When couples come in and complain of communication problems I usually ask them how they see this showing up in their lives. More often than not it’s not what’s being said that is the problem but rather what isn’t. This newsletter is part one of two where we discuss how our communication is impacted by our nonverbal cues and our tone.
When we are having a conversation with someone we can get just as much information from their nonverbal cues as their verbal ones. We can tell things like the person’s mood, what emotions the person is experiencing, if he or she means what they are saying, and even if the person is actually engaging in the conversation.
In relationships we can have conversations that sometimes go south. Some of the most harmful forms of Non Verbal communication are:
- Eye rolling
- Ignoring (looking away, not paying attention)
- Walking away
We often underestimate how much damage can be done when we use the cues listed above. They can be very dismissing and can make a conversation turn to conflict really quickly. Unfortunately couples often don’t realize how big of a role their nonverbal communication plays in their relationship and can get stuck when trying to work through things positively. Even if all the “right” words are said, an entirely different message may be received if their nonverbal cues don’t match the words. The good thing is that for every harmful non verbal cue there is a healthy one that helps repair a relationship.
Some of the most beneficial forms of Non-Verbal communication are:
- Eye contact
- Loving Physical touch such as holding hands, giving hugs
- Leaning in towards one another
- Expressing positive emotions through facial expressions (smiling, laughing etc)
All couples experience conflict in their relationship and in truth conflict can be what helps a relationship grow and develop. If you find your relationship is stuck, however, and your communication is not where you want it to be, take a moment to sit down and think about the non verbal cues you most often turn to. Have a healthy conversation with your partner about the role nonverbal communication plays in your relationship (without finger pointing) and discuss which cues you want to make an extra effort to eliminate from your conversations.
Which cues do you often use that are helpful to your relationship and which ones are destructive? List them below in the comments section.