Wait, before you start reading, are you sure you are alone? Slowly, and without being too obvious, look around. Is there anyone who looks suspicious or who seems interested in what you have up on your screen? If so, close this window and come back to it when you are certain you can avoid detection. What I am about to share with you needs to remain top secret!
Is there anyone who looks suspicious or who seems interested in what you have up on your screen?
This secret was passed on to me in a dingy classroom over 30 years ago. It was August in Tucson, and it was in the building where no student wanted to find themselves in a class. Not only was it drab, with old worn wooden floors and chipped olive green walls, it didn’t even have air conditioning. What little protection it did offer against the sweltering desert heat was provided by swamp coolers that I believe were original to the building, constructed at the turn of the 20th Century. But, I spent four magical, albeit sweaty years taking every class I could in that building. It was known as the Communications building, but this wasn’t media or broadcasting. No, this was human communication, the study of how individuals, groups, and organizations communicate. A young couple had recently come from Michigan State to lead the program at the University of Arizona. Doctors Judee and Michael Burgoon changed the way I viewed the world.
No, this was human communication, the study of how individuals, groups, and organizations communicate.
Sorry, I digressed and went on a little journey down memory lane. But I’ll tell you, I can still picture that classroom and even recall its smell. I believe that smell had something to do with the ineffective swamp coolers. Yet, what I remember most was the secret that was shared within its walls. It was as if someone handed me the decoder to the Enigma machine the German U-Boats used during World War II, or better yet, told me how I could solve a Rubik's Cube. It was the secret that helped me understand people and build more effective relationships.
It was as if someone handed me the decoder to the Enigma machine the German U-Boats used during World War II, or better yet, told me how I could solve a Rubik's Cube.
Are you ready? Do me a favor and take one last glance for any potential spies. I know, I am a little paranoid. The secret…….. Don’t pay so much attention to what people say, but rather to how they say it. Yep, that is it, but trust me it’s the key to unlocking the mysteries of the universe. Research has shown that over 90% of what is communicated does not come from the spoken word.
Don’t pay so much attention to what people say, but rather to how they say it.
Watch closely and listen deeply, and you will be given many clues. Listen for vocalizations, such as sighs, yawns, and um's. Pay attention to changes in pitch and rate. Watch for the quality of eye contact. Notice if arms are crossed or uncrossed. Look at body posture and note movement. Notice if they lean in and turn towards you, or if they seem to retreat or draw inward. Unfortunately, I can’t distill all the knowledge that was imparted to me over those four years in that dingy, hot building. But, what I can do is turn you on the grandest living laboratory of nonverbal communication. What is that laboratory? Well, it is the current Presidential campaign. The next time one of the candidates gives a stump speech or one of their surrogates makes the rounds on the cable news networks, don’t get carried away by their words. Dig in and listen past those words. Watch them like a hawk. See what clues they offer, and then notice how this additional information influences your perception.
But, what I can do is turn you on the grandest living laboratory of nonverbal communication. What is that laboratory? Well, it is the current Presidential campaign.
The key to building better relationships with your team, and developing deeper connections with your customers, is paying attention to the way they communicate and noticing their reaction to what you share. This requires you to slow down, stop multi-tasking, listen and be present.
If you are interested in learning more, I’d suggest the book “Nonverbal Communication” coauthored by Dr. Judee Burgoon, which provides a deep dive into the subject. If you’d rather keep it high level, then watch this fun YouTube video featuring the cast of “Friends”.
Let’s use the comment section to have a discussion. Here are three questions for your consideration:
- How much attention do you pay to the nonverbal clues offered?
- How conscious are you of your own nonverbal behaviors?
- What impact would a greater awareness of nonverbal clues have on your ability to connect with others?