Wednesday, February 9, 2011

NT Planet: Let's Give Them Something To Talk About (Talk About Etiquette)

Singer Bonnie Raitt did "Something To Talk About" - describing how folks seem to think that she and a certain someone have feelings for each other:

...[T]hey keep saying
We laugh just a little too loud
We stand just a little too close
We stare just a little too long

Guess what? Those are three pivotal types of body language, and changes in those areas show that something different is going on - as self-defense and communications expert Rory Miller has pointed out. Within a given subculture, ethnicity, form of relationship, etc., people have normal tones of voice, personal space and eye contact.

That means that when people use a louder (or softer) tone of voice, allow each other less (or more) personal space, or make longer, more direct (or shorter, less direct) eye contact than are considered normal where they are, something is going on. And while softer tones of voice or even whispers can carry the same connotations of closeness as especially hearty laughter, standing particularly close and looking at one another longer than normal are strong hints that two people especially like each other and want to get to know each other better.

Bonnie goes on to point us to another very interesting feature:

Maybe they're seeing something we don't, Darlin'.

These are subtle and subconscious signals. Body language and tones of voice transmit things that people sometimes don't admit to themselves - or even know on a conscious level. If you were to ask Bonnie at that moment whether she had feelings for the other person:

  • She may refuse to tell you the truth,
  • She may trust you enough to tell you if she knows - but she hasn't come to terms with it herself yet, or even
  • She may be honest with both you and herself - but maybe she hasn't yet even decided it on a level she can put into words.
Bottom line: The more we can pick up on others' nonverbal signals - and abide by accepted nonverbal signal patterns where we are - the better we can understand others, predict their behavior and minimize being being misunderstood by others. We can ask people to articulate more of their expectations of us, and to focus more on our words than our actions (including our subconscious ones), but such requests will only take us so far. We can get a real leg up by communicating better nonverbally.

What do you think?

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