’ve. Contractions are used regularly in casual conversation, and by using contractions in our text, we will convey an informal quality. To elevate the style, eliminate the contractions and write out the verbs. 
  • Check grammar and spelling, as incorrect usage of these elements also conveys a sloppy or informal attitude and not the image we would like to portray in a formal communication event, such as a presentation.