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More on Non-Verbal Communication

by Adam Zack — August 3, 2022


Your tone may not exactly convey what you are trying to say, but it says everything to who you are talking to.

I got some very kind comments on last week’s blog about eye contact and non-verbal communication, and it reminded me of a blog on the same topic from about 5 years ago that I still find relevant. I’ve made some updates.

Non-verbal communication trumps the actual words every time. Every single time. Your tone may not exactly convey what you are trying to say, but it says everything to who you are talking to. Someone asks for your help, and you say “Sure, what can I help you with?” Sounds great on paper, right? Roll your eyes and sigh when you say it sounds like you are definitely not in for helping. “Your hair looks great today” sounds like a lovely compliment but say it with an emphasis on Your and a slight smirk on your face and you are just being sarcastic and untruthful. Do it the opposite way: “You’ve put on a couple pounds, haven’t you?” when said with a smile and a sincere handshake is sure to make the other person think “Wait…is he being serious?” You learn tone the hard way as a kid, when your mom said, “Don’t use that tone with me, mister!” and you tried to play semantics and replied “What?? I said excuse me.” when you said “Excuuuuusee meeeee” with the sarcasm of a 11-year-old. It’s especially complicated in today’s world where texting and social media are so prevalent in communication. Does ALL CAPS mean I am getting yelled at? Or that it’s important? Or do they just like caps? Is a one word answer akin to “Stop bothering me”? When someone doesn’t respond to your text are they mad at you? Did you do something wrong? Is everything OK? If you “like” someone’s Instagram post, say it’s their anniversary and you don’t actually type “Happy anniversary” are you slighting them? Of course not. The higher you get in management, the more your tone conveys the mood of your business. When you come to work and don’t sincerely greet your employees, the assumption is that things are going badly and that they should avoid you. Fact is, you just had a bad night’s sleep, but they don’t know that unless you explain in a tone they can understand.

Here’s a very funny skit on the tone of texting and how it can be perceived. Note: It has bad language, and some implied pot smoking, but it’s so funny. If those topics sound offensive please don’t watch the video and, well, excuuuusssee meeeee!


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