More important than verbal communication is non-verbal subcommunication, or body language (BL). This can take the form of facial gestures, hand and body movement, and vocal tonality. Research has shown that the content of what a person says represents about 7% of what is interpreted, with the remaining 93% going to non-verbal cues and vocal tonality/sounds. Women have an innate advantage over men, and it is thought in part to be due to their need to non-verbally communicate with their newborn. Hence, women are hard-wired to interpret BL in ways men are not, for the survival of the species.
The three key points are:
1. BL occurs in clusters or 'sentences.' Look at the big picture, including their facial expression, head position, arms, hands and legs.
2. BL should be congruent with the words being spoken.
3. BL should be interpreted in context to the environment. For example, a person may cross their arms because the room is cold, not out of defensiveness.
90% of your opinion of somebody will be formed in the first four minutes of contact, so it is important to start off on the right foot so to speak.
Be sure to check out the various threads on body language here:
Body Language, peacocking