Non-verbal Communication (10-29-2013)

You ever notice how your face gives away your feelings far before you can even form the words to express the emotion you are experiencing? It’s like your body knows the emotional reaction before you brain can even process the feeling. Some studies suggest that only 7% of communication is composed of the actual words we speak. Why then does it feel like I only have control over that 7% and the rest seems to just happen whilst I speak, unbeknownst to me. Have you ever felt that way?

In the past couple weeks I’ve had several people comment on my facial expressions and body posture, and I never know how to respond. Partly because it usually happens when I’ve dazed out for a moment, but mostly because I have next to no awareness of how I am presenting myself when I’m not specifically focused on it. Sure, when I first meet someone I go through the checklist of “stand tall, shoulders back, smile, head up, hand outstretched, welcoming voice” etc, but it’s almost as if when I don’t have that check list running through my mind, my body is like woohoo free for all.

I think it’s fairly common to have those daze-out moments, but it did make me wonder what kind of message I am sending when I’m not speaking. I know that I notice other peoples’ nonverbal communication. It’s very easy to tell genuine concern, compassion, and attentiveness, and so when I am speaking to other people, I always make mental notes on how they are reacting to my words. There just seems to be a disconnect in regards to reversing this thought process into questioning how other people see ME.

This quest of understanding self-expression is especially challenging for me as I’ve developed, inherited, and mastered the art of sarcasm. One of the key components of executing sarcastic remarks is the ability to have your verbal communication in complete contrast with your nonverbal. For instance, if a friend tries to convince you to say, jump off a bridge and you respond “yeah that’s a great idea,” the words suggest you are all for it, and if matching non-verbal cues are given then it is assumed you will indeed want to go jump off that bridge. Sarcasm’s humor is found in the disagreement of the communication forms however, so I would respond with those words, but say them in an “are you freaking kidding me voice”. The danger in this humor tactic lies in the potential for others to miss your cues. The best execution of sarcasm comes from people fully aware of how their entire body communicates. I’d say when I am using humor, I fit the bill for this perfectly, but in normal every day talking, I lose my sarcasm super power of self-awareness and have no clue what signals I’m sending. For all I know I’m smiling as I tell you how much I hate my Monday (oh wait, is that sarcasm?).

So I’m setting an awareness challenge for myself, and I challenge you to do the same. I want to focus more on how I am communicating with people. There’s a fine line between being aware of how you communicate and being deceptive with it. I’m not trying to disguise my feelings, because, let’s face it, apparently my face is way ahead of me at expressing emotion. I do, however, want to be respectful and understanding and have my thought through words match the emotions my tone, posture, and face are radiating.

If, however, a daze-out face slips in now and then, please forgive me. Old habits die hard.

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