Compared to verbal communication, nonverbal communication may be unintentional, is more ambiguous, and thus, more likely to cause confusion. It is important to monitor your nonverbal behavior in order to control how you portray yourself to others. Your gestures, actions, facial expressions should be consistent with the self-image you are projecting to people or with what you say. For instance, some people tend to think someone is lying if they avoid eye contact. If you are used to avoiding eye contact because you are shy, people may interpret this as dishonesty. By being aware of your nonverbal behavior, you can adjust the way you express yourself (e.g., changing the way you dress, improving your posture, modulating your voice, and so on).
In terms of interpreting meaning from nonverbal messages, it is important that you avoid totalizing, stereotyping, and jumping to conclusions. For instance, someone who belongs in traditional cultures and societies (e.g., Asians) often uses polite language to save another person’s face or avoid embarrassing situations and may consider someone who asserts himself confidently (e.g., Westerners) as rude. Recognition and acceptance of cultural differences allows you to be more open-minded and sensitive to nonverbal behaviors.