As our youth focuses so much on communicating digitally through texts, e-mails and online communication, the ability or desire to read another’s body language is a skill that is being lost. Any verbal message is composed of at least two parts: the actual words and the emotional message expressed with those words. I can say the same words I love you with different emotions and get a completely different effect. That’s where sarcasm comes in; expressing a positive message, but with a negative tone or body language, communicates exactly the opposite.
Little children have a difficult time understanding this type of humor. When young, we believe in the goodness of everyone and what they are saying until we discover through experience that not everyone tells the truth. In fact, we may find ourselves not being totally honest when a friend asks How do you like my new outfit? We answer Oh, it’s fine, as we lie through gritted teeth. The verbal message is positive while the real emotional or body language is the opposite or hidden. Isn’t communication devious?
Taking a workshop recently on body language was revealing in ways that I communicate and how my message is being received. Even little things like how I stand, where my eyes are focused, how I use my hands while talking influence what my message communicates. Try becoming an observer in conversations you are involved in and notice the effect of your body language on the receiver of your message. That’s why e-mails have added these cute little emoticon symbols (i.e. smiley faces) to help fill in this lack of body language that takes place online, but it’s not the same.
Say you are trying to talk to a family member, but they avoid looking at you or even disappear from your presence rather than talk one on one. Their body language is closed, withdrawn. Perhaps they are depressed or shy? You can’t judge, but it is a challenge to try to send value to that person and gain his/her confidence. Time and proximity are two factors that will help in this kind of situation. It also helps to not take things personally. It’s natural to feel rejected, but if you come to this rash conclusion you’ll never be able to communicate positively and connect. Asking gentle questions can be a good beginning. Again watch for body language as you start talking to see how to react. NEXT TIME: Self Worth or Self Image