Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Importance of Nonverbal Communication

By Scott E. Friedman, Andrea H. Vossler and Eliza P. Friedman

As we continue on the topic of constructive communication strategies—and the science behind them—it’s important to note that the term “communication” isn’t limited to written or oral communication.

In fact, things like posture, tone of voice and focused attention are all ways in which we demonstrate active listening and understanding.

These are types of “nonverbal communication” —and smiling is another example of it.

One of the more intriguing areas of scientific research that has the potential to help families in business (and many others) concerns smiling: why we smile, how we do it, and its importance.

Paul Ekman, one of the world’s leading authorities on facial expressions, has observed that a smile is also one of the most basic human expressions, having the same meaning in different societies.[1] Interestingly, a study at Penn State University found that smiling not only makes us appear more likable, but more competent as well.[2]

One oft cited example of a successful company that focuses on training employees to be pleasant and welcoming to its customers is Starbucks. This commitment to its customers’ experience has been credited as an important factor in the company’s success.[3] One “best practice” for families in business together would be to train employees to be pleasant and welcoming to each other, their co-workers, their employees, and customers.

Join us again next week, when we’ll be taking a closer look at Appreciative Inquiry—another science-backed method proven to help foster constructive communication.

[1] See Paul Ekman, Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life 3–4 (2007); see also Mark G. Frank & Paul Ekman, Physiologic Effects of the Smile, Directions Psychiatry, Dec. 1996, at 1. 

[2] Vivian Giang, How Smiling Changes Your Brain, Fast Company (Jan. 28, 2015),

[3] See Ken West, The Customer Experience: Spotlight on Starbucks, Nat’l Bus. Res. Inst., (last visited Mar. 20, 2017).

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