What babies can teach us about non-verbal communication

I’ve been thinking this week about the importance of non-verbal communication, its origins and its place in communications.

I was talking to my young nephews this week on Facetime. One is only 19 months old, however, so the conversation was somewhat limited, though the non-verbal communication was fantastic.

The next day I was reading a local magazine when I saw an advert for someone who specialised in teaching parents how to sign language, so they can communicate with their pre-school children at an earlier age. That got my interest.

And then yesterday, I came across some research on “baby cues” by Dr. Kathryn Barnard, founder of the Center on Infant Mental Health and Development at the University of Washington.

Cited in Psychology Today, Barnard’s idea is that by being able to read your baby’s nonverbal cues you can understand their feelings, needs and wants, and whether they want to engage or disengage.

So what has this got to do with internal communications or public relations?

Well, whether you are facilitating a staff meeting or speaking in public, your use of non-verbal communication is a determinant of how well you will be understood by your audience, and consequently how successful you will be in persuading your audience.

Non-verbal communication gives meaning and lends emphasis to your message. It can also support your message, but prove to be your undoing if you get it wrong.

To quote Kevin Murray, from his book The Language of Leaders, “Non-verbal communication reveals to the world how we feel inside, so it is critical to achieve emotional mastery if we are to prevent our body from sending signals that may be at odds with the messages we wish to communicate.”  

For example, you’ve seen the senior leader who addresses an audience and the words they use don’t seem to be in keeping with their gestures, leading you to feel that perhaps they’re not being entirely genuine.

Fortunately, these are all things that you can do something about.

If you accept that from infancy your communication habits and behaviours have been learned, then you can learn new ones. And better ones that get you the results you want.

Also see: http://diaryofacommunicator.com/2013/09/15/which-way-works-best-for-you/


2 thoughts on “What babies can teach us about non-verbal communication

  1. A good read. I have first hand experience of using sign language to communicate as my three-year-old son has a delayed speech disorder. Since he has learned how to use sign language he can now ask for milk, food, time to rest and many other things. Even as a toddler he wants to have his say and communicate so he can engage with people. Hopefully this experience will improve his non-verbal communication as he gets older, as it would be second nature to him.

    • Thanks for the response, it’s interesting to see this approach working out in practice. I hope he grows into a great communicator.

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