it’s the subtle things that scream the loudest…

As we talked, she lightly crossed her arms, tilting her head to the side, pursing her lips ever so slightly. I continued on, explaining my point, yet knowing that she had already checked out of the conversation, her body language speaking volumes to me.

“So that’s where I am coming from in this situation. Are you okay with that?”

“Yeah, sure.” Shrug.

Thirty minutes of conversation and debate packed into one two-word response. Yup, it was over; all thanks to a few tiny little details leading up to the conversational crash. And you want to know the oddity of it all? It stung. Bad.

I’m not one for conflict. In fact, I generally try to avoid it. Yes, I had the vein-popping screamfests with my mother during the turbulant height of my eating disorder, as well as a few high pitched, crudely worded fights with “friends” in college. I even have the once-in-a-while uncomfortable debates with the boy…but otherwise, I’ve usually managed to keep things low key. If I do have conflict, it more-so results in me crying off my water-proof mascara (not an easy feat, by any means), formulating an apology between sobs, asking the other party if we can just move on and be friends. Call it a by-product of my pushover syndrome, call it avoidance. Just don’t say it in a loud voice. Otherwise I might think you’re yelling at me….and then I’ll start to cry.

The above conversation got me thinking about those subtlties that can create waves in their wake. In college, being a communication major, I attended a course on non-verbal communication, the process of sending and receiving wordless messages. Being a visual person, I react very strongly to this type.

I was taught that crossing your arms or legs during a conversation denotes disagreeance; sighing, looking away, pursing your lips or fidgeting can all attribute to boredom or frustration. Even the raise of an eyebrow at a particular moment in a dialogue can emphasize an emotion.

Non verbal communication is tricky, yet it is extremely important. Besides being a key form of communication for the deaf or blind, it also makes up about tw0-thirds of our daily communication, through gestures, signals, body language, even dress code.

I blare my emotions to the world through the physical side of me. When I disagree with someone, my lips begin to purse, and I fall silent. If I’m annoyed, my jaw clenches ever so slightly, as if I’m struggling to keep a verbal barage of negativity from pouring out of my mouth. When I love, I touch. A hand, an arm, a rub of a back….it doesn’t matter. I show my affection for my friends and loved ones by keeping them close. That type of communication is my Jekyll and Hyde. A touch can speak of love, yet it can also spew hatred. The weight behind a hand can symbolize ferocity of passion or simply ferocity. The stark contrast of emotions that one part of you (i.e. the hand) can bring about is astounding.

Sometimes I’m not aware of the influence non-verbal carries, which is where I find myself getting into trouble. Just last week, at a birthday party of all things, I was called out by two friends for looking sad. In fact, I WAS a bit sad, but thanks to my non-verbal cues, my friends could see it written all over me. I’m not condoning hiding your feelings, however, I am suggesting awareness of them. I was completely taken aback by their comments, until I looked down and realized my slumped shoulders, hands clasped tightly in my lap, my ankles crossed, and felt that slight pout of my lips as I contemplated the thoughts racing through my head. I’ll have dialogue with people where all of a sudden their conversation changes to “why are you looking at me like that?”. Little did I realize I had some expression on my face causing them to halt their thoughts. Non-verbal communication is powerful.

In college I was horrible in the dress code area…well, not horribly bad so much as horribly good….especially when it came to men. I knew exactly how to dress, what way to lean across the bar, how to sit when facing them at dinner. I knew how long to hold a stare across the room, or when to silence a pestering flirtatious glance with a single glare. I manipulated without even saying a word. Non-verbal communication is powerful.

How do you communicate? Are you more of a talker, wanting to get all your thoughts and emotions out in oral form, or are you more prone to keep silent, letting your body mimic your feelings? Both types are important, both are necessary for healthy communication, yet there needs to be a balance. I cannot continue to swing primarily on the branches of non-verbal, letting my facial expressions and body language do the talking. God created hands for expression, yet He also created a mouth for words.

Which one do you use most? More importantly….HOW are you using them?

hearts and hugs,

B.

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Comments

  1. Know what I’m thankful for? You. You and the loveliness that you are and the ways in which you communicate now and your joy and life and modesty and the wholeness of you. That’s what I’m thankful for.

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