Thingu and the power of communicating without words

Just by using body language and other nonverbal actions – is a powerful form of expression. Indeed, actions and other nonverbal signs can “speak” much louder than words.

This short animation “THINGU” created by by Lee Hardcastle; successfully fuses the children’s stop-motion clay animation Pingu with John Carpenter’s science fiction horror film The Thing. In Pingu all the characters speak using a language of noises rather than recognisable words, yet this short shows you can create a comprehensible and suspenseful story just through actions.

When you next deliver your presentation, whilst you might not have clay or camerawork here are 10 areas where you are communicating without words to consider:

Distance – how near or far one person is from another – conveys a nonverbal message. Being far away or moving back can seem “standoffish,” a form of rejection or lack of caring. But being too close sometimes feels uncomfortable, especially when one person feels that another is in his or her “space.”

Movement – where you position yourself and how you move around a room – is also a factor in communication. It works well when you move slowly, not quickly, toward and away from others. One way to make this happen is by arranging furniture so that you can move around and face people as you are speaking. This gives the nonverbal message, “I am interested in you.” This message is not as strong when you stay in one place or stand behind a podium.

Orientation – this refers to whether speakers and listeners face each other, sit side by side, or have their backs to one another. You get most attention when you face the group so everyone can see you are talking. Communication may not go as well when people turn away from each other.

Physical contact – such as touching, holding, hugging and patting other people on the back. These nonverbal actions send powerful messages – both good and bad. For instance, one friend can sense that the other wants a hug. This can express understanding, empathy, intimacy, and caring. But hugs may be not as wanted when people are not friends or do not like being touched.

Facial Expressions – These include smiles, frowns, raised eyebrows, yawns, and sneers. Studies show that facial expressions convey more meaning than either words or tone of voice. For instance, people can show happiness when they smile or anger when they clench their jaws.

Gestures – Some gestures, like making fists or pointing fingers, are seen as forceful and negative. But a lack of gestures can seem dull and boring. Active and dynamic speakers or leaders should use natural gestures, but make them bigger. Take a look at your own gestures by asking someone to videotape you or practicing in front of a mirror.

Eye Contact – is powerful and helps build feelings of trust and rapport. In fact, many people perceive eyes as “talking.” When you speak, focus on the eyes (not the mouth or other parts of the face) of people you are talking with. Making eye contact can send the nonverbal message, “I am speaking to you.” When you listen, eye contact lets the other person know, “I hear you.” But be careful not to overdo eye contact.

Environment – This includes how you arrange furniture in a room. Furniture arranged auditorium-style can convey a sense that the speaker’s job is to speak and others should simply listen. Also think about the lighting and background sounds.

Paralanguage – This term refers to tone, pitch, quality of voice, and rate of speaking. These should match, not clash with, what you are saying. For instance, you would communicate differently when talking about something sad than when discussing a happy thought.

Ga Lok Chung