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So how do we quit imagining and figure out what nonverbal message meant? It takes practice. You begin with self-awareness – noticing your own nonverbal reactions. Start paying attention to things YOU do in course of communicating. Notice when you move, when you change your facial expression, what you do with yours hands. Then hook it up with what was going on, to explain why you do these things.
Next, start observing more in others. Facial expressions and gestures can be tricky, especially if you’re in a multicultural situation. A sign of peace in one country is a gross obscenity in another. Some cultures are more facially expressive than others. A smile can mean “I agree” in one country, while in another country, direct disagreeing isn’t permitted, so a smile is just a convention.
You can study nonverbal expressions through photographs by accessing some of sites on Internet.
Then start asking more questions when it’s appropriate. And it may always be appropriate as far as that goes. As my friend said … we imagine. Nobody likes to feel like you’re “mind-reading,” and more important conversation, more important that you check out what you think other person meant, or said, or implied. When we assume, we can get into trouble.
In fact you should check in from time-to-time just to see if they’re still paying attention. For instance someone who interviews people all day long tends to tune out if you talk more than 90 seconds.
Interjecting things such as “Was that what you had in mind?” or “Am I addressing point in a way that’s helpful?” can bring other person back. Your reading of nonverbal communication will tell you they’ve left when their eyes glaze over.
If you see a shift in nonverbal that concerns you, note it, think about it, and then respond appropriately. It’s important to observe what’s going on in other so you can keep conversation on course. It’s part of Emotional Intelligence, social skills and good manners.
For instance, one person may want to hear all details of your surgery, while it may be too much for another. You may need to vent your spleen about your ex-spouse or your boss, but listener may find it too intense and become uncomfortable. If you’re getting “warding off” signals, back off.
In negotiations and sales, you must be alert to changes that can signal you’re using wrong approach so that you can reorient and try something different.
Being able to read nonverbal communication effectively is important to your social and professional relationships. It will affect your ability to be intimate, to sustain friendships, to influence people, and to succeed in your career.
©Susan Dunn, MA, Emotional Intelligence Coach, http://www.susandunn.cc . Coaching, Internet courses and ebooks around Emotional Intelligence for your personal and professional development. For free EQ ezine, mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org with “ezine” for subject line.