In every interaction there are three levels that influence its effect and meaning:
What – the content; the words I say
How – the process; how I say it (nonverbal communication)
Why – the intention; the meaning, what I am trying to accomplish with this interaction.
We tend to focus on What people say and are less aware of the How and Why they deliver that message right now. But aware or not, the How (the body language and tone of voice) determines the effect of every interaction and we respond instinctively. The How determines whether we experience the other as authentic, honest, congruent or not.
Stay open and present
How does that happen? We subconsciously notice small movements at the eyes and mouth of the speaker that give us a sense of truth and meaning. Can we trust this information and this person? Does he mean it? Is it important?
The How indicates the Why. Why is he telling me this right now? Does he want pity? Does he hope that I offer to help? Does he just need to vent? and so on.
If something seems off you feel uncomfortable and you might ask more questions, resist, decline, or hesitate. The interaction slows down as you get cautious. It feels unsafe.
If the other person seems congruent, the interaction continues and might even speed up when there is trust and the two of you generate energy. You stay open and present.
Authenticity, integrity, intentions, and trust
An interaction flows smoothly when What-How-Why align. It might be a positive, energizing interaction: the kind you are looking for to create positive change.
But if there’s any doubt about Why, if there’s something amiss with How: authenticity, integrity, intentions, and trust are an issue. It feels unsafe.
If that happens, check your attitude: are you treating people as persons or objects?
Try meta-communication: talk about the How and Why of this interaction – instead of only focusing on the What of the message. (I’ll discuss that in a later post).
Consider a coach or training. You cannot work on nonverbal communication from a blog post – you need to practice with others and get feedback.
This is book post #51 – Part “YOU”
By the way, if you want to contribute to a positive workplace culture, my next open workshop on Positive Culture Change Leadership is scheduled for May 2018! More information and registration is available at a first come first serve basis.
Leaders, employees, consultants, citizens – everyone can make a positive difference from any position, without needing permission or resources from others. This blog will help you see positive possibilities and (re)claim your positive agency. Unstuck yourself and engage others via your interaction and actions. Transform into a positive organization where people and performance thrive.
I’m blogging my next book: “Positive Power at Work – How to make a positive difference from any position.” Your feedback is appreciated!