There are so many non-verbal signals and cues that we all use to communicate interest and delight or confusion, uncertainty and disagreement. But how many of them do we actually pick up?
When we are speaking, how much are we noticing the response of others to what we’re saying? Most of us, most of the time, are too focused on gathering our thoughts or getting the words out to really take in other people’s body language and micro-expressions.
By the way, micro-expressions are the shortest, tiniest responses that flash across our face in response to what we hear or a thought we’re having. You might pick up on someone changing their eyebrow but did you pick up on the little muscle that contracted on their right-side jaw?
While some body language is subtle and takes practice to pick up, other cues are much easier to pick up but we still don’t register or process them usefully.
As well as the common crossed arms or shifting in our seat as a sign of disagreement, there are things like averting our gaze or avoiding eye contact because we’re uncomfortable, a deep intake of breath or leaning back in our seat because we disagree or are unconvinced, or scratching our head or rubbing our chin when we’re thinking about how best to express a different opinion.
(Were you acting those out as you read them…? 😆 I did and I’m writing it…!)
And then there are the other non-verbals like stumbling over our words or stuttering, speeding up or slowing down when talking because we’re nervous or excited or cautious, or repeating words and phrases when we’re trying to get clear on something that’s happened.
The best way to take in all these fantastic non-verbal signals is to slow down — yes our energy, our breathing, our heart rate — and look for them. This is harder than it sounds but so fascinating! It’s so important to listen at depth. We need to be very present.
It’s an important skill practice for Leaders Who Coach™ and one of the ways we get into that zone is by watching 2-3 minute movie clips — over and over and over again — to see how much information we can pick up from the characters. You’ll never watch a movie the same way again!
If you enjoy detective and crime films, then you’ll love this 15-min video of former FBI agent Joe Navarro explaining how to read non-verbals or body language.
You’ll find loads more resources like this in our Playlist for Leaders Who Coach™ Competency II — Emotional Connections that this skill is part of.