We have been studying nonverbal communications in class and it is interesting how you can tell what people are thinking by their actions – especially when they are inconsistent with their words. Is it important for leaders to know this?
I received this note from a leader who also loves to learn. It reminded me of a couple of things:
- 60-70% of our communication is non-verbal
- Great communicators have mastered non-verbal cues
- Stress behaviors for leaders (according the the Birkman Method) often shows up as us sending the wrong nonverbal signals
My big concern about teaching leaders how to read non-verbal signs is that we fail to teach them the skills needed to use it to have a great conversation about how a person really feels.
It is a slippery slope if we start taking a nonverbal cue as their statement. Imagine the power of a leader saying “I heard you say you supported the decision, but I sense that support is not 100%. What % would most accurately gauge your support? . . . . “
Understanding non-verbals gives leaders/individuals a tool to know when to hit pause in a conversation and allow someone space to share what they are thinking/feeling.
My admission (I am supposed to be skilled at this) – Today I read a nonverbal (watery eyes) cue and my interpretation was someone is done reviewing their Birkman results after a 90 minute discussion. They had absorbed all they could in one sitting. When I shared that perception it turns out it was allergies, and that launched us into 15 minutes of great conversation. I was wrong, and I am glad I found out before I unilaterally shut the conversation down.
Read them – yes. But remember that it is a cue to keep talking / listening.