Is it body language that leads to healthy communication?
“55% of our language in conversation is non-verbal” says Albert Mehrabian, author of the book “non-verbal communication” and researcher of our non-verbal behaviour. And if much of our communication is unconscious, it is also unconscious in our ability to make decisions.
Allan and Barbara Pease support the reader in their book “Body Language Expression: how to read others attitudes by their gestures”. With a few examples of gestures, they help us to understand what the other person is thinking and not saying. And thus avoid misunderstandings. Or not if it is taken too literally.
Paul Ekman researched emotional expression through mimicry, especially in the face. In his book “Emotion in the human face” he presents the result of many years of research in different cultures that we have quite common expressions when it comes to expressing our main emotions. However, not everything is so simple.
A lot depends on the moment, the experiences of our past, the environment in which we talk and the confidence of our interlocutors.
And from my experience it is necessary to go through a learning process if you want to transform conversations full of judgement, full of acquired patterns and sometimes wounded emotions.
The same process can be achieved by wanting to create a welcoming atmosphere in a work team, in the family environment or as a couple. It is aligning the mental, emotional and physical intelligences that make us so human.
Here I suggest 4 steps of the individual and group learning process of non-verbal communication:
Step 1: Attention
in this phase we will pay attention to what you say, how you say it. A review of how you feel, perceive and act at the moment of speaking. It is based on the memory of the body and the patterns acquired in relationships with others.
Step 2: Empathy
The main human skill is empathy or the ability to feel with another human or animal. In this phase we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, practising non-judging or categorising attitude and perceiving what the other person needs. From there we broaden our vision towards two (or more) perspectives and put a distance to our usual automatic reaction.
Step 3: Presence
If we have slowed down the impulse of an action directed by behavioural patterns or automatic reactions, this phase allows us to use the pause for a re-newed listening, a creative space with the trust that has been created with the other person(s) during the previous phases. It is the opportunity for something not yet “thought” or “experienced”. It fosters curiosity, empathy and a willingness to enter an unknown space to be defined.
Step 4: A new path
When one door closes, a new one opens. This phase is about re-learning a path of communication, once previous habits have been unlearned. It is the place where curiosity, play, trust and creativity coming together. Getting through this new door is a commitment to active listening, practice of the empathy, presence and regular iterating that allows readjusting when needed.
(credit photo: you-x-venture at unsplash.com)