Fraser " Marianne Klancke: We all have ‘tell-tail’ signs
What if it were that people had tails like dogs? No doubt our fashion designs would be altered a bit.
It is a given that we as a judgmental society would have specific ideas about the qualities of good tails and bad tails. But, most of all, productive communication would no longer be on the tip of our tongues, but rather on the tip of our tails.
Dog tails are the telltale of their canine companion’s every thought and feeling. Tails are a superb appendage designed to give information or warning, betraying what could be kept secret. Happy, sad, scared, mad ” all of these emotions are clearly demonstrated by a dog’s tail action. No secrets there.
Humans, on the other hand, have no such attached telltale device revealing their internal reactions and intentions. Picture the businessperson ” equipped with tail ” closing the deal on a conniving transaction or a tail-endowed speaker suffering from stage fright.
If we had each other’s tails to read, we would have few doubts about the true messages, emotions and all, being sent among us.
What tools do we tail-disadvantaged (tail-challenged? whatever) humans use to enhance our message sending/message receiving interactions? We, in fact, have our own non-verbal, telltale communication in the form of eye and facial behavior, gestures, body language, touch, vocal presentation, use of time, environmental cues, appearance, and spatial choices.
While life coaching and facilitating group interactions, I depend heavily on the cues I observe from all forms of non-spoken communication. As a matter of fact, we all rely on the movements and manner of others to stimulate meaning from their messages ” so much so, that it is not uncommon to believe more of what you witness than of what you hear. We all do it.
Consider someone who is professing not to be in pain with a severe grimace on their face or another who tells you they are deeply saddened while sporting a smirky smile. In the case of mixed messages, which do you often chose and trust?
Just like verbal communication, non-verbal cues cannot be avoided or un-messaged.
It is possible that most of us have little control over some of our telltale traits.
For instance, it has been discovered that our eyes focus in different directions depending on the function of our brain. For many of us, looking upper right indicates a constructive mode of thought and focusing upper left demonstrates recall.
Dependent upon whether one was telling what they know or making something up, as in a lie, their eyes may look one way or the other. This could be very telling and unintentional non-verbal behavior.
On the other hand, in many ways, we have total control over our non-verbal behaviors just as we can chose our words wisely. When it is that we are interacting in groups within our community, we can consciously speak of and correct the impressions registered by the behavioral nuances of the communication participants just as we would clarify our spoken words. Misunderstandings of intent can belong to both verbal and non-verbal communication.
Of a panel of board members, would an audience contributor connect better with the member who is looking down and shuffling their papers or the one who is making eye contact and offering a pleasant, empathetic expression? You make the call.
In that case, it may be that the first mentioned board member may not have chosen to send the message of disinterest and rejection, but, without clarification they may have aggravated their constituent to no end. The consequences of unaware non-verbal behavior can be as unproductive as any poorly thought out verbiage.
I applaud the sophisticated system of tail wagging, tucking, and thumping. We, the tail-less, have a long way to go before our gestures and looks communicate exactly what we intend. Until then, we can all strive to study non-verbal communication behavior and to embrace it as our second, or perhaps better, our first language.
” Marianne Klancke is a certified professional coach and group development facilitator. What are your coaching questions or communication concerns? She welcomes any comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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