Your verbal vs nonverbal skills

If words are so unimportant when you're creating an effective communication, how come we've neglected our nonverbal skills? Like sex, body language expertise should just come naturally but—like sex—sadly, it rarely does . Animals don't need manuals to help them signal fear, fight, or flirt, so why is the human animal, with all its great intellect, so confused and intimidated by nonverbal messages? How did we get so paranoid and puzzled by a process that is so simple it should be a joy?

The answer is that while animals coped well with body language, humans (as usual) decided to tinker around with what was already a perfectly decent system Or to put it another way, we started to speak . Overcome with our own cleverness at inventing words, we then decided to stop using our eyes In an effort to maintain social decorum and harmony, all kids from about the age of two years old are told that it's rude to stare . Great. Stop looking at other humans and stop reading their body language

We then set about promoting words to the top of the communication pecking order Thanks to the frenzied use of texts and email, we like to pretend body language is extinct But if that's true, why is it such a crucial factor in modern life? If words count more, then why do politicians bend over backward to get their faces on TV or in the newspapers in a bid to win our votes? Why not just print transcripts of their speeches? Why do Hollywood stars still spend hours pouting and preening on the red carpet, and why does job recruitment entail live interviews where your image will be scrutinized for much longer than your resume?

What is it that body language does that words just fail to do?

Texts and emails have caused a huge revolution in the way we communicate, but their ability to communicate is limited However many smiley faces and capitals we like to use, both text and email lack the ability to transmit genuine emotion. Like a speak-your-weight machine, they tell us the facts but without the meaning or attitude They're the modern version of semaphore or the telegram

The same is true in face-to-face transactions Imagine someone who talks in a monotone, using neither pitch nor gesture to make their point If they walked into a room and said the building was on fire they'd have problems getting anyone to evacuate

The point is that, as much as we choose to deny or ignore it, it's the nonverbal communication that we rely on when a message is highly important, because when it comes to words alone we find it hard to understand, remember, or believe what we're told

Imagine you've taken a sick day from work You've got to contact your boss to sell the lie that you're draped in a blanket because of "something I ate . " How would you prefer to get that message across: by email, phone, or video conference? The yellow-belly in you would plump for the email or the phone because you know your visual displays would let you down in a minute if you opted for face-to-face . If you chose the phone you'd very likely get someone else to do the call and then you'd have to go through the ritual of analyzing the boss's response because you couldn't see them: "Did she really sound as though it was okay?" "Did he seem annoyed?" "Are you sure she didn't sound sarcastic when she said she hoped I'd feel better soon?" "When he said I should take as long off as I needed did he really mean I shouldn't bother going back at all?"

Words alone—that is, emails and texts—are for lightweights, then Although it's great to use email or text to dump your spouse, sack your employees, or tell your bank manager where to get off, it's mainly because your bottom is clenched so tight with fear that it looks as though it's been Botoxed .

Words are for windbags and worriers, too; people who feel that an email stands as "proof of delivery" as though scared every message has a legal implication, or old-school politicians who think that verbal diarrhea is the perfect antidote to a killer question from Barbara Walters .

Modern society is word saturated, but being bombarded with too many words is not the same thing as having increased comprehension; in fact, in reality it's quite the opposite . Neural pruning is the psychological term for your brain's own little spam filter Too many words in the form of phone calls, emails, texts, business meetings, and "keynote" presentations or speeches just make our brains less attentive . Rather than adapting to absorb more information they've evolved to dispose of a vast majority of it, meaning we're throwing out some good along with the useless We also use more jargon in an attempt to create shortcuts but the staleness of most jargon makes it a turn-off rather then a memory-jogger .

In many ways your words are like your vacation pictures . Ever look through someone else's vacation photos? How boring is that? The point is you had to be there . For the person who took them they're evocative of the whole experience, but all you can see is a mangy-looking donkey or yet another dull old sunset. In an important communication words are only a very poor representation of your thoughts and feelings

Continue reading here: Words that work

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