– By Bev Bahmanyari, Learning Dynamics Consultant
The next time you are waiting at an airport gate and passing the time by people watching, see yourself as a behavioral scientist conducting some research. Check your thoughts for the first noun that pops into your head to describe your fellow travelers. Even without the benefit of hearing them speak you’ll find you have no problem coming up with a descriptive noun for each person you observe.
A study of the communication process was written in 1972 by Albert Mehrabian, a behavioral psychologist, who determined that 55% of our communication is processed through nonverbals. You will likely agree with this when you become aware of how strong your opinions of someone can be just by watching that person for a moment.
Our first impressions actually take only a few seconds. Think of all the ways that happens: a handshake, appearance, walk, posture, hygiene, eye contact, gestures, and other traits. All of these nonverbals are creating an instant turn-on or turn-off!
Most people are unaware of the importance of the unspoken messages they are sending. The silent skills are critical; those who are aware of and hone their skills in this area are more likely to get the job, close the sale, establish strong relationships and create the needed networks for success.
So, how do we know how we come across to others? You can do a self-check when you are walking through a mall or down the street and catch a glimpse of your reflection in a window or a mirror. What do you see? Do you look friendly and approachable? Oftentimes, we are deep in thought, and we actually look a little mean and detached.
How are your handshake and eye contact? There is an art and science to creating positive first impressions. First of all, it takes awareness of what your reaction is to others (i.e. the airport experience) and the degree of your own self-awareness. Remember, we rarely see ourselves as others see us.
Where can we start? There is one universal nonverbal that seems to break down almost all barriers that many people don’t do often enough: a genuine and sincere SMILE. That’s right; so simple, yet so powerful. It’s the language that tells everyone “I’m approachable”, “I’m safe,” and “I’m kind.” Sometimes we wonder why people don’t seem to be connected anymore. How can we connect when we have our faces connected to technology the majority of our waking hours? We appear cold and disconnected to our fellow humans. Again, simple eye contact with a smile and perceptions can change in an instant.
When you are done with your airport experiment, be the guinea pig and try out the smile tactic. See how it will resonate and change the atmosphere if only for a moment. If you’re lucky, perhaps others will pay it forward. In any case, it will do good things for you. Scientists say that the muscles in our face that we use to smile actually release those good endorphins that make us feel better. Smiling actually creates a better mood; you can inspire your brain to be happier. Give it a try. What have you got to lose?
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Learning Dynamics can help your team communicate better by mastering the art of nonverbal communication. Ask us today how we can help your employees communicate more effectively to create better business results and teamwork with Learning Dynamics training programs.