Monthly Archives: February 2012

Nonverbal Communication – Myth Debunked

27 Feb
by Bridget DiCello

There are a lot of messages that a person communicates besides with the words that they say.  If you pay attention, their body language can be a significant source of information.

However, if you’d really like to have the master list of what all the possible nonverbal body languages signs (eye contact, crossed arms, slouching, etc.) may mean, I’m afraid you’re out of luck.  Most “answers” and generalizations are just not true.

People act differently and communicate differently based on a lot of things, not only what they are feeling at the moment.  Not that there is not good information in those nonverbal signals, there is just not one list of the “right” answers that apply to every person in every situation.  Here’s a few examples:

  • Lack of eye contact means they are lying.  Well, the amount and nature of eye contact can be telling, but the exact moment it breaks may not be significant.
  • Folding arms means defensiveness.  Maybe. Or maybe they are getting comfortable, or thinking, or relaxed.  I’ve personally seen them all, and done them all.
  • Tone of voice is not the same for everyone.  Some people use tone to their advantage.  Others purposely avoid changes in tone and pitch. Others have their natural tone that follows them everywhere.
  • Squaring up to you.  Might mean they are becoming aggressive or simply interested.
  • Feet/shoulders away from you.  They could be getting comfortable or disinterested.
  • Nodding.  I’ve always said that when the employee nods, it means nothing.  They are probably just trying to get you to stop talking because you believe they agree.  They may want you to stop talking because they are confused, bored, uninterested, or just have other priorities at the moment.  A nog can also indicate agreement, politeness, “Go away!”, or “I get it!”
  • Hands closed.  They could be withholding information or maybe they just naturally sit that way.
  • Leaning forward could mean aggressiveness or disinterest.
  • Leaning back could mean they are thinking or they are disengaged.

Keep in mind that you can think about four times faster than someone naturally speaks.  That is why it is so hard to listen.  Your brain has so much excess capacity.  Therefore, when you speaking to someone, what they do nonverbally may or may not be directly related to the conversation.

What can nonverbal communication tell you?  Most importantly, nonverbal communication patterns must be learned.

What are the common patterns for the people with whom you are communicating?  What makes them change?  How do they hold themselves most of the time?  How do they feel most of the time?

  • Are they often nervous and defensive?  Then a change in body language may mean you are relieving their stress and opening up dialog.  That’s a good thing.
  • If they are often participative and productive, a change in body language may mean you have said or done something that has closed the conversation and lost their buy-in.  That needs to be addressed.

Determine what triggers them to change tone, posture, eye contact and movements and decide if that change is a good thing.  Then, you can adjust your communication in the moment based on their body language and achieve your desired results from the conversation.

And, by the way, words are important too, so brush up on your listening skills, and spend more than 25% of your energy listening to the words in order to gain insight on the entire communication message that the other person is saying!

Egotistical Jerk or Passionate Leader?

14 Feb
by Bridget DiCello

If you’ve ever had the boss who has said,

“My way or the highway!”

“…because I said so!”

“That’s just the way it is,” and

“Get it done yesterday – I don’t care how!”

you may be hesitant to come across like a demanding jerk to your employees.

Jim Collins in his description of a Level V Leader says that level of leadership is attained by a humble yet passionate leader.

So, when do you get tough and lay it on the line, even to the point of saying, “That’s just how it is!” to your employees?

You know you’re being a jerk when…

  1. There is a self-serving motive behind your rant like ego preservation, desire to win/they lose, or desire to intimidate.
  2. You do not take the time to let them speak
  3. You honestly don’t care what they think and don’t feel like they can contribute despite their subject matter expertise.

You know you are being a passionate leader when…

  1. You listen curiously and with genuine interest to what they are saying, combining empathy with high standards in your head.
  2. Your blood pressure starts to rise because they have/or continue to do something hurtful to accomplishing the company vision/mission/goals.
  3. You respond carefully and choose your words to avoid being hurtful AND present the mission/vision component with passion because that is the reason why their behavior is a problem.

You can get excited and passionate about your core values, vision, mission and goals.

You cannot scream and yell because someone made you mad and has frustrated you.

You can get determined and definite when what an employee did interfered with overall accomplishment of goals or the way you want your company to operate.

You cannot get miffed, sarcastic and rude because someone kept you personally from meeting your goal.

The mission, vision and core values of an organization are its backbone – the reason it exists and how business will be conducted.  This backbone is something to get excited about and no one will fault you if you get passionate and determined about it, as long as you treat them respectfully (no yelling, swearing, sarcasm, personal attacks or demeaning comments).  You may even appear egotistical if you are personally very invested in the core values and vision.  But a drive towards an admirable vision is always about more than just your desire to accomplish it, and that will come through to your team.