Don’t Look at Me in That Tone!

Are you looking for the right things to say during the interview, the perfect ways to communicate a new project to your boss, or simply trying to stay out of the dog house with your significant other?  It all comes down to what you’re not saying, which most times speaks much louder than your actual words. 

It’s called nonverbal communication.   I’m taken back to one of the most beneficial classes in my college education, where I learned that it’s just as (in most cases, more) important to say the right things with nonverbal communication as it is with verbal communication.  Another jump back in time, and I’m reminded of my mother saying, “Kirk, I know you heard me, but did you listen?”

Here are three examples of nonverbal communication and how something unsaid can actually speak louder than words:

Look at me!

Making eye contact is crucial when you’re communicating or when you’re the one on the other side.  Lack of eye contact can be seen as a sign of disinterest, disconnection, even disrespect (although, in some cultures, direct eye contact is the very action that is deemed as disrespectful).  You want your audience, whether it’s one person or 1,000 people, to be engaged and interested in what you’re saying.  Keeping eye contact as a listener shows respect and can keep you more interactive and in-tune with the information being communicated.  As a communicator, making eye contact with your audience also shows them that you value their time and want them to get just as much or more value out of the information you’re providing.

Head, shoulders, knees & toes

Shrugging shoulders, crossing arms and slumping posture can also give a person the notion that you’re bored, uninterested, or closed to their ideas.  Some of these are more subtle than others.  I tend to cross my arms a lot – for me, it’s my thinking pose.  It’s not that I don’t agree or am bored; it just may be that I feel comfortable with my arms crossed.  Again, it’s all about perception.  Sitting up straight and keeping your stance opened can make a big difference in how your actions are perceived. 

It’s all over your face

Gestures such as winking, rolling eyes, or that expression that says “I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY!!” are all facial clues to what you’re thinking.  Before you jump in with your great idea, hear the person out in their entirety.  Be respectful of their ideas first.  Then, offer your feedback.  After that, offer your ideas or solutions.  On the communicator side, these are easy signs to spot and can sometimes completely derail the entire conversation.

So, whether you’re talking or not, you’re still saying a lot about yourself.  A great way to spot your weaknesses in nonverbal communication is to video yourself during a mock interview.  Ask your co-workers, your boss, your friends and family.  They all should want to see you succeed, so shouldn’t have any qualms with pointing out your nonverbal clues. 

Are there tips that you don’t see here regarding nonverbal communication?  Feel free to leave a comment below.  Additionally, please connect with me – just click the “Let’s Connect” tab above.  All my information is there and I look forward to hearing from you!


15 thoughts on “Don’t Look at Me in That Tone!

  1. Kirk – it feels odd to write a comment when the post is about non-verbal communication, but I’ll give it a shot.

    As a hiring manager, I completely agree !! I watch how a person reacts/acts much more than they’re answers. Most candidates are good at the “interview dance” and they give catch phrase after catch phrase, but their body doesn’t lie. It’s great to monitor because their non-verbal cues will give a much better picture as to who they’ll be in my company should they get hired.

    Good post and insight – as always. (I’m smiling as I type this so you know my non-verbals.)


    1. Thanks Steve. I can see your nonverbals now (and I haven’t even met you)! 🙂 You’re right – many candidates are good at answering the questions and going through the basics. It’s always interesting to hear what their body language has to say! Thanks again for the comment. Keep on rockin’ HR!


  2. Great post Kirk. I laughed when I saw the title, because in my circle of friends we sarcastically tell each other “Don’t look at me in that tone of voice!” (Of course, we also say “You shut your mouth when you are talking to me.”) =)

    Communication falls into the typical Pareto principle where 80% of your focus (verbal) becomes 20% of the message, while 20% of your focus (non-verbal) says 80%. The non-verbal cues are so much more difficult to control than your words. I think about this much more than I used to because while my former boss focused mainly on content, my current boss is a practiced analyzer of those ‘non-verbal cues.’


  3. First and foremost, I love reading your blog. It always has so much great information and value. This post is no exception.

    Most people are careful about what they say during an interview. But, they forget about what impression their body language/nonverbal cues are giving off. Thanks for reminding all of us to analyze our nonverbal cues. Keep on rocking the blogosphere!


  4. Need to keep this in mind when having a telephone interview, too. If you are stretched out on the couch or rolling your eyes while chatting it can come across to the interviewer. Clients have come back saying that, while the person was qualified, they got the feeling they were boring the candidate, or that the candidate was so casual during the call that they felt they weren’t taking the interview seriously.


    1. Kendra,

      Absolutely! Phone interviews are a perfect example of how nonverbal communication can really show through. Speaking of which, here’s a link to a recent post on phone interviews: Job seekers: the phone interview is important – learn how to ace it!

      Thanks for the comment, Kendra. I appreciate it.



  5. You precisely saved me atleast 1 hour of time. I am making a project in this particular topic and your contribute has helped me through one of the topics of my project. I will browse to the other pages now.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s