What's at the Intersection of Non-Verbal Communication and Emotional Intelligence Skillfulness?

I read an interesting blog post this evening debunking many of the common myths, clichés and platitudes surrounding the 'Do's and Don'ts' of non-verbal communication (hat tip to Kathy Reiffenstein's Twitter post about it).


A common problem: intent doesn't always lead to a match. This gesture carries a positive meaning in some cultures while a rude or vulgar one in several other cultures...This subject is near and dear to my heart; during my undergraduate and graduate studies I focused on Communication and took some courses solely devoted to non-verbal communication. I have continued to research and study communication over the ensuing years. There is a lot of substance and solid research behind the recommendations often provided for effective non-verbal communication. But most business publications and training courses continue to focus on providing overly-simplistic 'steps' and 'rules' to follow that don't equip communicators with an understanding of the underlying phenomena that create both communication successes and blunders. 

All communication is highly contextual: the message sender's meaning can be interpreted by the message receiver in many ways. Achieving agreement between the meaning INTENDED and the meaning ACHIEVED is dependent on the words chosen along with the communication environment and circumstances.

In fact, research in Intercultural Communication tells us that meaning is totally contextual and culture-specific. Giving straight-forward, step-by-step instructions for how to be more or less [defensive, assertive, influential, etc.] is a very tricky minefield. Why? Because how to do it best depends on the context - there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. Using such simple 'guidelines' can lead to many potential misunderstandings and mistakes. 

Yet, Nick Morgan reaches this conclusion in his blog post about this subject:

In controlling your own behavior, to appear more confident, or open, or in charge, again, it is a fool’s game to try to manage a specific bit of body language. Instead, work on your intent. Then your body language will take care of itself.

Well - that's true, but it only goes as far as your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) skills will take you. If you've honed these EQ skills of self awareness, self management, social awareness and relationship management, you'll have a much better chance of matching your INTENT to your IMPACT. And, unfortunately, many people lack or have not fully developed their EQ skills, which probably feeds the continued thirst for 'steps to better non-verbal communication'.

So it seems to me that the 'formula' for successful communication is more likely something like this:

During a communication interaction, a close match between the intended meaning and the achieved impact is when there is a high level of Emotional Intelligence on the part of both sender and receiver.

What do you think? What has your experience told you about non-verbal communication and emotional intelligence skills?

[edited on 7/9/09 2:00 pm by halelly]

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