The reading level for this article is Novice
Only 7% of what we say is verbal! The other 93% is nonverbal! How do you think Dr. Phil got his start? Reading the nonverbal communication of prospective jurors as a jury consultant. And that’s why he’s not afraid to call someone on a lie on his program! He’s reading their body language–their nonverbal communication! And Dr. Phil knows he’s right because your body language says so much more than you ever will!
Verbal, written or even sign language talks to “content.” You’re just listening to the words and that’s it! Nothing else enters the picture. This is probably one of the biggest issues with married people. The wife might say, “You never listen to me.” The husband says, “Of course I do!” and continues reading the paper. The wife probably wants to see body language from her husband that says, “I am here for you; you are very important to me; I will always take the time to be here for you.” If he’s reading the paper, he’s not communicating this to her in a way she can see and understand.
If you’re in sales or have any projects where you have to “sell” someone on something, do you know what your body language is saying to the other person? Try selling something to someone without saying a word! You might say it’s impossible but it’s not. You probably do more selling with nonverbal communication than you do with verbal. Remember that song about “you say so much when you say nothing at all.” Well, that singer/writer was right!
Think of a time when you were feeling upset, frustrated, angry and someone came up to you and asked if you were doing OK. You probably said YES but your body language said NO! Which communication do you think they’re going to believe? Scientists have proven that whenever there is a conflict between verbal and nonverbal communication, we tend to put a question mark by the verbal communication and believe the nonverbal communication. You probably don’t even think about doing that but that’s exactly what you’re doing!
Body language has gone underground. In other words, we don’t even think about it. We just do it. It has become subconscious behavior to us and when someone points our body language out to us, we seem surprised. When I work with people on body language and point out the different “language” that they are using, they might try to justify their actions if they were sending out defensive signals or congratulate themselves if they were using positive signals. The trick is to know what your body language says about you and what another person’s body language says about them. It’s the same behavior or actions we tend to react or resist in other people and not even notice in ourselves.
You all have probably experienced stress at one time or another in your life. You might even be experiencing it now as a reaction to this article. Stressed out people have very definite body language. I can spot you a mile away. Other people can too, they just might not know why they are having a reaction to you (your stress!). Look at people around you (at home or at work). If they’re eyebrows are raised, their shoulders scrunched up around their ears, the hand clenched – chances are they’re stressed out about something. If you’re having a meeting with them and don’t recognize their body language then the meeting might get tenser because you might mirror their body language and get stressed out yourself. It’s not healthy for you and it creates a lot of tension, turmoil, confrontations, frustrations and disagreements – all because you didn’t read and respond to their nonverbal communication. They subconsciously sucked you into their net of stress, worry and upset and THEY GOT YOU!
Now, what about you? Did you know that most Americans hold their stress in the upper part of their body? And because we do, people can read us so easily. Consider the signs I mentioned in the last paragraph. People can “pick” up on us so easily just as we can pick up on them! We like to be in proximity to other people because we can read them as they can read us! I had a marketing consultant that wanted to become a coach. Her biggest goal was to stop traveling so much and at the same time her biggest challenge was to take up telephone coaching where she wasn’t in the presence of her clients. She didn’t believe she could figure out what was going on because she couldn’t “see” the other person or in fact, read the other person’s body language. Body language is that powerful. Because it’s that powerful, everyone should be familiar with it and understand the positive and defensive postures. When you do, you understand what’s really going on with the people around you – either at work or in your personal life – because we all, at some time or the other speak in double messages.
It’s important to understand double messages, which we hear/see all the time. Why? Because whenever we receive a double message,
we tend to put a question mark behind the spoken message and believe the unspoken message. I’ve said this before and I want to re-emphasize it again! Double messages make us incongruent. How do adults learn best? When they are in a congruent environment. If you’re going to be effective, learn the 2 most important languages: the spoken and the unspoken word.
(c) 2005, Linda Talley. All rights reserved.