Beyond Body Language

Listening with Your Eyes Training


Instinctively, we all know good communication is important for business success. In fact, back in 2011, the Holmes report stated, “$37 billion: total estimated cost of employee misunderstanding (including actions or errors of omission by employees who have misunderstood or were misinformed about company policies, business processes, job function or a combination of the three).” $37 billion may feel like it is such a large number, it couldn’t be related to you. Take this statistic then, “$26,041: cumulative cost per worker per year due to productivity losses resulting from communications barriers.”

Congratulations to the WBAI for tackling the communication problem by partnering with me, Alison Henderson, a communication expert on a mission to improving the communication of individuals and organizations! I am excited to have begun a year-long partnership with the WBAI to bring training and support in the area of improving communication.

On July 10, 2019, I presented, Beyond Body Language- Listening with Your Eyes to the WBAI Board of Directors and committee chairs. We tackled ways to improve communication by making sure we communicate clearly to the three types of decision-makers in our world.

In a nutshell:

“The Researcher” likes information and wants to be fully prepared before making a decision.

“The Judge” likes to evaluate the pros and cons of a decision and wants clarity before making a decision.

“The Action Hero” likes to seize opportunity and jump right into a decision which aligns with short- or long-term goals.

The difference in these styles can create much disagreement and friction in our organizations because we tend to speak or write in a style that leaves out the other two. Much productivity loss contributing to the $37 billion price tag can be due to saying things twice (or more) before it is effectively communicated to everyone. We become easily frustrated and emotional when others don’t understand us because we think we have been perfectly clear! In our organizations, we take miscommunication personally rather than seeing it rationally.

In the WBAI training, we discussed how to take a step back and remove yourself from the emotion by understanding miscommunication as a difference in decision-making/communication styles rather than miscommunication as a personal affront. Not that removing emotion is simple, but there are ways to make this easier.

Stop miscommunication at the start

When communicating with teams, make sure you include enough information for “The Researcher,” enough value (i.e. why this decision) for “The Judge,” and enough process or how-to for “The Action Hero.” Just by asking yourself if you answered “what, why and how” in your communication will go a long way in avoiding clarification e-mails or phone calls which suck up your time (and add to that $26,041 per worker price tag).

When feeling frustrated, take responsibility

While it has become normal to blame others before taking responsibility for your part in miscommunication, the blame trend has severe consequences of stalling or even stopping forward momentum. Taking responsibility should not be perceived as “giving in” or somehow “shameful.”

Take the important step back from the emotion and think through where the miscommunication probably arose. Did you miss the “what,” “why” or “how” in your communication (either spoken or written)? Is the question or clarification needed stemming from this deficit? If so, take responsibility for omitting the meeting location, for example, answer back politely and move on!

If it is something more complicated, state your point of view, your understanding of the miscommunication and answer without emotionally charged language (or tone or body language if in person). For example, if someone is pressing you to make a decision before you feel ready, this is likely an action hero not understanding a researcher. As the researcher you need to tell the action hero, “While I understand you feeling the need to move quickly on this, I cannot move on without a bit more information. Let me do my due diligence on this matter and give you my answer by Thursday at 5:00 pm so you can get back to the consultant on Friday.”  This response allows you to calmly state your needs and that you also understand where the action hero is coming from. The more common way to respond is emotional, self-involved and unhelpful: “I don’t understand how you can go ahead with this decision on so little information! We are walking into something risky we know nothing about. I cannot give my support.” Sound familiar? Now the two individuals are deadlocked and bringing emotion into a business decision.

Stay open and use the table plane for your gestures

To help keep your emotions in check, while simultaneously coming across as most trustworthy, keep your gestures open, palms forward and move horizontally near your navel (this is the table plane). By gesturing at waist level, you will breathe better, and your voice will stay more even. Try saying, “You don’t understand what I’m saying” gesturing with the arms down; then at waist level; then at chest level and then over your head. Notice how your breath and voice change at each level. Watch someone else do it and see how your perception of them and their emotional state changes! Even if you are on the phone with someone, keep the table plane at work because it will still positively affect the tone and pitch of your voice.

In further articles, we will tackle the three types of decision-makers and how to recognize them in the people around you.

We will continue to train and delve further into nonverbal communication and its link to your business success. If you would like Alison to come to your committee or firm, please feel free to reach out: alison@movingimageconsulting.com or 630-234-1392.