What is the importance of body language in communication?

Verbal communication accounts for only about 7 percent of the meaning others will extract from your words. More important is the

38 percent accounted for by intonation, inflection, pitch, emphasis, speed, and volume, and the remaining 55 percent accounted for by body language (eyes, face, size, posture, motion, and gestures). Consequently, if you want to be a good communicator, you need to be as skilled in nonverbal communication as verbal communications.

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Enrich your vocal variety. Many people speak in a boring monotone. Tape yourself in a conversation. Should you modulate your voice for greater impact? How about speaking more slowly? Nerves can cause some people to hurry their words. Learn to pace your words to add authority to your remarks.

Another way to increase credibility is by eye contact. Lack of eye contact suggests dishonesty or disrespect. Instead, look people in the eyes (or at the bridge of the nose) when you speak to them or they speak to you. Accompany all handshakes with smiling eyes. A pleasant expression and a smile help to create a positive tone. A jaw that is set or a frown that extends from eyes to mouth communicates resistance and displeasure or disapproval. It isn't just the facial expression. When your eyebrows are lowered, your voice also goes lower and sounds gruff.

Try this: Raise your eyebrows and say a few words. Your voice should sound enthusiastic and optimistic. When you meet someone or lead a discussion, or address a group, raise your eyebrows above their natural position. It should make your voice sound more positive.

Good posture when standing or seated indicates that you are in control and have confidence in yourself. It also is a sign of respect for others. A slouch or slumped shoulders can convey indifference, ineptitude, or withdrawal.

Gestures can help to support or negate a verbal message. Defensive gestures such as arms folded across the body or hands fidgeting with clothes, hair, or objects tend to erode credibility and evoke suspicion in the mind of the listener. Hands on the hips is an aggressive gesture, particularly when you are standing and the other party is seated in front of you. Hands held in the steeple position convey confidence and also a sense of power.

Once you understand nonverbal communication, you can be more effective as a communicator—both in delivering messages and truly understanding messages delivered by others.

How do I say "no" to an employee request?

You can soften your rejection of a request by using the ''sandwich approach''; that is, put the ''no'' part of your response between two neutral or positive statements. The first comment paraphrases the request, demonstrating that you have heard it. ''I understand why you would want a draft of the e-newsletter. However, I can't release the newsletter until all the information has been included. As soon as it's done, though, I'll see that you get a copy.'' If the person is persistent, you need do no more than repeat your earlier refusal. If the individual continues to refuse to accept your reply, repeat your rejection again and again in a matter-of-fact tone.

Most ''nos'' have no need for explanation. Employees and colleagues have a right to ask you to do something—and you have the right to say ''no.'' Keep that in mind. Bad news like the decision to reject a proposal or cut a budget may be better followed by an explanation, on the other hand.

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Saying ''no'' to an idea, proposition, or request from an employee or customer can create knots in your stomach. But the damage done in the delivery can be far worse than the answer itself.

You can say ''no'' with an uncaring attitude: ''No way will I let you take tomorrow morning off.'' Or you can say ''no'' passively, hiding behind an excuse that is not the real reason: ''I can't let you. The CEO may drop by and I would want you here to talk to him with me.'' Or you can say ''yes'' and do ''no.'' Tell the employee that he or she can take time off and then stop the employee as he or she is on the way out. ''I hate to tell you but I need you to work with me on the budget. Come on into my office.''

The last of these three ways to say ''no'' may be the easiest—but only at the time. In the long run, you will disappoint the person and even cause more serve problems than an honest ''No, I need your help with the budget. Besides, you have used up all your vacation time.''

A response—positive or negative—doesn't have to be immediate. Even if you know you intend to say "no," it would be perfectly acceptable to ask for time to think about the request. If you need that time to consider the wording of your "no," you can do that. However, if your intent is simply to stall, better to get the "no" over with.

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