Last month, I was in Providence, Rhode Island, watching my daughter’s skating team compete at the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships. For those of you unfamiliar with synchronized skating, imagine the Rockettes on ice! Typically, a coach will have 12 to 20 skaters on the ice, performing routines that include skaters moving in three to four lines of wheels, circles and lifts, as well as some performing individual moves. As with individual and pairs skating, these routines are performed to music.
It occurred to me as I was watching the various teams that skating and dance are wonderful vehicles for nonverbal communication. As a spectator, without hearing a word I could “read” the body language of many of the young competitors. I watched their tears of joy and relief when they felt they had performed well. I also noticed the more constrained postures of those competitors who did not execute their routines as well as they had hoped. I thought about the humility shown with a very low bow or curtsy.
Of course, nonverbal communication is not just limited to skating and dance. We communicate all the time with our facial expressions and body language. A hug, a kiss, a handshake--all express various messages. So too does a smile or frown. A person can give one message by leaning forward while listening or another by leaning away with arms and legs crossed.
While many of these forms of nonverbal communication are instinctive, and to some extent involuntary, others can be taught. What messages are you communicating? A speech-language pathologist has expertise in verbal and nonverbal communication and can offer some pointers to help you deliver your message more efficiently.
Joanne Summer, MA, CCC-SLP, a speech-language pathologist based in Morristown, NJ, has helped hundreds of children improve their speech sound production and language skills. She founded Well Spoken Speech Therapy, LLC, in 2014 after spending 12 years providing therapy to children (K-5) in the New Jersey public school system. In private practice, her clients also include younger children and adolescents. In addition, she treats people of all ages who stutter or otherwise find it difficult to speak fluently—an area in which she has received extensive specialized training.