Elements of Verbal and Nonverbal Interpersonal Communication: Examples for IT Professionals

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Your team provides top-notch technical service, but the customer reviews leave something to be desired. Or maybe as a CIO, IT manager, or MSP owner, you’re not getting the feedback about your employees you expect based on their skills. The culprit may be accidental messages they send through nonverbal and verbal interpersonal communication

Analyze the following scenarios with your team members. This exercise will help them become more aware of the unintentional messages they may be sending that affect client satisfaction and customer feedback.

Nonverbal and Verbal Interpersonal Communication Scenarios

Facial Expressions

Non-verbal communication enhances the words you speak. Facial expressions are a critical part of the communication process, and people look for consistency between your words and face to determine whether you’re authentic.

Example: You’re speaking with a client about an upcoming project such as an installation. They’re asking reasonable questions; you’re giving matter-of-fact answers. But you’re also fighting a headache, so you’re involuntarily squinting during your interaction. Unfortunately, the client will likely interpret your facial expression as confusion or assume your squinting indicates they are asking nonsensical questions. 

Body Language

Body language like posture and eye contact send messages to your customers. Failing to follow social norms like appropriate personal space can make them uncomfortable and affect their overall satisfaction.

Example: You go on a service call, and instead of engaging in casual conversation and developing rapport with your customer, you dive right into your work. You cross your arms as you concentrate on their explanation or stare over their shoulder and ponder the solution mentally while they talk. You don’t mean anything negative by your body language, but a customer may still interpret it as a lack of interest.

Verbal Tone

Non-verbal communication is important, but verbal interpersonal communication skills are just as critical. Tone helps convey your interest in and attitude toward a situation. During phone calls, it’s the only thing that conveys your interest in and attitude toward a situation. 

Example: You get a support call, and the customer’s problem is a common one you can easily solve. Instead of listening to the customer’s whole story, you interrupt them to tell them how to fix their issue. You didn’t intend to be rude or abrupt. In fact, you thought you were being extra helpful and saving the customer time because they didn’t have to explain the whole situation. But the customer who’s been wrestling with this frustrating problem needs empathy and validation that the solution isn’t simple or intuitive – but unfortunately, your abrupt solution sends that exact message to the customer.

Written Communication

Asynchronous communication (like email) can be particularly challenging. It’s impossible to convey tone, and even if you attempt to infuse some personality into your written communication, it might be misconstrued by a recipient. Written communication must be clear and professional to avoid unfortunate miscommunication.

Example: A new client emails you with a tech question. You don’t want to keep them waiting, but you’re running out the door to a meeting. To respond quickly, you reply with a simple “yes.” While this is fine with colleagues or long-term customers, casual or grammatically incorrect emails can affect a new client’s perception of your professionalism. A prompt response is great, but a prompt response with complete sentences that thoroughly answer the question is better – especially when you’re still establishing a relationship.

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