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Modern humans are worse at reading body signals than their
ancestors because we are now distracted by words.
Pease, The Definitive Book on Body Language.
In Part 2 she was People Watching at the Ferry Building Marketplace where she observed a couple having an intense argument.
After the woman threw the phone down and stomped off, the guy sat with his head in his hands, not moving. Robin, training to be a coach, just couldn’t resist the opportunity to offer some help.
She walked over to the table across from where he sat. He didn’t seem to notice that she was there. Finally, she reached out and gently touched his arm. He slowly looked up. His eyes met her’s.
“May I help you,” he asked.
“I’m Robin,” she said extending her hand.
“I’m Mark. Did you want something?” he said.
Robin, hesitated when she heard the slight edge of irritation in his voice, but decided to continue. She took a deep breath, “Can I help you?” she said.
He looked up with eyebrows raised, head turned slightly to the side and mouth dropped open like he wanted to say something, but not sure what to say. Finally, he said, “Why do you think I need your help?”
Robin dropped her eyes to the floor for a minute then looked him in the eyes. “I’m sorry, but I overheard your argument with the lady that just left.”
Mark’s forehead wrinkled as his face started turning red. Robin noticed that he began clenching his teeth, “How dare you listen to our conversation.”
Robin stopped and thought about some of the conversation techniques she had learned.
What Are Your Words Saying?
If our vocal elements and body language don’t back up our words it often means we can’t be trusted, we don’t keep our word, or perhaps, you’re trying to scam someone.
The Book of Proverbs has a lot to say about words. The power of Life or Death is in our words (18:21). We can crush and destroy others with our words (11:9) or we can give others helpful words of encouragement that is like a tree of life (10:21, 32, 15:4). Wise words bring benefits to many (12:14) and kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and health for the body (16:24).
We do have a choice in our communication. We can bring life or we can bring death to a person or a situation. But, we cannot separate ourselves from our words. Our words come from the soul and reflect who we really are. And our nonverbal communication (body language) tells whether we are telling the truth and can be trusted or not.
Who do your words say you are? What are you communicating to others? Are your words saying you are a person they want to get to know or do business with? Or are you saying you can’t be trusted and are a person to avoid?
For communication to be correctly and fully understood, we must consider the social context. We also understand that different cultures have different meanings for words and body language, only when we can step into their shoes and have empathy, can we accurately understand the meaning and be able to communicate effectively. Regardless of the culture, words and body language occurs together predictably.
In doing the research on body language I found a plethora of material on how to read body language, what to do to get the desired results in different social settings, like, a job interview, a date, and personal relationships.
As I thought about this I came up with questions I’d rather ask. I had to ask myself first.
Am I being viewed the way I want to be viewed? Does my body language backup my words? Do others view me as a good communicator? What do I need to change to be a good communicator? Would I like to be married to me? Would I like having me for a boss? Would I like having me for a parent or grandparent? Do I offer empathy to others? When I am involved in a conversation with others, do my words revolve around me or the other person? Do I really listen to others and exercise attentive listening or am I off in my own head?
To be honest I’m not sure I can answer ‘yes’ to all of these questions.
How do we want to be viewed
Until I started this paper, I didn’t really think about how I am viewed by others or if I was viewed as a good communicator and somebody others wanted to be around.
Unfortunately, we put too much trust in our own perception of how we feel we are viewed by others. We rarely take a good look at how things really are, how we really come across to others. We have a view of ourselves that we think is reality, but is it? Is that how others see us?
Have you received body language from others that causes you to think about how the other person might view you? I recently had an experience that caused me to stop and think.
I had gone to lunch with a lady that I knew casually. We had been together in a group, but not alone. At lunch, I discovered that she was very quiet and didn’t initiate any conversation topics or have many responses.
I became very intimidated by her silence and began talking more about myself than I should. Toward the end of our lunch, the heel of the palm of her hand was supporting her cheek with the index finger of her hand pointing upwards. The look on her face said she was bored and we probably wouldn’t be doing lunch again any time soon.
Instead of asking more questions about her to get to know her better, I overcompensated as I had flashes of both of us sitting with nothing to say. Bad communication.
Improve Your Communication Skills
Listen. Listen attentively and unconditionally to the other person’s value and needs and what they have to say.
Be Interested. Show the other person you are interested in what they have to say, who they are, and their concerns. Show them they are important.
Use Your Voice. Voice your approval of the other person on a regular basis. Give them honest encouragement, positive strokes and praise with a sincere tone in your voice.
Show Empathy. To show sincere empathy, identify with or vicariously experience the feelings, thoughts, or attitude of the other person.
Empathy is trying to view the world from the other person’s point of view, to see what they see and how they see it. Everyone has their own unique perspective on life and on what they see around them. No two people will describe things exactly the same.
“The path to good communication is accepting the fact that every human being is a distinctly unique individual – and thinking how good that is. No two people are alike, not even identical twins.” Denis Waitley, author of Seeds of Greatness.
Robin and Mark
Robin sat across from Mark for what seemed like an eternity.
Finally, Mark looked up, “You’re still here? Why do you care anyway?” he said in a real snarky voice.
“Well, as I said, I overheard you and, what was her name?”
“I overheard you and Marty in a heated argument. Actually, everybody around these tables heard it,” Robin said.
“So, why do you care? I don’t see anybody else over here butting into my business,” Mark said, eyes glaring as he straightened up. “Who are you anyway? Somebody the mob boss sent after me?”
Robin Thinking About Her Words
Robin sat quietly looking at the cement floor under the canopy. She’d been telling everyone she was going to be a counselor or a coach, but every time someone asked her for help she always had an excuse; she didn’t know enough, she was busy, or something. A question ran through her mind, “Do you really want to help or is this just school?” Her words had been saying she was a counselor or coach, but her nonverbal communication said it was just school, she was a fake. She had a choice back-up her words or not.
Robin straightened up and looked at Mark, “You asked who I am and why I care? Well, I’m a student at the university preparing to be a counselor or a coach, haven’t decided which yet. I would like to help you if I can.”
“Oh, you want me to be your first client, is that it? You want to experiment on me. No thank you. I don’t want to be anybody’s guinea pig,” Mark said in almost a scream.
“What is it you need?” she asked in a low tone.
“I need $1500. That’s what I need. You heard our argument. Why are you still here?” he said his voice still loud with a hint of sarcasm. “Do you have $1500 for me?”
“I don’t know why I’m still here. I don’t have any money. I’m a broke college kid,” she said staring at the cement floor again. “But, I do know someone who could help, his name is Jesus.”
“Oh, so now you’re a preacher?” Mark laughed. “That’s really going to help me.”
Mark started to get up.
“No, please. Can we talk a little longer?” she said reaching out her hand to him.
“I don’t have the answers for you, but I work part-time with a recovery group at my church. The leader is an ex-gambler. He’s always telling the group how Jesus is the answer. How Jesus can help you turn this around.”
“Is Jesus going to give me the $1500 before my wife divorces me? Money from heaven,” once again with a snarky laugh.
“No, I don’t think money is going to fall from heaven. But, I do know that LeRoy, the leader, works with the person and the people they owe money to so nobody gets hurt.”
Robin saw Mark brush away a tear from his eye. She reached out to touch his arm. Mark looked up. “They said they would hurt Marty if I didn’t have the money for them by Monday. I’ve been here thinking about how I could get the money.”
“And?” Robin said.
Result of Marks Actions and Words
Mark was quiet for several minutes then wiped away another tear, “The only thing I could think of was to rob one of these vendors in the Ferry Building. But, I don’t have a gun. I’d probably be shot and killed then they’d still grab Marty and do whatever to her.
“Then, why don’t you come with me to see LeRoy. I know he can help.”
“But, you said Jesus was the answer. I don’t understand?” Mark said looking at her quizzically.
“Jesus is the answer. LeRoy will introduce you. Let me call him. He can meet us down here.”
“Okay, I guess,” Mark said looking around as if to find a way out of this situation while Robin made the call.
“Good news,” she said. “LeRoy is inside at the coffee house. He said to come on in, it’s quieter inside.”
Robin stood up and started collecting all of her things. Mark got up hesitantly. He started walking in the opposite direction. Robin, with her laptop and backpack, ran to catch up.
“You don’t want to do this?” she asked. “You said you wanted to.”
“Well, that’s one of my problems, I guess. I don’t always say what I mean or do what I say,” he said.
“Then it’s time to change it. This way,” she said pointing to the entrance. She stopped and turned to see if Mark was following.
“Okay, I guess it can’t hurt. How much worse can things get?” he said.