Ask the people with whom you’re communicating if your interpretation of their nonverbal behavior is correct. For example, assume that you present a solution to a problem that your group is working on. After you offer your proposal, you notice a shift in the members’ non-verbals: they minimize eye contact with you, their posture and facial expressions become more tense, and they stop talking. You might ask, “Does your silence mean you don’t like my idea?” You might follow this up with, “From the look on your face, am I correct in assuming that you don’t like my suggestion?”
Since we can only judge others by what we observe, it’s possible that we might misinterpret what others are thinking and intending. Checking your interpretations of other peoples’ unspoken messages minimizes potential misunderstandings.
Ask a trusted confidante how your facial expressions and gestures might be misperceived. One individual was surprised to learn that her intent expression of concentration was perceived by others as anger or confusion.
Effective communicators are sensitive to how their messages–verbal and nonverbal–might be misperceived. In fact, oftentimes many people respond more to nonverbals than to the stated message.