Breath of Clarity

Comment #1: Verbal and Nonverbal Behaviors

Original Post by Lisa Neuberger:

Joe Navarro (2015) made it clear that people are wired to communicate with nonverbal cues. In fact, these are cues we know from early childhood. We may not be aware of the signals we’re sending or receiving, but small gestures such as wrinkling the nose or lips or “ventilating” can indicate disagreement or problems more clearly than the spoken word. These cues, such as pointing with the index finger instead of gesturing with our whole hand, can give a wrong impression or send the wrong message. Therefore, it’s important to pay attention to these details. Even if they seem insignificant, they speak volumes.

Navarro gave excellent advice on being “benignly curious” about someone else with the goal of having more time with the person. A problem I always face with being curious is not wanting to be intrusive. I’m afraid of crossing the line into being nosy, so I don’t delve deeper into conversations, even though I really want to. Perhaps Joy Baldridge’s “velvet hammer” words can help me overcome this issue. I can try using “noticed” and “wondering” in conversation or the conversation extender “really”? (Baldridge n.d.)

Alex Lyon (n.d.) also had good tips on how to actively listen, including on how to provide feedback (without being annoying). He said there are six behaviors that make good listeners. Good listeners provide nonverbal feedback. They nod their heads to indicate interest and display their attention with their faces. I always feel sorry for speakers at conferences who have to talk after lunch when everyone is feeling tired and their faces aren’t as animated. It can be so difficult to present to a room full of yawns or heavy eyelids. Next, good listeners provide verbal feedback. They interject short phrases such as “I hear you,” at the right moments. They listen for the “big picture,” and don’t get mired in details.

Where most people, including myself, get sidetracked in active listening is keeping the focus on the person they are listening to. It’s so easy to get excited about something the person said or have a memory sparked by the conversation and want to take it from there. But here’s where it will be important to ask those follow-up questions. Lyon says that it’s okay to put in a sentence or two, again to indicate interest, but ideally the focus should remain on the other person. Finally, the best listeners don’t just hear what the person said, they follow up on them. In business, that may mean following up with an email, but at the very least, you note the action that you plan to take. In social settings, that may mean remembering what you spoke about and asking a follow-up question. This is an area where I really need work. I’m always impressed when someone I spoke to weeks ago remembers our conversation. I, on the other hand, remember the feelings generated, but rarely remember the details (so I always take notes when I can). (Lyon n.d.)

One way to practice the communication and listening tools will be to “mirror” the person’s style and use the words that their social style identifies with best (Navarro 2015). Baldridge (n.d.) used the example of speaking her husband’s factual language. In class, that might mean mirroring a Driver’s no-nonsense style by getting down to the facts as soon as possible. For an Expressive person, that might mean focusing the discussion on them. Since there are so many different styles in this class, and everyone has some of every style in them, it will be important to pay attention to the style they are using in each individual post.

Baldridge, Joy. n.d. “Difficult Conversations Made Easy.” TEDxUCCI. YouTube. Accessed October 4, 2021. Video, 14:49.

Lyon, Alex. Year n.d. “Effective Listening Skills.” Communication Coach Alex Lyon. YouTube. Accessed October 4, 2021. Video, 5:26.

Navarro, Joe. 2015. “Keynote: The Power of Nonverbal Communications.” CMX. YouTube. November 4, 2015. Video, 34:10.

My Comment:

Hi Lisa,

Good point that we know nonverbal cues from early childhood. We have so much potential to identify indicators of a stressful situation. From there, we can focus on being empathetic by acting aligned with the needs of other person, according to his or her social style traits. As mentioned in this post, it is so important to be aware that the difference between non-verbal gestures can be ever so slight. It makes me motivated to pay attention to the non-verbal details of the other person. Perhaps, a way to tackle the concern with curiosity coming off as nosy, is to start by noticing how much information we already have access to even before asking the additional questions. I miss so much of the content that is already out in front of me. I aim to practice only asking questions after I show the other person that I am being receptive by showing them reassurance and allowing for some silence after he or she is done speaking and pauses.

Reply by Lisa Neuberger:

Thanks so much, Mary. I really appreciate your perspective — and I’m going to try to remember to slow down, relax, and give the other person some space before asking questions. I think you’re right that paying attention to those nonverbal cues will help, too. If the person is sending strong anxious or impatient cues, well, perhaps that’s not the time to ask about their life goals.