Are you fluent in body language?
We are all good at communication. With all the video calls, text messages, social media comments, emails and more, we certainly get a lot of practice. So, we’d have to be good at it by now, wouldn’t we?
Well, maybe not. While technology does give us more communication options, it doesn’t stop us misinterpreting each other’s messages or unintentionally causing offence. So, maybe it’s time we stop to consider how communication works.
Transmitting multiple messages
Communication is a two-way street. It begins with the message we want to convey and ends with the interpretation of the message by the receiver. So much of how we communicate happens without any sort of spoken or written language. Subtleties of meaning lie in our facial gestures, posture and dress style. These may enhance our intended meaning or distract from it. Often, we are not even aware of these ‘hidden’ messages we are sending out.
For example, as a leader, you might believe you are confident and that your team members understand and respect you. However, having a slouching posture or biting your lip when you are talking to a group will likely undermine your authority.
Chloe Oestreich is a coach, facilitator, and speaker who works with senior business leaders all over the world to help them identify and acknowledge their body language traits. In her podcast interview on The Mentor List, Chloe pointed out that many of us spend a lot of time preparing the message we want to convey, but little or no time deciding how we are going to say it.
As Chloe noted, people judge each other within the first three seconds of meeting. The judgements are based on many signals we give out, including how we look, how we sound, and the emotional response we trigger in others. If we don’t pay attention to the signals we give out, our intended message may get lost.
The intelligent way to listen
How we transmit a message is only one part of the communication equation, though. How we receive and process messages is just as important.
Emotional intelligence or EQ is a concept that originated in the 1960’s and became popular with psychologists in the 1990’s. It relates to how well we understand and perceive the emotions of ourselves and others.
In her article Overview of Emotional Intelligence: History and Measures of Emotional Intelligence for VeryWell Mind, Kendra Cherry discussed the four levels of emotional intelligence identified by Salovey and Mayer. The four levels relate to:
Our awareness of our own emotions and of the emotions around us.
Our ability to use our awareness of these emotions to help us decide what to focus on.
Our ability to accurately perceive the emotions of those around us through the verbal and non-verbal signals they project and to interpret their likely meaning.
Our ability to manage our emotions effectively. This is the highest level of EQ and it involves being able to regulate our emotions and respond appropriately to the emotions of others.
Having a high EQ is quite separate from having a high IQ. You could be a mathematical genius and still not understand why your partner was grumpy with you this morning or know how to handle an emotionally-charged situation at work.
As Cherry says:
“A large part of emotional intelligence is being able to think about and empathize with how other people are feeling. This often involves considering how you would respond if you were in their same situation. People who have strong emotional intelligence are able to consider the perspectives, experiences, and emotions of other people and use this information to explain why people behave the way that they do.”
Improving your language skills
Just as we can learn new verbal languages at any age, we can also improve our non-verbal language skills if we choose to. It does take commitment and regular practice to become fluent, though.
If you are ready to give it a go, start by trying out one or two different ways of transmitting your non-verbal messages at a time. For example, you might alter the way you dress for work or change the tone of your voice when you give a presentation. Be prepared to try different things to see what ‘transmission signals’ best match your intended message.
You can also practice your non-verbal language comprehension skills. Allow yourself to absorb all the signals you receive rather than trying to interpret them individually. So, step back and consider the context of the situation and allow all the signals to merge to help you identify the real message being conveyed.
Clearer communication leads to stronger relationships in all aspects of life, so why not take the time to improve your proficiency?
Call to action…
Want to know more about how to become a better communicator? If you said, yes, then tune in to Chloe Oestreich’s podcast interview on The Mentor List today. Whether focusing on storytelling, body language or developing a resonant voice, Chloe helps individuals make an impact and leave positive long-lasting impressions. Isn’t that something we all want?
Kick start your personal journey to success from the conversations David has with his inspirational guests on The Mentor List. www.mentorlist.com.au
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