Nonverbal Cues to Help You in Meetings

Nonverbal Cues to Help You in Meetings

In Communication, Tips & Tricks by Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A

Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A
Latest posts by Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A (see all)

The hearing community has much to learn from those with hearing impairment. When one of our senses is compromised, we tend to strengthen and enhance our other senses to make up the difference in understanding. This well-known phenomenon has led to some remarkable findings about non-verbal communication. For instance, a person who has total deafness or severe hearing impairment is likely to rely on visual cues and other signals to assist the process of meaningful communication. 

Not only through sign language but also through observing facial expressions, body movement, and other subtle signals of mood and affect, those who have hearing impairment are experts at nonverbal communication cues. Those who have hearing ability can benefit from increased attention to these cues, as well. 

Let’s take a moment to consider three of the major forms of nonverbal communication that tend to happen in group conversations. When you become attuned to these subtle signals, your communication ability can far surpass the possibilities of listening alone!

“I Understand”

Some people verbally express their comprehension in conversations with a steady stream of “uh-huh” and “yes,” but others sit silently while others are talking. How can you know that you are being understood? Sign language experts have identified a wide range of nonverbal cues that signal understanding. Sometimes calling these nonverbal cues “backchannels,” many of the most important signals are facial expressions. Understanding can be communicated through eyebrows, mouth movements, and the direction of gaze. Each of these subtle motions requires astute attention to others, and some people in meetings are more focused on the words they say than the likelihood that they are being understood. 

“I Have Something to Say”

Although some of us are bold enough to interject in a meeting with what we need to say, many others spend a good portion of a conversation waiting for the right opportunity. The best meeting facilitators can remain aware of others’ desire to speak, but some rely too heavily on verbal interjections. When a person wants to speak, body language shifts, and many people begin to readjust their body posture or fidget in their seats. Sitting closer to the table is a common cue, and some people even take in a sharp breath to show that they are about to speak. Teleconferencing meetings can be the most difficult to negotiate when it comes to interjecting. To assist the common inattention to nonverbal cues, these interfaces even offer an icon of a raised hand. 

“I Need to Interject”

Beyond the common desire to contribute to the conversation, sometimes a person needs to directly interject in the conversation. Rather than waiting for an appropriate time to talk, there is a powerful gender divide when it comes to the willingness to interject. Communication specialists have noted that deaf culture abides by more forceful habits of taking turns in conversation. Interruptions tend to confuse the communication process, and they can make people feel slighted or even unimportant. 

As a way to limit interjections, a good meeting facilitator will remain aware of the subtle cues that a person wants to talk in the conversation and will carve out space for that person to participate. In addition, nonverbal cues such as facial expressions can be a good way to identify if a person doesn’t agree with what is being said. That inaudible conflict is an opportunity to open up a conversation to new perspectives, avoiding the necessity to interrupt the flow of conversation. 

Although nonverbal cues are helpful tools in the communication process of a meeting, listening remains the primary mode of conversation. If you or someone you love finds it difficult to follow the flow of communication in a meeting, don’t rely on nonverbal signals alone. Getting treatment for hearing loss can bring ease and comfort to conversations, restoring the steady flow of language to the process. Without neglecting nonverbal cues, hearing loss treatment is a great way to help you thrive in meetings and in other conversational situations. The first step is to schedule a consultation and hearing exam with one of our hearing health professionals. Once you have a thorough diagnosis, you will be ready to embark on the path to assistance.