Nonverbal communication is REALLY important.
In fact, unless you're dishing dry, straight-forward, factual information, chances are you’ll be more successful communicating face-to-face.
I’ve vlogged and written about it before – email (and IMing or texting) really sucks when there’s any kind of emotional component to the message. You have a much higher chance of being misunderstood in written communication.
Why? Because we humans rely on the nonverbal aspects of communication to help us understand the context and subtext of the message when we can see not only the words but HOW they were spoken.
But nonverbal communication is not the magic bullet...
As I explain in the short video blog (i.e., ‘vlog’) below, there’s still a possibility of miscommunication even when you include the nonverbal.
And I share a personal (painful) story about a time when I learned this the hard way. (And why is there a knife in this video?…). So please watch, enjoy, and learn about how to avoid this nonverbal communication mistake.
As always – leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear what you thought!!
And, to learn more, check out my guest post on the Connection Culture blog about the dangers of email
Also see my vlog about why email sucks here.
And you might enjoy learning how to avoid triggering Fight, Flight, or Freeze responses in others in this popular blog post.
Halelly: One of the things I’m always telling people is that when you’re communicating with others about something that’s not just dry, factual, straightforward information, you need to move away from written text and speak it in a way where you can have the full benefit of the nonverbal parts of communication so that the person on the other end of your communication conversation has a better chance to understand what you meant and how you intended that communication, whereas they do when they’re just reading it, in an email or worse, in a text message.
So, I’ve written about this elsewhere and I’ll link to it below, but I did want to give you a story about something that happened to me that helped me realize that no only is it really important to be face-to-face when you’re having conversations that might have any kind of disagreement, a potential for misunderstanding or any kind of an emotional tone where you want to make sure you’re building the relationship and preventing anything from detracting from that connection. But even then, communication is really hard and it’s not foolproof.
When I was a very brand new manager for a financial services company, a woman that had come onto my team had a very different educational background from me and had a specialized knowledge of a certain field that I didn’t have a lot of specialized knowledge in, which is why we brought her onto the team and I was her manager. She and I didn’t always communicate very easily and I think that we had a lot of misunderstandings, but I certainly always valued her professional expertise and I tried to understand and listen to it.
One time we were talking about something she had created – I don’t remember if it was something she wrote or something she was presenting to me – and I was listening and really trying to understand her and she said something to me that shocked me at the moment. It actually felt like she was stabbing me through the heart with a knife, but later I was very thankful that she had taken the time to tell me this. She said, “You’re always judging me.” And I looked at her really bewildered, “What do you mean I’m always judging you? I don’t understand.” She said, “Every time I’m talking to you, you always have that scrunched brow that makes me feel like you’re judging me, like you think I’m stupid. You think what I’m saying is wrong.” Oh my gosh, I was so surprised by this, because I have to tell you, it is possible that there had been communications where that was true, where she said something I may have disagreed with, and it is possible that I furrowed my brow in disagreement. But I can guarantee you that during that moment, where she said, “You’re judging me,” I really was just listening and trying to understand her. So, as I was reflecting on what made her think this, I figured that I probably have a, “I’m listening very carefully,” kind of face, like I’m thinking hard about what you’re saying. I’m really, really focusing. And that face that I’m kind of making right now has my brows scrunched up like that. That also could be misconstrued as, “I’m judging you, or I’m disapproving of what you’re saying.”
So it wasn’t my intention, but it was how it was received. And in communication, your intention is fine, but it really isn’t the most important thing. Because unless you can convey your intention successfully to the other person, then the communication has failed. And in this case, clearly, the communication has failed. It wasn’t something I said, it was something that she read. And she’d misread me, but it landed, for her, in a way that made her feel very uncomfortable with me and created some conflict between us. I’m thankful to her that she said this to me, because a lot of times people will feel this, but won’t say it. And she gave me that feedback. A lot of people are afraid to give their manager feedback, and so that was a gift. She gave it to me, I had to get over my hurt feelings and think about it clearly, but thankfully, after that, I recognized that I need to be very aware of not sending an unintended message in my nonverbal communication.
So, from there on, I had to try to really focus on relaxing my forehead muscles, at least when I’m speaking with her. But in general, being more aware of what’s my face saying? What’s my body saying? How might this be received in a way that doesn’t align with the message I’m intending to send?
For one, recognize that information that is sent with no nonverbal information has a lot higher chances of being misinterpreted. For example, if you send an email that said, “Good job,” those are just seven letters, two words. But, it could mean two very different things or more. So for example, did you mean, “Good job!” or did you mean, “Good job …” See how my nonverbal communication can really change the meaning of those two words to be something very different? One is very approving and celebratory, and one is very cynical and maybe sarcastic.
Communication, with people with whom you want to have a positive relationship, is really important. And there are so many opportunities for misunderstanding that at least try to keep the nonverbal together with the verbal. Even if you do, remember, it’s not enough because you still might be misunderstood and therefore be open to feedback. Seek feedback actively and act on that feedback to constantly try to improve your communication success.
I’m Halelly Azulay with TalentGrow, and host of the TalentGrow Show, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed this short vlog. Let me know what you thought about it in the comments below or on my webpage if you’re viewing this on You Tube. Until the next time, make today great.
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