Contrary to popular belief verbal communications are not the be all and end all in the world of interactions. People are saying more through some other means, some other channel, something more than words can possibly communicate. There is something definitely going on.
It is all happening via body language. On the communication highway there are several road signs! People are constantly evaluating each other, mostly subconsciously, and forming impressions and opinions that determine their conscious decisions. Those who master these ‘signs’ and ‘signals’ are on their way to becoming great leaders. Here are a few things that leaders have understood:
- People subconsciously classify nonverbal signals into two broad categories—those of authority and those of warmth and compassion. Leaders are those who have mastered the art of knowing and employing the right signals at the right time. They have learnt to effectively use eye contact, minute gestures, expressions, postures, etc., to influence, sway interpretations and decisions of others. This is what eventually determines their behavior.
- It takes just seven seconds for someone to come to a decision about you—if you are “likeable”, “powerful”, or submissive. Research shows that people make approximately eleven decisions about others, all in those initial seconds of meeting the new person.
- People rely too often, and mistakenly, on verbal communications, not knowing that it is the non-verbal exchange that mostly determines what we think of each other. Two people could exchange up to 800 nonverbal signals over a half-hour period. This explains how a well-planned presentation, strategy, interaction could fail because we focus too much on how we are going to say things and present our argument, etc., yet find that it did not work as we intended it to!
- Often you feel something is amiss when someone you are talking to says one thing but uses a gesture or expression that does not ‘sync’ in with the words. Our brains are wired to detect these miniscule anomalies in nonverbal signals. This shows up on EEGs (electroencephalograms) as brain waves called “event related potentials.” This gets us thinking—should we be more aware to our nonverbal communication than we have been so far? Yes, we must!