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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Using Gestures to Support Your Message

Experts tell us that 80% of communication is nonverbal in nature. Have you ever said something to someone else only to have them respond in disbelief? If you are trying to convince your friends that most politicians can be trusted and you don’t really believe it yourself, then chances are your claim will fall on deaf ears. It’s likely that the signals you are emitting from your facial expressions and body language are not congruent with your words. To improve in our communication with others we need to become, as Daniel Goleman says, more emotionally self-aware. We will dig deep to know our own thinking and feeling, and then we’ll craft language around those beliefs in the form of a genuine statement. We become more trusted and believable only when we are truly authentic. If we have jobs that require influence skills, then paying attention to these signals is a must.

First, let’s be clear about the distinction between influence and manipulation to ensure we are on the same page. Influence is the healthy side of control, where we are trying to get others to do or believe something different, but it’s in their best interest. Manipulation, on the other hand, is the dark side of control that lures people into doing or believing something, at their expense, to get something for me. Influence is others-centered, while manipulation is self-centered. In leadership and management, we often fail at the influence process because others feel manipulated, even when our attempts to get them to change are rooted in good intentions. Method trumps message 100% of the time. If we want to be skilled influencers then we’ll be deliberate about our methods (not only our words, but our gestures as well) to make sure that what we are saying is believable and in other’s best interest.

Let’s start with the simple stuff. If we say “Good morning” to our staff as we are walking to our office, but our eyes are looking at the floor, our walk is brisk, and our lips are tight, what message are we really sending? Many possibilities exist, but what most staff members will hear is, “I’m doing what’s courteous, but don’t stop me because I have too much to do–get on with your work.” A better approach would be to look at our people in the eyes, and with a smile on our face communicate that we are happy to see them. It takes no more time but has the power to build stronger workplace relationships where trust and respect can grow. If you know that someone really likes you, how apt are you to like and serve them in return? The power of affirmation, supported by consistent body language, builds rapport.

Some managers at this stage would say that they don’t come to work to play, but to work, with an underlying belief that relationships in this setting are not so important. However, human beings require human connection to produce quality results. Most people have a large capacity for relationships of all types, and, being communal in nature, strong workplace relationships are important for emotional and physical health. As stated in my last blog post, “Happiness is measured by the quality of our relationships.” And, this principle applies to introverted as well as extroverted people. As members of the human race, we all have need for clean, wholesome interaction with others. Perhaps this is why the notion that, “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten” is so popular.

Coaching questions: What messages are you sending to those around you? How can aligning your gestures with your words improve your relationships and sharpen your influence? Write your answers in your journal.

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