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Send the right message, even in silence

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You're always sending messages, even as you sit in silence.

“Nonverbal cues indicate what is really being said. Our smile, gestures, voice and handshake all send out messages to those around us,” says communications expert Debra Hamilton ( “In fact, repeated studies show that more than 90 percent of your message’s meaning is transmitted nonverbally.”

What messages do you send in your everyday communication? Here are the gestures and cues Hamilton says we should be aware of:

1. Volume. A loud voice is authoritative and attention-getting. A soft voice reflects calm self-assurance. Either one can be useful, if you use it in the right situation. Tip: When you talk in front of a crowd, always start off with a slightly louder voice to convey energy, then lower it.

2. Pace. “Listeners prefer a slightly faster pace to a slower pace,” says Hamilton. Slow your speech, though, when making an important point. Tip: Use pauses to engage listeners.

3. Tone.
Avoid a flat tone, which tells your listener that you’re bored, angry or apprehensive. Varying your tone and using complementary body language “sends a message of emotional substance,” says Hamilton.

4. Defensive body language. Crossed arms, hands on hips, finger pointing, rigid posture, clenched fists, eye rolling: Too many of these gestures, says Hamilton, and you’ll likely damage your credibility.

Become aware of your body language and vocal cues, then focus on one behavior change at a time. Ask a colleague to provide feedback.

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