Do you ever walk into a room and see someone slouching in a chair looking defeated? As a coach, that is the first thing I notice. I am there to talk with your true heart and your real soul. I look for what is not said with words.
If you think that is hard to do, turn off the sound on a movie and just watch.I bet you will get most of the plot without the words.
My guess is that we try not to tune into other people’s body language because it is often so negative. It is enough to cope with our own negativity, we don’t want any more dumped on us.
Yet, we know people we look forward to being with because they are pleasant or positive or their energy is up. They seem to have taken care of their “stuff” before we met up with them.
Here are some of the things we see them do:
Stand up straight
Look us in the eyes.
Here are some of the things they don’t do:
Roll their eyes and sigh,
Jump in with a smart remark before you’ve finished your sentence.
Look bored and start texting.
I think we are all tired of the quick judgments.
Watch a few people around you and observe how they are communicating. Then take a look at your own posture. You can put on your phone camera and see how you show up in a meeting. Don’t be too harsh on yourself. Just straighten up and be a little more encouraging. See if your conversations change.
This week about 100 Vistage Chairs gathered in Boulder, Colorado for Keepers of the Flame. This is a conference for Chairs who have 10 years or more of tenure. We get together to do the deeper work we need to continuously grow ourselves and to connect with our dear comrades – the chairs who have done it with us all these years.
On the first morning, we were all given the topic Conversations with our bodies and given the task to pick a partner and walk or sit together quietly for 15-30 minutes. During that time period, each of us did a scan of the conversations we have with our bodies and the conversation they are trying to have with us.
Walking silently with someone you don’t know well is a little uncomfortable. We are socialized to make chit-chat, to reach out and try to make a connection, to get to know one another. Being told to not talk and to focus on our own internal communications was an adjustment.
Once we got into it, both my partner and I really liked it. When we finally sat down and started to talk, we had already absorbed non-verbally a lot about the other person. For example, I could see he was limping a little. I wanted to know what was up with that. We skipped all the typical small talk and went to the heart of our intended conversation about what our bodies were trying to tell us.
Feedback about not talking for 15 minutes was universally positive: it was a delight. We had time to gather our thoughts and assess the constant non-verbal internal communication that we suppress or perhaps don’t pay attention to.
If this intrigues you, share this with a work associate. Pick a topic that you both are working on. Explain how you want to walk for 15 minutes while you both think about the topic. Then, share your reflections. In our case, we were trying to develop better listening skills. You can try that. Or, perhaps you have an opportunity you are mulling over.
Next week, more sharing about what’s said, but not with words.
So, the issue is critical, the relationship is important and you totally disagree. Now what?
Having the conversational capacity and the tools to structure the discussion can create the opportunity to resolve difficult issues in new ways.
In his book, Conversational Capacity, Craig Weber describes it as staying in the sweet spot where you are both candid and curious. It takes deliberate practice to do this. Otherwise you can go into flight (shut down and minimize) or go into fight (win at all cost).
What should you practice?
- Clearly and succinctly state your position.
- Provide the data behind it.
- Explain your interpretation
- Hold your position as a hypothesis not the truth.
- Test your position – what are you missing?
- Ask for others to share their positions.
Will you make better decisions? Yes.
Will you maintain the relationship? Yes.
Will you have a smart team that differentiates you from the competition? Yes.
Will it take regular deliberate practice? Yes.
Get to it.
image courtesy of globalcopywriting.com
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“Is it finished?”
“That’s not right!”
“That’s not what I meant.”
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