Think about that for a second. A text is usually just a few words on a screen. How can it carry a hidden message? Especially when it is something basic. Have you read “fine”, “okay” or “got it” and instantly knew something was wrong? The topic came up when a friend said he knew his daughter was concerned about something all the way across the country just by the way she responded to a text message. Have you seen the same thing? Suddenly you know life is out of sync because the person just isn’t acting normally – yet you don’t hear them or see them!
The key point is we take in a lot more than we realize, even with a text message, and we communicate a lot more than we might think through even the smallest gestures. If we can pick up on a problem or concern with just a few words on a screen, how much more are we taking in during every in-person conversation? What about when we are in front of a group of people? And what about the utterly mundane moments of the day? Is it any wonder people ask, “What’s up with the boss?” even though the boss hasn’t said a word? One executive I recently spoke with told me he had to watch how he walked into the office at the beginning of the day because employees were picking up on his body language, even if his body language had nothing to do with how he was feeling about the employees.
The same rule applies for everyone. Think of this as a constant in human behavior if you are the newest employee on the crew or the CEO. We are all observing way more than we ever articulate on any given day.
So does that mean you must look like Miss Sunshine or Mr. Upbeat at every minute of the day, no matter what? Of course not, but also know that those judgements are being made. Become just a little more self-aware so you can have an understanding of the impact you have on others. Ask for feedback from those you trust. Offer the same for them. And if you happen to be the boss, your communication skills are even more important. Having a difficult day with the loss of a loved one? Maybe that gets communicated to the team in an appropriate way. There also will be times when you have to smile on the outside while troubling issues are worked out. But, don’t be surprised if especially observant employees say, “I thought something was wrong with you,” when it all comes out. Most of us aren’t very good at masking our feelings, even when we are doing our best to hide them.
So, get comfortable with the idea you that you are ALWAYS communicating – walking down the street, sitting in the back of a meeting or just sending out that one-word text!
Follow along with Cary on Twitter @CaryPfeffer
Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting, www.clear-comm.net, a Scottsdale, AZ communications consulting firm that helps people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.