Intelligent Nonverbal Communication
I occasionally provide color commentary for the Mentors for Military podcast and on the last podcast we were talking about “communication” and how it positively and negatively affects transitioning military personnel during interviews.
Life presents us with many situations and sometimes we get our butts handed to us but don’t know why. We ask ourselves questions like: “What did I do wrong?” “Why didn’t that go better?” I thought I had this one???”
Odds are it’s because you did something wrong and didn’t even realize it. Ignorance on how you present yourself to others is not bliss and the quicker you realize this – the better off you will be during your transition. And in life in general.
There are so many myths and misperceptions about “body language” out there it can be difficult to discern fact from fiction. I can tell you one thing, though, with absolute certainty: most of us really suck in our efforts at communicating nonverbally. But, now that I’ve labeled the obvious, what are we going to do about it? As anyone who knows me will tell you – I can’t stand identifying problems without identifying possible solutions (otherwise it’s just called “whining”).
In my course, Intelligent Nonverbal Communication I’ve attempted to make it as simple as possible. As the ancient Greek philosopher, Thales, said “The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself.” So, look at yourself and your “elevator eyes” (looking at a stranger from top to bottom to identify a possible threat), owning the room, language, idioms, and overall threat posture (do you need to be hyper-alert and aggressive at Starbucks waiting for coffee?). Now think of how you look to outsiders. Outsiders and those evil people you are forced to deal with each and every day: the civilians at your wife’s Christmas party, her coworkers with different political opinions, neighbors, baristas, job interviewers… But I digress.
These outsiders, much like a job interviewer, are viewing you in a certain way – which may or may not help your successful transition. So what’s the solution?
My advice is to remember this: intelligent nonverbal communication is about YOU. (Yourself, Others, and Utilities at your disposal.)
Self-awareness is a major part of success in life. It allows us to know and do what we do well and pass that which we don’t do well on to others in our “team.” One area in which we are amazingly unaware, though, is in how we present ourselves to outsiders. This is often disguised as “being true” to ourselves or some other nonsense, when in reality we are just lazy and apathetic. Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg get to wear hoodies at work and board meetings because, well, because they are Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. I’m guessing if you are reading this article you aren’t in the same league as them (yet).
It’s sad but true that others and outsiders judge us based upon their own prejudices, histories, and expectations. That’s a fact and we can’t change it no matter how hard we want or try. But, that’s not always a bad thing. Once you know to be aware of what others are “expecting” things change for you and you change the rules of the game to suit what best serves you. You can’t control everyone’s view of you, but you can manipulate the situation to put you in the best possible to be viewed positively. YOU are in control.
This is where we all go wrong, in my opinion. “Utilities” serve us and they serve to ruin us equally. I’ve never been a member of the fashion police, nor do I intend to be, but we need be aware that who we are and what we are really only matter to… well, us. What you wear, the colors in your PowerPoint presentation, the type of pen you use to take notes, your haircut (or lack of one), your punctuality, the choice of phone you use, etc. All these things speak troves about who you are to the person you are meeting.
You can learn to use these things to your advantage or you can keep doing things incorrectly – the choice is yours.
William Shakespeare said “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.” If so, then you need realize that life is, indeed, a game, and you need learn how to play. Learn to play the game. Learn to play it well and learn to use your skills to your advantage. Or, you can choose to stay the course you are on and be an innocent bystander and watch life pass you by.
And it will – but I’m sure it will wave to you somehow (which is a nonverbal message, just so you know…)
So, ask yourself, are you intelligently communicating or are you non-intelligently communicating. The choice is yours, but are you making a good one?
Scott Kinder is a former US Army Special Forces (Green Beret) and the author of Ground Truth: Enhance personal and organizational leadership skills and accountability through lessons learned from elite Military Special Forces. Scott is also the CEO of The Kinder Group, a consulting firm specializing in Operational Intelligence, Corporate Training, Leadership and Executive Coaching, Business Intelligence, and Strategy.