Enhancing your nonverbal communication skill set – why it has never been so important for EHS leaders to be able to see what is not being said! It’s not just about detecting who is lying! The skills of being able to read a person helps you to understand more of the information that is present, but may not be freely offered. Being able to connect deeper with someone allows you to enhance the following areas: trust, rapport, accuracy, psychological safety and performance. 

Here are some top tips to get the best out of you and the people in your team by enhancing your nonverbal communication skills. 

1. Watch the nose scratch 

Pinocchio isn’t just a myth! One of the most powerful indicators of someone being ‘uncomfortable’ is when they quickly scratch their nose. Next time someone does it, just be aware that there is definitely something going on and you can ask questions around it.

2. Be present

The majority of us want to talk, but we are not so good at listening! Next time you are in a conversation or a meeting with someone, practise the art of saying nothing and listening to what they say. Notice those emotions where you want to interrupt, talk over or even get bored and drift off! If you can pay attention, you can connect on a much more deeper level.

3. Turn the volume down 

Next time you watch TV, turn the volume down. Try and work out how they are feeling from what you are seeing, not what you are hearing. Such a simple yet powerful exercise to notice what is not being said!

4. Become aware of yourself 

When you are feeling certain ways, start to notice what your body does. When you are excited, what do you do? When you are nervous, what do you do? When you are scared, what do you do? When you recognise it inside yourself, it makes it so much easier to observe it in others. 

5. Observe the change

When someone goes from arms wide open to crossed arms, what were you saying / they saying? When someone’s smile turns into a frown, what were you saying / they saying? When you start to link body movement changes to what was being said, you can start to link thoughts to feelings to help build psychological safety.

6. Use it for good 

Sometimes we all need a little nudge or a cuddle to be the best us! When you start to enhance your skills, you can bring your observations into the conversation to help the person. If you notice they are feeling uncomfortable, ask around it. Never say ‘you’ve just scratched your nose there, you are lying!’ but you could say ‘when we were discussing that there, what parts made you feel safe or unsafe?’

7. Accept the stats! 

We all agree that the ratio of nonverbal to verbal communication is roughly around 80% – 20%, but we continue to receive no training around it. Connecting a safer and higher performing team is helped when you can pick up what’s being felt but not said, to enable the best version of all of us to be present!

Written by Bruce Durham

If you want to hear more from Bruce Durham he will be speaking at our next event The SHE Show North East, Tuesday 28th March 2023, Hilton Newcastle Gateshead


 Bruce Durham MA CMIOSH, Director of Human Performance, Huddle Culture

Through our Think Feel Act Performance Enhancement and Engagement Programme, I help companies maximise safety and operational performance levels by empowering people (the heartbeat of any business!) to be more in control of their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. The foundation of ALL Human Performance. This humanistic process is present in each and every one of us regardless of industry, age, job role, culture or location. We all think, feel and act and if you help people to get the true basics right, then EVERYTHING improves. Rapidly. I also have over 260,000 subscribers across social media as well as over 16 million views of my videos around psychology and nonverbal communication. 

Please note, the views expressed by the original article author are theirs alone and do not necessarily represent those of Washingtondowling Associates Ltd or The SHE Show and therefore we take no responsibility for the content or accuracy of this post.