Bernard Shaw wrote, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Most people are unaware that there are two types of communication, verbal and non verbal. We all know about verbal communication, the words we speak outloud. Few are knowledgeable about the non verbal which, in all likelihood, is more important than the verbal words we speak. The most vital factor in our communication with others is that both verbal and non verbal communication are in sync with one another.
Non verbal communication is comprised of our facial expressions, tone of voice, movement, appearance, eye contact, gestures and posture. Facial expressions are the primary way we communicate with each other. When you say the words I love you, your facial expression should portray your words. Can you imagine saying the words I love you, with a look of sadness, anger or fear. Will your words be believed? Gestures assist our verbal communications to get the point across and may include pointing, waving, tapping or eye rolling. I bet the eye rolling gesture delivers home the message pretty quickly despite the words spoken. The tone of our voice and its intensity give rise to the urgency or dramatics of the message. A strong tone may be interpreted by others as approval or enthusiasm. A hesitant or low tone, disapproval or a lack of interest in the subject. The tone of your voice when speaking can also convey coldness or warmth toward the other. If your body posture is interpreted as defensive, you may have your arms crossed rather than a position of hands at your sides creating a more open and welcoming space. And ask yourself this question. How important is it to you to have someone look at you when you are speaking? Looking away may denote deceptiveness, lying or disinterest. How good are you at keeping eye contact with others? And while I do not like to dwell on the fact that our appearance does define the comfort others have in speaking to us, a dishevelled appearance can keep people at bay. Count that one up to our prejudices.
Speaking verbally and non verbally has been our primary mode of communication for generations, or perhaps eons is a better choice of words. This is in the process of change, a texted version of communication is adhered to by the current and on coming generations. But for now, in this generation of baby boomers, the spoken word is our modus operandi! And it is here that we continue to make rather large blunders. While our phones have provided some shielding from the non verbal, our everyday interactions face to face with others seem to be incongruent for the most part. We see sadness in others and respond with a smile and the words, it will be OK. We take the time to pause and listen to another, all the while checking the time or our cell phones. Someone discusses some topic that makes us uncomfortable and we change the subject matter or get up and leave. We make assumptions about people each and every day rarely checking to see if there is truth to the matter. Gossip continues to be the book of truth, sigh, look of sadness, eyes downcast.
The next time someone says to you or you say, did I say that or I didn’t say that, do a memory check of both your verbal and non verbal communications. Congruence in communication leads to clarity of speech, a lovely exchange between two or more people, really a beautiful expressive gift given to us. If you must deliver words and messages of hurt and sorrow, do so with compassion and empathy, a tender heart. Good healthy communication styles lie at the heart of good relationships, the bricks and mortar of a strong foundation. Choose your words wisely and let your words reflect the purpose of your soul. May your voice be the love mirrored in your hands, heart and mind.