Without the sound can you tell what is going on – Nonverbal communication


By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Angry child

What is he feeling?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

You hear them talking but you don’t believe them, why?

What do we do when the words don’t match the gut feeling we have? Do you trust yourself or do you think you must be wrong?

Your gut is telling you something and it should be getting more of an audience. In day-to-day life the sound is so overbearing we forget that more than half of all human communication comes via nonverbal channels. If you haven’t practiced paying attention to the other part of communication you are at a serious disadvantage.

Some small children seem to know this. Words telling them to come over here, I just want to talk with you, do not match up with the clenched fists, and the obvious signs of anger. They avoid people like that. Somewhere along the way most of us lose this ability to make use of the non-verbal parts of communication.

Here are some exercises to make you more aware of body language, nonverbal communication, and what the real meaning may be behind the words.

Exercise 1

Find a Television show you do not normally watch or rent a movie of a type that is not on your regular viewing list. Turn the sound down and begin to watch the show. What do you think is happening here? What are people feeling?

Make a few notes as you go along. Can you tell what the emotions being portrayed are from just the pictures? Can you spot when the director introduces a bad guy? How can you tell that? Most shows use a lot of music to cue up the feelings. Watch for a director that can tell the story with the pictures only. Did this come through in the story you are watching, or did you need words to tell if the characters liked each other or were enemies?

Next replay the same story with the sound up. Check what you see now with the notes you made. Do you get the same feelings now? Why or why not?

Exercise 2

Observe a couple or family through a window or in a public place, somewhere where you can be far enough away you can’t hear the words they are saying.

Watch for a while and begin to develop a theory about who these people are and why they are together.

Is this a family? Have they been together a long time? Do they like each other? Or is this the weekly visit from the absent dad? Are all the children from the same family or are some neighbors?

Are mom and dad still very much in love or is this mom or dad’s new partner out to meet the kids?

What do you think the relationships are like between the children? Do they get along normally or are they making an extra effort to get along today?

In this setting, you will probably not be able to confirm or deny your conclusions. Be willing to not know and to entertain possibilities.

A writer could construct a whole novel from this exercise but then the novelist does not need to stick to reality. Can you tell a playful tussle from a case of child abuse?

Conducting a few of these experiments trying to make meaning from situations can greatly improve your skills at reading nonverbal cues. It can also help you see how someone who is not able to read cues could miss read situations completely and acting on these misinterpretations get themselves into trouble.

Certain mental health disorders are characterized by an inability to read other people, not recognizing anger from facial expressions for example. Can you see how misreading what people mean or over-reliance on the words they say but missing the body language and the gestures could result in misunderstandings or even put you at risk for danger?

But poor nonverbal skills can hamper any of us.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

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