Part of Emotional Intelligence is understanding emotions of others, and one of most important channels we use to communicate emotions is nonverbal communication.
When we’re engaged in communication, we must pay attention to all sorts of things besides just actual words. No matter how we try to define words, they still mean one thing to one person, and another to another.
To understand this, all you need to do is take a sentence and emphasize different things, or use a different tone of voice. For instance, try saying this sentence 5 different times, each time emphasizing a different word: “I know what he said.” The emphasis makes quite a difference.
Now consider that what “he” said was, “I love you.” How would you say “I know what he said”? Certainly with tenderness, love, and maybe even awe.
However, if person who said “I love you” was someone you despised, you would say “I know what he said” with resignation, or pity, or maybe even disdain.
Now consider what “he” said was that you were one solely responsible for demise of project. How would you say, “I know what he said”? Agitated, and there’s a big “but” about to follow.
Included in nonverbal communication are tone of voice, pace, posture, proximity (how close person is to you), gestures, facial expressions, and movements (small and large). All ways of communicating besides language.
Nonverbal communication is important because it is less under our conscious control than words we speak. Therefore it tends to reveal our emotions, whether we intend to or not. After all, there are times when we wouldn’t want someone to know how we “really “ felt.
With practice you can learn to modulate a good bit of your nonverbal communication, but not all of it. For instance, there’s something called “the Adam’s apple jump” that remains involuntary. According to The Nonverbal Dictionary©, this jump of cartilage in throat is “an unconscious sign of emotional anxiety, embarrassment, or stress.” It means man doesn’t like what’s going on, or strongly disagrees.
The expansion and contraction of pupil’s in our eyes is another example of something that’s very hard to control. Our pupils expand when we like something (“let more of this in”) and contract when we do not (“I don’t want to see this”). We do this in response to sunlight, but also to emotional things.
So how do you interpret what’s going on? The first step is to notice change. If person’s been sitting in a certain position for quite a while and then shifts dramatically, something has happened you need to take note of. However, here’s tricky part. It could be they think you’re lying, it could be they got a cramp in their leg, it could be they love what you’re saying and wanted to move closer (unconsciously), it could be they have to go to bathroom, it could be something you said angered them.
Someone told me other day how much they liked doing phone work. I agreed with her, saying that it filtered out a lot of distractions. “Yeah,” she said, “all those things I’m imagining that aren’t really going on.”