Monday, October 12, 2009

Nonverbal aspects of persuasion

By Katie Adkins

There is an old saying that states: "actions speak louder than words."
I can still hear my mother say it to me to this day, "Nonverbal
actions have a large impression on persuasion." I learned the power of
persuasion very early in life. I had strict parents so when I wanted
to do something, they were never easily convinced. If they were
feeling kind and said "yes," they'd always asked me the same thing
every time before I left: "Is your room clean?" I could try and
convince them it was clean but there is nothing persuading about an 8
foot avalanche of junk streaming from my closet. When my angry mother
emerged from the pile, she'd start "the lecture." No matter what she
said during "the lecture," it always ended with these words: "Remember
Katie, your actions speak louder than your words." While falling in
and out of love, constructing friendships and watching other
friendships sink, I have learned what my mother's words really meant.

According to, nonverbal communication is being
other than verbal; not involving words. According to Dr. Paul Preston,
professor at University of Montevallo in Alabama, "communication
experts generally agree that when two people are engaged in a
face-to-face conversation, only a small fraction of the total message
they share is contained in the words they use. A large portion of the
message is contained in vocal elements such as tone of voice, accent,
speed, volume, and inflection." Many of these elements are
communicated unconsciously, but whether it is intentional or not, non
verbal communication can affect a message positively or negatively.
When approaching my parents, I kept confidence in my voice, but I was
unaware of the message that a week's worth of laundry piled high in my
closet would send.

Observing two people having a conversation, without hearing their
words you can usually guess the tone of their conversation. But,
again, there are non verbal elements that can send the wrong message.
For instance, someone who speaks quickly exudes confidence, but when
giving a speech, fast talk usually indicates that the speaker is
nervous. Dr. Paul gives several ways in which one can improve and
control their non verbal behavior. First, recognize patterns of non
verbal cues. If someone punches a wall, you can probably assume that
they are angry. But don't assume that everyone's non verbal behavior
means the same thing. If someone is crying usually they are sad, but
some people cry when they are happy. Second, maintain good eye
contact. People are more easily persuaded and can give more trust if
you look them in the eye. And third, watch others' reactions when you
are communicating with them. The best way to learn about your own body
language, is to see others' body language towards you.

Some things to remember when you find yourself in a situation where
you have to be persuading: keep your voice low and moderated; keep
your body open and avoid sending a message of dominance. This includes
keep both of your feet flat on the floor; keep your eyes focused on
the target or person you are talking to, and always be aware of facial
expressions. These are also good tips to remember when you are giving
a speech or presentation of some kind. People are more likely to
believe what you are saying if they enjoy watching you perform.

In all speaking, it is important to remember kinesics or the
combination of gestures, postures, facial expressions, clothing, and
sometimes even scent. Kinesics is one of the main things that
determine what others think of us. Which in turn, is going to help you
with your own non verbal skills.

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