Communicate like a Wookiee

Chewbacca communicates through a series of grunts, growls, and gurgles – yet Han Solo definitely understands what he’s saying to him, to the point of being his trusted co-pilot.

I know I don’t always have such great communication skills even when I’m using English with my English-speaking colleagues. How does Chewie do it?

We can all learn a few things from Chewie to improve our communication.


RIP, Peter Mayhew


Body language: Your body conveys a lot of information to your listener. Turning in towards them shows that you’re engaged and interested. Alternatively, when Chewie runs his hands through his mane exasperatedly, you know he’s, well, exasperated. Even just how you hold your body tells viewers something about you.

How you can use it: Stand up straight, and take up some space when you want to convey strength and power. Take up less space when you want to show that you’re lower in status to others in the room. It’s important to assess others, and adjust your body language to theirs, particularly when they may be in a position of power over you (your boss, Obi-Wan, that kind of thing). Use your body language to evoke a connection with your listener by turning towards them, making eye contact, and maintain the distance between you to a comfortable level.


Tone of voice: The sound of your voice can communicate quite a lot. Think about someone saying “Thanks a lot” in a friendly tone. Now, imagine it in a sarcastic voice. Same words, entirely different meaning. Your tone can have that kind of power over all of your communication.

How you can use it: Think about your tone of voice before you speak. Mixed messages can confuse people, so try to match your tone to your message to improve your communication.


Speed of speaking: How quickly you speak can also alter how your words are received. If you’re speaking very quickly, people perceive a sense of urgency. Slower speech seems more relaxed. Of course, some people naturally speak very fast or slow, and that can influence how others view them.

How you can use it: Pace your speed so no information gets lost. Don’t go so fast that important details are missed, or so slowly that people stop listening. Use a slightly more intense speed when the issue is urgent to share that with the listening.


Facial expression: Your facial expression can convey a whole host of meanings, without even making a Wookiee grunt. A scowling face on your boss and you know not to ask for the afternoon off, right? How about a raised eyebrow in response to your proposed idea? A concerned look, a big smile, and sad eyes can also communicate a strong message without a word.

How you can use it: You can express a lot of information through your facial expression, so make sure it’s saying what you want it to say. Telling a team member they did great work while frowning doesn’t communicate you’re pleased. Take a moment to see what your face is doing, and align it to your message.


Communication goes far beyond words, and it’s worth looking a little closer at the non-verbal parts of communication. While the words you choose are important, the other components carry weight too and can improve your communication skills dramatically. May the force be with you!

silhouette woman head on laptop


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