Recently, I came across Joe Navarro, a former FBI Agent and expert on body language. His YouTube videos are fascinating, revealing how humans really communicate. This got me thinking about two things.
Firstly, how subtle non-verbal communication is and miraculously, how our brains are hard-wired to unconsciously interpret it.
I realise the power of being fluent in body language and how I have successfully relied on it throughout my original City career. As an economist for large, then male-dominated mining companies, I frequently presented my research findings to a group of men. And as I went through my agenda, I was constantly scanning my audience, picking up on all the physical nuances of the silent second agenda – the non-verbal one.
So, flash back 20 years. I can see Mr A is interested in what I am saying. He’s sitting still, body facing me and making candid eye contact. And yes, Mr B has just appreciated my cheeky pun and rewarded me with a wry smile, arch of an eyebrow and almost imperceptible shrug of the shoulders. Mr C has other matters on his mind. He clearly needs to be elsewhere since he has just shifted again in his chair and rechecked the time. And oops…., I need to avoid sitting next to Mr D at lunch because he keeps staring at my chest. Without my audience saying a word, I therefore knew where each was coming from and, ergo, how to respond appropriately and dare I say, to my advantage.
But coming to the second aspect: With the increasing trend for people to communicate electronically, surely we are being deprived access to this revealing second agenda of body language? And doesn’t this make our communication less rich, less interesting and most importantly, less informative? Yes there are emojis to convey expression but they don’t tell me if I have over stepped the mark with a pun, how genuinely interested someone is in what I am saying, who is irretrievably distracted and who is likely to step unwelcomely into my personal space.
In short, when I am obliged to communicate via text, I feel as though my senses are impaired, like having lost some hearing or rendered partially blind. Such is the value of the second agenda and I do fear for my son’s generation who communicate as much as possible through electronics. In Yoda speak: much missing they are.