The Value of the Non-Verbal

Trusted school leaders demonstrate clear communication through what they say and write (i.e., content) and how they say it (i.e., non-verbal elements). Studies have concluded that there is typically a 40-60% loss of meaning in message transmission between sender and receiver. Research also reveals that over ninety percent of the meaning we derive from verbal communication comes from nonverbal elements. Only ten percent of communication is derived from the words we say! 

Over the years of facilitating many potentially difficult conversations and mediating issues between employees and parents, I have learned that a lack of clear communication generates the vast majority of conflicts. Nonverbal elements of communication must always be considered, especially when attempting to motivate school stakeholders toward change.

Principals can tell teachers during a faculty meeting that they need to work on incorporating some element of best-practice pedagogy and experience the teachers leaving that meeting either saying, “My principal doesn’t have a clue what needs to take place in my classroom” or, “Wow, my principal has great insight and helped me consider a strategy I have not implemented before. I need to give this a try.” The deciding factor in determining the faculty’s response is largely in how we, as instructional leaders, present our constructive criticism to the teacher.

The adage, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it,” is fundamental to effective communication. Corporal expressions (i.e., body language), the setting (i.e., the environment), the means of transmission (i.e., the methodology) are elements that make or break both reception and response.

People remember the emotional elements of communication most. Studies show a large portion of any course content is quickly forgotten. What is retained is the non-verbal or the emotional elements. Therefore, trusted leaders are mindful that the medium (i.e., the method and the way they communicate) is largely the message.

©Toby A. Travis, Ed.D. All Rights Reserved. 

Recommended Reading:

  • David Horsager, The Trust Edge.
  • Allen Allnoch, “Clarity, communication reduces corporate conflict,” IIE Solutions 30, no. 2 (1998): 8.
  • Shelly Arneson, Communicate & Motivate: The School Leader’s Guide to Effective Communication.
  • Robert V. Lindsey, Jeffery D. Shroyer, Harold Pashler, and Michael C. Mozer, “Improving students’ long-term knowledge retention through personalized review,” Psychological Science 25, no. 3 (2014): 639-647.

3 Comments

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