Body Language – Keys to Non-verbal communication

You all know this: very often when speaking to other people, we only pay attention to the verbal clues that are given to us but not to the non-verbal ones. Very bad habit! I am sure you will be surprised but as already discussed in an earlier post, the verbal aspect in communications only accounts for 7 % (hence the content of what you are saying) when it comes to the relevance in terms of understanding information, thus to effectively communicating.

  • 38 % on the other hand come from the paraverbal aspect of communication (intonation, cadence, volume or pace) and
  • 55 % from the non-verbal aspects.

Intercultural CommunicationsSo when meeting somebody for the first time or when in a situation of negotiation, take a moment to see how confident your counterpart is.

Typical things to look for in confident people include:

  • Posture – standing tall with shoulders back.
  • Eye contact – solid with a “smiling” face.
  • Gestures with hands and arms – purposeful and deliberate.
  • Speech – slow and clear.
  • Tone of voice – moderate to low.

But be careful! As well as deciphering other people’s body language, you could also use this knowledge to convey feelings that you’re not actually experiencing…

Difficult meetings and defensiveness

Some of the common signs that the person you are speaking with may be feeling defensive include:

  • Hand/arm gestures are small and close to his or her body.
  • Facial expressions are minimal.
  • Body is physically turned away from you.
  • Arms are crossed in front of body.
  • Eyes maintain little contact, or are downcast.

By picking up these signs, you can change what you say or how you say it to help the other person become more at ease, and more receptive to what you are saying.

Working with groups and disengagement

Some of the typical signs and signals of people not being engaged. Some of these signs and signals include:

  • Heads are down.
  • Eyes are glazed, or gazing at something else.
  • Hands may be picking at clothes, or fiddling with pens.
  • People may be writing or doodling.
  • They may be sitting slumped in their chairs.

And finally, a tip:

To help practice and further develop your skill in picking up body language, engage in people watching. Observe people – be that on a bus/train or on television without the sound – and just notice how they act and react to each other. When you watch others, try to guess what they are saying or get a sense of what is going on between them!

Tips for effectively communicating within your team

Here’s wishing you an excellent start into 2016! May the New Year bring health and success in your personal and professional endeavors.

To start off effectively, let me remind you of some important things when communicating within your team:    

    
A. Create a nice atmosphere for your discussion

  • Give yourself the necessary time and don’t be in a hurry
  • Offer your fullest attention to your counterpart
  • Be open and without judgment

 B. Separate the factual from the relationship level

  • You can criticize how a person has reacted or behaves but for the person himself/herself you always ought to have respect
  • Accept differences in opinions and views as well as in the way to tackle projects and tasks and remain open and constructive. We are all different and solutions, i.e. “bridges” for collaboration can always be found
  • Don’t take issues personally

C. Use authentic statements and messages beginning with “I”

  • First, observe what is actually happening in a situation: what are you observing others saying or doing that is either enriching or not enriching your life? The trick is to be able to articulate this observation.
  • Then, without introducing any judgment or evaluation simply say what people are doing that you either like or don’t like. Example: “I noticed that…” or “I am angry because…” or “I need…”
  • Next, state how you feel when you observe this action: are you hurt, scared, joyful, amused, irritated?
  • And finally, communicate clearly what you need in connection to the feelings you have identified

Assertiveness: Being an Effective Communicator

Effective Communication is all about assertiveness – rather than aggressiveness or submission

The first step towards becoming an effective communicator is practicing assertiveness, thus knowing how you are actually feeling. Did you know that your feelings are simply that: your feelings and nothing more? Their are neither good nor bad, nor anything else! These are just judgements that others – or even yourself – impose onto your feelings.

Photo credit: Wesley Fryer / Foter / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: Wesley Fryer / Foter / CC BY-SA

Once you are aware of what you are feeling and you don’t get caught up in any judgements about them, you can begin exploring ways to deal with the situation. Assertiveness involves clear, calm thinking and respectful negotiation, where each person is entitled to their opinion. Simply say how you are feeling or seeing things by making “I statements” rather than “you” statements. There is a huge difference between saying: “you are always pushing me too hard” versus “I feel very tired because…”. The first sentence prompts your discussion partner to feel threatened, under attack, maybe even having more power than you. The second sentence simply says how you are feeling in response to something. This leaves the other person room to hear what you are saying without feeling blamed or under attack.

The most important part of effective communication is to be mindful of your own feelings, speech, thoughts as well as of the whole situation. If you are consciously cultivating this approach, you will be able to better resolve potential conflicts and greater harmony will slip itself into your discussions!

Further reading:

  • http://jennyebermann.com/tag/insight-dialogue/
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn: “Full Catastrophe Living”
  • Gregory Kramer: “Insight Dialogue”

 

 

Feeling stressed while communicating?

Mindful, effective communicationsSure, sending an email is easy. How many of us have not written one while on hold with another call or in those few moments between one meeting and the next? Or how many are not sending text messages or smart phone messages while driving even?

Information can be sent from virtually anywhere nowadays.

Did you know?

Psychological social and emotional conditions (like receiving an unwanted e-mail for example) can have the same impact on you (physiologically speaking) as physical aggressions as they draw on many of the same neural networks.

What does this mean?

Even just anticipating a challenging conversation or event can have as much impact as living through it for real!

Within your brain, the amygdala (associated with emotions, memory, etc.) sounds the alarm, which releases stimulating substances in your body, readying it for the “fight or flee” response. Stress hormones are also released.

This means that simply the act of receiving an email can put you physiologically in a situation where you feel stressed and so emotional that you are not even able to respond adequately to the message sent to you.

Intercultural CommunicationsIn terms of communication, this has a direct impact on the quality and the effectiveness with which we work and interact. Being mindful in interpersonal communication can be learned; you can do so too!

Jenny

Mindful listening: 10 easy tips

“Spend your leisure time in cultivating an ear attentive to discourse, for in this way you will find that you learn with ease what others have found out with difficulty.”- Isocrates on Goodreads.com.

Mindful Listening
As a new week is about to start, let me share some really simple but extremely important tips for effective, mindful listening with you:

  1. Face the speaker and maintain eye contact
  2. Be attentive, but relaxed
  3. Keep an open mind
  4. Listen to the words and try to picture what the speaker is saying
  5. Don’t interrupt and don’t impose your “solutions”
  6. Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions
  7. Ask questions only to ensure understanding
  8. Try to feel what the speaker is feeling
  9. Give the speaker regular feedback
  10. Pay attention to what is not said, to non-verbal cues

Enjoy your week!

Jenny

Photo credit: sadmafioso / Foter / CC BY-NC

Effective Communication: no need to be born with it!

“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.” – Brian Tracy


participative meeting

Even though communication skills are so important to success in the workplace, there are many individuals who find these skills to be a stumbling block to their progress. They struggle to convey their thoughts and ideas in an accurate manner, making it difficult to move forward and nearly impossible to lead well. Things even get more complicated when communication happens between actors of different cultures through times zones and maybe even virtual means of communication.

However, there is hope for anyone who finds communicating to be difficult! These skills can be practiced and learned. It takes learning about how communication works, how to communicate exactly what it is you want to say, what mode of communication is best, and what factors are influencing the ability for you to send and receive messages with acumen.

Leaders and staff have to first understand the theory and best practices of what effective communication actually is about; then, through role plays and practical examples as well as case studies directly taken from their work environments, they should get a feel about how they communicate (verbally and non-verbally) and how others are perceiving their efforts.

Finally, written communication is a topic on its own and should be looked at separately: knowing what happens in your body when receiving unwanted mails, practicing empathy, and responding mindfully; truly  necessary ingredients for any effective communication in the office and elsewhere!

Want to know more? Looking forward to hearing from you,

Jenny

 

Ever wondered how to become better at presenting/speaking?

Public Speaking

Usually public speaking and presentation workshops start by teaching you a concrete technique or style to enable you to engage your audiences followed with some practice and recordings. The objective in these kinds of workshops is essentially to show you how to put a strong message together and deliver it effectively to your audience. While these techniques certainly help, there is one other aspect that is overlooked many times: your engagement and connection with the audience actually begins before you have even spoken your first word!

But before getting to a mindful way to present and speak in another post, let me give you some theory and hints from speech and communication studies, that will help you navigate through the process of preparing what you will say (in distinction to how you will be and how you will speak/interact)

One helpful and well-used method to organise presentations for maximum impact is called Monroe’s Motivated Sequence which was developed in the 1930s by Alan Monroe, a speech professor at Purdue University (Indiana, US).

He developed a five-step process designed to persuade an audience:

1. Calling attention to a problem

As part of the introduction: get the attention of your audience! Use storytelling, humor, a shocking statistic, or a rhetorical question – anything that will get the audience to sit up and take notice.

2. Demonstrating a need

Convince your audience there’s a problem. The audience must realise that what’s happening right now isn’t good enough – and it needs to change. You want them to become uncomfortable and restless, and ready to do the “something” that you recommend.

3. Satisfying that need

Introduce your solution. How will you solve the problem that your audience is ready to address? This is the main part of your presentation. It will vary significantly, depending on your purpose.

4. Visualizing the benefits

Describe what the situation will look like if the audience does nothing. The more realistic and detailed the vision, the better it will create the desire to do what you recommend. Your goal is to motivate the audience to agree with you and adopt similar behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs. Help them see what the results could be if they act the way you want them to. Make sure your vision is believable and realistic.

5. Calling for action

Your final job is to leave your audience with specific things they can do to solve the problem. You want them to take action now. Don’t overwhelm them with too much information or too many expectations, and be sure to give them options to increase their sense of ownership of the solution. This can be as simple as inviting them to have some refreshments as you walk around and answer questions.

Stay tuned for more and if you are already on holidays somewhere while reading this post: ENJOY the present moment!

Jenny

Reality versus Perception: Our Brain at Work

Map

Lately I came across a very nice quote referring to the differences that exist between beliefs and reality:

“The map is not the territory” from Alfred Korzybski

This quote illustrates very nicely that your reality (what you believe is true and objective, thus your ‘world’), is nothing else than an inner representation of the external realities and the world that you are observing and living in. Your perceptions create the “map of the world”. This map helps you navigate in the “real world”, through daily experiences and impressions. Like a road map it gives you landmarks for moving forward towards your destination and various codes and rules let you interpret and understand what is happening, what you can do and what you cannot.

Thus, there is “your” reality (the map) and the outside world (the territory) and there will always be differences between the two. Our human brain notices what is happening around us (in the territory) through our senses and then proceeds to filtering the received information in order to be able to use them and not to create an ‘overflow’ of stimuli.

Let me give you an example: Imagine your manager comes in and sees you sitting at your desk which is overflowing with paper and other things. He or she simply says: “You have a full desk”. Depending on your background, education, culture, previous experiences etc. you might be thinking: “Oh, he/she said that I am not organized”; or you might think something like “Oh, he/she notices that I have a lot on my plate” or anything in between. There are many different ways of interpreting what has been said and whatever you might have understood will trigger your reactions and your thoughts after that. Somebody observing the scene on the other hand, might interpret something completely different as he/she would have a very different view on the world. So, what is “real” and what not?

As you can see, there is only one situation happened: one territory. The possible representation hereof (the maps) however, i.e. how people perceive this situation can have many different facets and aspects.

Next time you find yourself in a difficult situation, you might want to think about what “really” happened (the facts) and what your interpretation, your judgment and your subjective view of the event was. You might even want to seek clarification from the person involved in the action clearly asking what was meant (if at all possible). The important thing to remember here is that you choose how you react and if at all… opening up to what really happened and what you saw, heard, felt, might help you change your behavior over time, which will in turn change the way others react upon you.

Thanks for reading! Jenny

Words are Windows or They’re Walls

Window and Wall

I feel so sentenced by your words, I feel so judged and sent away, Before I go I’ve got to know,
Is that what you mean to say?

Before I rise to my defense, Before I speak in hurt or fear, Before I build that wall of words, Tell me, did I really hear?

Words are windows, or they’re walls, They sentence us, or set us free. When I speak and when I hear,
Let the love light shine through me.

There are things I need to say, Things that mean so much to me, If my words don’t make me clear, Will you help me to be free?

If I seemed to put you down,
If you felt I didn’t care,
Try to listen through my words, To the feelings that we share.

 

By Ruth Bebermeyer taken from Marshall Rosenberg’s book: Nonviolent Communication, 2nd Edition, page 20.

Strategy: an important ingredient to success!

StrategyMany people I worked with or met, be it in the NGO world or in corporations, kept asking why time should be lost writing or even thinking about strategies: nobody ever reads them and sooner rather than later if not directly, they will find their way to the bin. The simple answer is that most of the people simply don’t understand what a strategy is and what it does. Not only is a strategy an ideal way to put your thoughts into a structured framework and to make them more tangible; no, it also gives you a powerful tool at hand that will help you sell your ideas and plans in a professional and successful manner. In addition, it will also enable you to measure whether you have reached your objectives and how or if you need to adjust your measures and tools.

If you don’t know where you are going, how do you know when you get there?

Let me explain this to you: imagine you are asked to drive a new product launch and all you have are highly interesting and valid but loosely tied bits and pieces of your product managers, your marketing people and your engineers. How are you going to convince your customers – let alone your internal stakeholders who are first on the list – of the added value of your product if there is no thread, no thoroughly reflected and grounded path and no story?

Or how are you going to convince external donors and stakeholders to give to your organisation/association or to become active volunteers/members if you cannot show them where you are heading and what you have achieved so far and will in the future.

Well, I think it will be difficult…

Even if every single milestone you think of while writing your strategy, will confront you inevitably with new questions, issues and problems, it will only allow you to dig deeper in order to find out the true value proposition, goal or objective that will create the ‘wow’ effect in your customer’s or stakeholder’s eyes. So yes, time consuming it is, but in the end, the outcome rewards all efforts!

Let’s take a quick look at how a strategic document could be structured (only general categories are reproduced here, in practice, many more can be added of course):

1. Current Situation/Background

2. Alignment to Global or Segment Strategy

4. General Objectives (qualitative/quantitative)

3. Specific Objectives

  • Long-term objectives (could be external or internal)
  • Short-term objectives (could be external or internal)

4. Target Markets and Audiences

5. Analysis of competition (how are they positioned, how do they communicate?); yes, this is very important for NGOs and Associations too!

6. Communication Plan (including the appropriate communication vehicles and key messages)

7. Evaluating Success

8. Tactical calendar

9. Budget

If you follow this simple guideline involving if possible your managers, peers and other important partners within your organisation in the thought process (this obviously includes summarizing and structuring what you have received from your colleagues or reaching out to them), you will have all the pre-requisites for a successful launch, thought process, road-map, introduction or campaign. Not only will you generate the buzz and buy-in you need internally to get things done, but your external appearance on the market and with your various audiences will be a true experience and hence a success.

Let me know if you need some input for streamlining your thoughts or creatively brainstorming on the way forward. Having led many initiatives (locally and internationally) and written many strategic documents and guidelines for various industries and organisations, I am sure that I will be able to help you too!

Have an excellent start in the new week, Jenny