We are always communicating, and much of that communication is nonverbal. There are several activities that illustrate the scope and impact of nonverbal communication, particularly when discussing the following: facial expressions, body movements and physical appearance.
Go online and collect several headshot photos (se Royalty Free Images in Resources). The photos should reflect a variety of emotions such as anger, joy, sadness or confusion. Show the photos on screen one at a time and ask the participants to write one word that reflects the emotion of that person and an appropriate short caption for the photo. Example: "Confusion: I am positive I left my car keys on the kitchen table," "Joy: I am so happy you are finally here!" Discuss the responses and the universality of facial expressions and how they are interpreted.
Write several scenarios describing interaction between two people. Example: "Person A is flirting with Person B" or "Person B is annoyed with Person A." Give each person in the group a partner. Designate one as A and one as B. Have them draw a scenario out of a "hat" and act out the scene for the group without using any words. Ask the group to determine what the partners are trying to portray with their body movements. Discuss the various audience responses and the fact that body movements can often be misinterpreted and so there is a need to seek more information.
Collect photos of people who have a variety of clothing styles and a mixture of physical appearances. Some examples: business attire, blue collar clothing, motorcycle clothing, people with short conservative hairstyles, people with long hair, people with multiple tattoos, some with facial hair or some without. The greater the variety the better. Ask the participants to write their impressions of these people based on their physical appearance. What assumptions do they make about income, educational level, hobbies, or their values/morals? Discuss and compare answers. Ask participants how appearances would need to change in order for perceptions to change. For example: "How would the guy who looks like a person in a motorcycle gang need to change his physical appearance in order to look like a corporate executive?"
It is important when using any group activities to completely explain/define the concepts being discussed prior to the activity. After the activit, continue the discussion and refer back to the explanations given earlier.
Understanding and using nonverbal communication correctly can make you more effective personally and professionally.