Observe the body language and gestures that the speaker makes. It is not unusual for words to convey one message and body language to signal another. When there is a disconnect between words and body language, you should ask what is really going on.
Here’s a primer to some common body language:
• Arms crossed across chest – this protective posture often means that the person is feeling anxious or nervous. He may also be protecting himself from perceived verbal attack.
• Hands in pockets – he may be restraining himself from certain actions or words.
• Clenched fist – very angry at the situation.
• Exposes palm to you – open to what you are saying
• Looks at you in the eye – interested in you and attracted to you.
• Mirroring body language – agrees with you.
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You should also aim to be an empathic listener. If you are an empathic listener, you will be able to identify with the speaker. This means that you have to truly pay attention. A conversation where two people are expressing their viewpoints without listening and responding is ineffective. One test of this is if your response is formed before the other person has finished speaking, you are not being an empathic listener.
Watch your own body language as well when you are listening. If your legs are crossed and arms are folded protectively across your chest, you are probably not open to your partner’s message. If you are relaxed and leaning slightly toward the speaker, you are encouraging communication with your body language.
In the vacation example at the beginning of this section, imagine what would have happened if the conversation had gone like this:
Wife: I want to go to Hawaii on vacation.
Husband: Hmm. I’ve been thinking about vacation too. But, I’ve been leaning more toward a big city. I’d like to see New York.
Wife: Hmm. New York, huh. I know there’s a lot to do there a lot to do there, but I kind of need the relaxation of the beach this summer.
Husband: I understand that. You’ve been pretty stressed and New York’s not a restful place. But, you know, I’ve been really wanting to check out the new Yankee stadium, especially in the opening season.
Wife: Well, American Airlines has a discount on airfares right now. Maybe we can do Hawaii on a budget and then you and your brother can make a weekend trip to New York to see the Yankees later in the summer.
In this case, both parties are listening to each other and may be able to come to a satisfactory solution to their needs.
Article 4 in this series picks up on "Giving Feedback and Showing Appreciation" tomorrow, same time, same place.
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