3 Non-Verbal Communication Tips to Boost Your Personal Brand in the Canadian Workplace

Non-verbal communication is critical to our personal brand in the Canadian workplace and beyond.  In fact, numerous articles suggest that only 7% of communication is done through verbal communication, while 38% is made through tonality and 55% through body language.

Every gesture is interpreted in the cultural context.  In Canada’s diverse society, non-verbal communication adds a certain complexity to messages we send or receive.

In this post, we will look at 3 non-verbal communication tips to help you create an excellent personal brand.

Greeting, Personal Space, and Eye Contact are Integral in Non-Verbal Communication
Greeting, Personal Space, and Eye Contact are Integral in Non-Verbal Communication

Greeting

A high-ranking male executive from South America was once sent to Canada.  In his culture, kissing on the cheeks is their usual form of greeting.  With good intentions, he greeted Canadian employees in his usual way. 

Due to the differences in culture, most employees were not pleased with this form of greeting. Their reactions ranged from amusement to shock.  One employee even said that this can be considered a form of sexual harassment.

From that point on, employees tried to hide from him as much as they could.

Tips

In formal settings or when meeting someone for the first time, Canadians greet each other with a handshake. 

A handshake highly influences a person’s first impression and personal brand. The Belmont University website shares some Dos and Don’ts of shaking hands:

Handshakes Dos and Don'ts
Handshakes Dos and Don’ts

If you are not comfortable with shaking hands, politely explain the reason why.  Otherwise, the other party may interpret the refusal as a rude gesture, especially if a handshake was initiated. 

Kissing on the cheek is not a norm in most Canadian communities.  However, Commisceo Global writes that it is usual to kiss once on each cheek in Quebec as they do in France. 

Canadians generally reserve hugs for close friends or family members.

Canadians Respect Each Other's Personal Space
Canadians Respect Each Other’s Personal Space

Personal Space

Proxemics is an important aspect of nonverbal communication that we should be aware of. An MIT Press Reader article defines Proxemics as “how personal space is maintained as a function of one’s culture”.   

Tips

Canadians value their personal space. They typically maintain an arm’s length distance between people for comfort.  However, according to a post on Doing Business in Canada, French Canadians may stand slightly closer to others.

Be observant and adjust your behavior accordingly.  Do people step back or move forward when talking to you?  In a line-up, what is the usual distance between people?

Proxemics Explained

Eye Contact

Eye contact is another fundamental component of non-verbal communication.  This simple act also has interpretations specific to the culture.

An article published on the International Institute of Minnesota states that “…in some Asian cultures, it is disrespectful to look superiors in the eye. A “superior” may be someone who is older or someone who holds a higher position of authority. Gender may also be a factor.  A Muslim woman may avoid eye contact with men because she was taught that eye contact is impolite and unacceptable.”

It is important to be mindful of cultural differences.  But, at the same time, it would be helpful to adapt to Canadian culture whenever possible.

Tips

Canadians appreciate enough eye contact during conversations because it signals trust and sincerity.  On the other hand, not engaging in eye contact may give an impression of shyness, boredom, or dishonesty.  However, eye contact should be broken intermittently so it does not appear scrutinizing or threatening.

A write-up on the Michigan State University website shares detailed guidelines on how to do proper eye contact.  This includes keeping eye contact for 50% of the time while talking and 70% of the time while listening.  The same article also suggests maintaining eye contact for 4-5 seconds, slowly looking away, then re-establishing eye contact.  Numerous sources also give reminders about blinking naturally and not staring.

Eye Contact Is A Fundamental Component of Non-Verbal Communication
Eye Contact Is A Fundamental Component of Non-Verbal Communication

As immigrants, we invest our time in improving our verbal communication skills.  However, we must also take time to improve our non-verbal communication skills. 

The effective use of these non-verbal communication tips will definitely boost your personal brand in the Canadian workplace and beyond.

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