This is “Nonverbal Delivery”, chapter 11 from the book Communication for Business Success (Canadian Edition) (v. 1.0). For details on it (including licensing), click here.
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The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.
Peter F. Drucker
But behavior in the human being is sometimes a defense, a way of concealing motives and thoughts.
Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.
In the first of the Note 11.1 "Introductory Exercises" for this chapter, we focus on how a speaker presents ideas, not the ideas themselves. Have you ever been in class and found it hard to listen to the professor, not because he or she wasn’t well informed or the topic wasn’t interesting or important to you, but because the style of presentation didn’t engage you as a listener? If your answer is yes, then you know that you want to avoid making the same mistake when you give a presentation. It’s not always what you say, but how you say it that makes a difference. We sometimes call this “body language,” or “nonverbal communication,” and it is a key aspect of effective business communication.
How do you know when your bosses or instructors are pleased with your progress (or not)? You might know from the smiles on their faces, from the time and attention they give you, or perhaps in other nonverbal ways, like a raise, a bonus, or a good grade. Whether the interaction takes place face-to-face, or at a distance, you can still experience and interpret nonverbal responses.
Sometimes we place more emphasis on nonverbal aspects of communication than they warrant. Suppose you have just gotten home from your first date with Amanda and you feel it went very well. How soon afterward should should you call Amanda? There are lots of advice columns, informal rules and customs, and friends with opinions to offer you suggestions, but you know what is right for you. You also know that texting her at five o’clock the next morning might be a bit early. You may choose to wait until a coffee break around 10 a.m. to send a short text message, and realize that you might not get a response until later that afternoon.
Does the lack of an immediate response have any meaning? Does it mean Amanda is less interested in you than you are in her? While you might give it more attention than it deserves, and maybe let it weigh on your mind and distract you from other tasks, the time interval for responding may not have as much intentional meaning as you think. It might mean that Amanda has a different sense of time urgency than you do, or that she simply didn’t receive your message until later.
Timing is an important aspect of nonverbal communication, but trying to understand what a single example of timing means is challenging. Context may make a difference. For example, if you have known someone for years who has always responded promptly to your e-mails or texts, but now that person hasn’t responded in over a day, you may have reason for concern. That person’s behaviour doesn’t match what you are familiar with, and this sudden, unexplained change in the established pattern may mean that you need to follow up.