Whether you realize it or not, you are communicating ALL the time. Most of us have heard the statistic that some 87 percent of communication is non-verbal. But do we truly understand the ways in which we leak information? The ways in which our non-verbal communication conveys our expectations and belief systems, powerfully impacting our micro-environment?
When I was young and foolish (not to imply that I’m that much wiser now, just older), I had a rather tumultuous relationship that lasted on and off for three or four years. After one particularly spectacular series of emotional fireworks, I went by on the weekend to visit with hopes of peacemaking on my mind.
As was her wont on Saturday mornings, she was outside doing yard work. At the last minute my confidence waned and I drove up slowly, even hesitantly exiting from the car——a far cry from my normal brisk, devil-may-care arrival pattern. To my consternation I found her somewhat cool in her greeting and it took a while before we were able to establish rapport, much longer than I had hoped for or expected.
I want to learn and I have a deep curiosity about human beings and what makes us tick. I had deliberately stayed away long enough for emotions to cool down and thought that I had my timing right. Why was she so tepid in her initial greeting?
“It was the way you drove up. It wasn’t normal so I put my guard up. I thought you were ready to continue the fight.”
Oh boy. I had communicated alright. Not necessarily my intended message (nervous, low-level fear), but the meaning of any message is the response you receive.
If you wish to accept full responsibility for the effectiveness of your communication, you must realize that it is not the message you intend to send that counts. What really counts is the message that is received. One of the best ways to figure out what message was received is to analyze the response you get. If nothing else, I had clearly communicated my belief and fear that all was not well, and to a certain extent I created and reinforced that reality.
What have you communicated in the last 24 hours without words? An interesting weekend or vacation day exercise is to see how long or how well you can communicate without words. Can you go a whole day? Taking a temporary vow of silence, wearing a personal “cone of quiet stillness” for a while will greatly raise your level of awareness. If you don’t want to go cold turkey, make a game of it. Can you get through a day with just 100 words? Not enough? How about 10 words an hour? Use them or lose them, or let them accumulate. You get to make the rules. The payoff is in just paying attention!
Closing Quote: “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” — Anthony Robbins