The Non-Verbal Message
by Adam Zack — June 26, 2019
Many years ago I was introduced to the owner of a very prolific wine store. I had always heard that this guy was a full-on ass, but I was skeptical that it could be 100% true, as I had great respect for his store and his fantastic employees. As I was introduced I extended my hand to shake his and he barely grasped mine while at the same time looking away, effectively dismissing me as 100% unimportant and forgettable. Turns out he really was an ass, but it made an impression on me that I continue to remember to this day: Non-verbal communication often says way more about you, or someone else, than what is actually said.
I was reminded of it again when I had a meeting with DW and some new potential customers. “Did you notice that that guy never made eye contact?’ said DW. Eye contact demonstrates interest and sincerity. It shows that you are listening. It relates honesty. It communicates in ways words can’t. There are many other non-verbal ways that communicate disinterest in a conversation – holding up your hand as if to say “Stop, you have bored me to the limit” or a nice, big yawn or even the circling of your fingers as if to say “Wrap it up, fella!” Those all are incredibly rude, and I put not making eye contact right up there with them. Sure, eye contact sometimes is uncomfortable. You’ll occasionally get in conversation with the guy who seems like is trying to stare through you. Or the one who is a close-talker and doesn’t break eye contact like it’s some kind of assertion of dominance. But those are more rarities. Everyday we deal with customers, employees and co-workers who hear our words but don’t listen. And we don’t know it because we aren’t looking at them. As the bikini model has said many times “Eyes up here!”.
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