Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Nonverbal Communication

It has been estimated that we communicate emotions nonverbally most effectively. In fact, it may be that as much as 65% of what we say is said nonverbally. Worse, as much as 93% of what we reveal about ourselves is done nonverbally. If we don’t get a handle on what we “are saying” and “how we are saying it” we will not be aware of what people know about us from a distance. They will know things that we may deny, but will still be correct. And we will probably continue to deny them because we never “told” them what they think they know. But, the fact is, we “talk” all the time and much of it is nonverbal.

So let’s review some of the ways we “talk” to others without proper personal awareness.

1) When we get dressed are we thinking about what the clothes we’re putting on are saying to everyone who can see us?

2) Walking toward our transportation, are we preoccupied and not really aware of our immediate surroundings?

3) If we are driving to work, is a late departure making us push the edges of the law and safety so that we can arrive on time?

4) If we are bored by what is happening, do we tell others by looking at our watch to check the time?

5) If we see someone who is “really interesting” walking by do our eyes reveal that we are no longer listening?

Any action to which I can attach a meaning completes a nonverbal communication. I may not want you to notice what I’m saying, so you don’t necessarily intend to “tell” me what I now know. Intent is not important here. But what is important, that we be aware that we are always talking and folk around us are “listening.” The biggest problem with nonverbal communication is our inability to control or adjust the meaning you attach to it. The communication may be inaccurate, but the chances are very high that those who receive the communication will act on their interpretation of your nonverbal communication.

Recently, Marcel Marceau died. He was often described as the world’s greatest mime: a person that could tell stories without ever saying a word and those watching would agree on the story’s content. You can learn to improve your nonverbal communication and make it work for you more often and reduce any negative impact some of your nonverbal may have.

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