“The Anatomy is our destiny” (Sigmund Freud).
Did you know that 55% of communication is visual (body language, eye contact) and 38% is vocal (pitch, speed, volume, tone of voice)? That means only 7% involves your actual words. And when the spotlight is on you- whether one-on-one in an interview or when making a presentation to a large group – you need to communicate effectively on all levels. (Marcus Edward John Cross, [?]; The Simple Project, 2016).
Did you know that you lean towards people and things that you like? According to the Body Language Trainer (2017), if your target mirrors your behaviour then you have harmony. I believe that harmony is a secret desire of the soul because it allows us to be at rest, to experience peace with others, to know where we fit, and to understand what is expected of us in any situation. Even in situations that are unfamiliar to us and we encounter strangers, we can experience harmony because “Important encounters are planned by the souls long before the bodies see each other” (Paul Cuelho).
Allow me to illustrate this with an experience that I had recently. Almost everywhere that I go now, I am encountering the unfamiliar and meeting strangers. I have to evaluate quickly how to respond and also to determine if I need to adapt my approach to engage the stranger in dialogue. A few days ago, my friend and I crashed a celebratory party for a former coworker of hers who was being promoted in a new job. All the women from the office decided to get together for dinner and drinks at a local pub and we decided to join the fun. We got there earlier than the coworker who had invited her to the event. So we took a booth up front and ordered while we waited.
It was not long before her coworker showed up with her husband and we joined the main party in the lounge area. All kinds of questions were rolling in my head as we entered the room: Where do I sit? What do I say? Who should I sit next to? I don’t know anyone here but my friend. What am I doing here? The matter was settled as the waitress added a table to the party already in progress. I sat next to my friend and across from her coworker’s husband. It was easy to join in the conversation as they shared about hobbies, families, and such. But it was relaxed. We were just making conversation.
But then someone arrived alone. She sat in the next available seat as she approached the table, that is, next to the “husband” and diagonally across from me. She took the lead. She looked directly at each of us, introduced herself, even extended her hand for handshakes to those who were close by, and waited for our names. She responded to each with a nod. She was even patient enough to wait on a 3 year old deciding whether or not she would provide her name for a stranger. The child does not. But, all is well as she obtains the child’s name from an adult. Kate (changed for confidentiality) is pretty comfortable with herself and consequently made others around her comfortable. By asking questions about the accent that she heard when I spoke, she discovered that I am from Jamaica, that my friend is also from Jamaica, and that we met at Rutgers University while pursuing graduate studies. The rest is history. She was fascinated by my research in Social-Community Psychology, particularly the history of Community Psychology which is directly related to an attempt to provide clinical services to United States veterans who returned from combat with signs of PTSD and other symptoms of psychological distress. What did I discover? As I leaned forward, I realized that her interest stemmed from her work that is also directly related to evaluation pharmaceutical drugs that can be used to help military personnel who are in crisis. We hit it off. We had found in each other a kindred spirit.
According to Wayne Dyer, “People who feel empowered by your presence become kindred spirits.” I felt empowered by Kate’s presence because she helped me to create a place where I fit. The rest of the table disappeared as we moved fluidly from one topic of interest to another. I even had to prompt her to eat her meal that had been placed before her while we kept talking about the work that we shared and other interests in life and community. There was no missing the fact that we wanted to keep in touch. So, I shared with her a way of keeping up with some of my work and I hope she is reading this today. Kate, thank you so much for leaning forward, making and keeping eye contact, and extending your right hand of fellowship. I could read all the signs of interest. They inspired this blog today.
No matter where we are: volunteers or rescue workers in the midst of Hurricane Harvey working to assist those in crisis; a new neighbor trying to settle in and needing directions to the store; or, a new employee in training at the office, let us all be aware of the power of leaning forward. If we lean forward to show the other person that we are interested, then we invite them to lean towards us to build up our communities and to serve the most vulnerable ones among us with our insightful and invaluable expertise. We must remember that “Mirroring someone’s body language makes them feel accepted and creates a bond” (Westside Toastmasters). Leaning forward informs the other person that you are listening. If you listen keenly and you are interested in building rapport with someone quickly, then mirroring their body language and speech patterns is one of the most effective ways to accomplish this. Consider mirroring their seating position, posture, body angle, gestures, expressions and tone of voice (Westside Toastmasters). Soon, they will begin to feel attracted to you. They may even say to themselves, “There’s just something about that person, but I can’t put my finger on it.” But, they will keep listening. They will describe you as ‘easy to be with’. Why? Simply because they see themselves reflected in you. So be careful how you respond to strangers because they may be angels sent to guide you. As I close, consider this: “The universe sends us exactly what we are ready for at the exact time that we need it in our lives” (Kundalini Spirit). Peace.