Researchers have found that managers spend 80% of their day communicating. Most of us equate communicating with speaking, but 70-90% of communication is actually nonverbal.  I’m talking about body language, facial expressions, paralinguistics, personal space, gestures, etc. And although there are many skills a manager must hone; effective communication is probably the most important. To be effective at communicating, the sender of information must deliver the message in such a way that the receiver understands the purpose of the message in the way the sender intended. And therein lies the problem! Managers aren’t always aware of how their communication style shows up, and whether it is in sync with whomever they are communicating with.

Today’s blog post will focus on tips for improving a manager’s nonverbal communication through facial expressions, gestures, and loudness or tone of voice. These are three areas where communication is often misinterpreted, leading to poor employee engagement and overall team dynamics. 

Facial Expressions

First, let’s talk about facial expressions. Whether speaking with someone in person or in a virtual meeting space like Zoom, our face is usually the first thing the other person sees, even before we begin to speak. This makes facial expressions one of the key aspects of human communication. The look on a person’s face can tell you exactly how they’re feeling, what kind of day they’ve had, how they feel about you, etc. This is because the face is responsible for communicating not only thoughts or ideas but also emotions. And some facial expressions are universal.

Even across different cultures, the facial expressions for happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear, and disgust are the same. And, it’s pretty obvious when someone feels one of these emotions. The idea, then, is to learn to control your facial expressions and use them appropriately. Managers should be encouraging, empathetic, and good listeners, and they should be able to adjust their facial expressions accordingly.  


  • Smile often to encourage camaraderie and a willingness to speak freely. People feel drawn to others when they smile. It’s like an invitation to get to know you better. 
  • Listen attentively and lift your eyebrows to indicate a positive reaction. Active listening encourages more productive two-way conversations! Plus, the more you listen, the more you’ll understand your teammates’ motivations, stressors, etc. 


Another form of nonverbal communication is hand gestures. These deliberate movements and signals are an essential way of communicating meaning without words. Common gestures include waving, pointing, and using fingers to indicate numeric amounts. Hand gestures can express friendliness or appreciation, like waving to someone to say hello and acknowledge their presence or giving them a thumbs up to express a job well done. But gestures can also be used to intimidate. For example, pointing into someone’s face or chest is typically an aggressive gesture that puts the other person on the defensive or makes them feel bullied.


  • Move your hands to build expression throughout stories, so that people will become more engaged in what you’re saying. 
  • Reinforce positive moments with a thumbs up or high five.  
  • Don‘t go overboard with gestures: too many gestures is distracting and gets in the way of clear communication. 

Loudness and Tone of Voice

 The third form of nonverbal communication is paralinguistics or loudness and tone of voice. Although speaking is considered verbal communication, how you speak can be considered nonverbal communication. So, whether you are communicating in person or participating in a video conference call, always be aware of your tone of voice. It should always reflect your intended message. And it’s important to note that a tone of voice can affect whether a conversation stays positive or becomes negative. For instance, maintaining a positive tone while talking with a coworker or supervisor can help produce an overall positive effect. Whereas sarcasm, anger, affection, or too much confidence can negatively affect the outcome of a conversation. 


  • With the team’s approval, record meetings. Then listen for a negative or loud tone of voice.  
  • Record yourself while on a call with a team member. Listen for a lack of empathy, condescension, etc. 
  • Work on not raising your voice when angry. A loud voice often indicates out-of-control feelings. 

In Conclusion

Managers spend most of their time communicating, and a significant portion of that time is spent with some form of nonverbal communication. All the behaviors mentioned in this post (facial expressions, gestures, loudness, and tone of voice) send strong messages. They can be used positively to put people at ease and build trust, or they can be used negatively to offend or confuse. To manage well, it’s crucial that managers learn to utilize these forms of nonverbal communication to encourage relationship building. Practicing the tips offered in this post is an easy way to get started. Doing so will encourage a positive team culture which will improve team dynamics and overall employee engagement. 

If you would like the opportunity to learn more about how to manage effectively, give us a call. We offer training sessions specifically targeted at helping managers thrive.  

And remember, the Culture (R)evolution™ starts with you!

You may also like: