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Talking without Saying a Word

Shira Yehudit Djlilmand

We all know that speech is the great connector. What we’re often not aware of is that the strongest messages sometimes don’t involve words. And you may not even realize what it is you’re communicating without saying a word.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

boy folding arms Chana* had been hunting for work for five long, discouraging years. A systems analyst, her qualifications and experience looked great on paper, but interview followed interview, and each time she was turned down. An ad for an Orthodox Union seminar on body language caught her eye, and she attended, volunteering for a role-playing exercise.

In the role-play, Chana rather self-consciously acted as she did in interviews.

The lecturer quickly intervened. “Sit up straight,” he instructed. “Open your mouth when you speak, slow down, and stop mumbling. And look the interviewer in the eye.”

Shocked to realize how her body language had been consistently contradicting her words, Chana took note, practiced, and soon after landed a sought-after position.

A raised eyebrow, a shrug of the shoulders, a wink. Without any words passing our lips, we convey volumes about our personalities and goals. But thinking of body language in terms of gestures doesn’t do justice to the huge role nonverbal communication plays in our lives. The classic study by Albert Mehrabian states that only 7 percent of communication is words, 38 percent tone of voice, and a full 55 percent body language. Another study by the Buffalo State University of New York suggested that up to 90 percent of our communication is body language. Seems like it’s worth our while to become fluent.

 

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