listen to what people don’t say, not what they do

When we are born we can’t see. Things are blurry and it takes about 6 months before we start seeing things clearly.

From that time forward our eyes become our greatest source of knowledge.

We learn from observing the world around us; observing others’ actions, seeing how people react, watching TV, and so much more.

The problem is we tend to rely on our eyes too much.

When buying things so many of us decide based on looks, not on practicality or need.

Many women have been guilty of buying shoes because they’re stylish, not comfortable.

Men often choose cars that look amazing, never giving a second thought to their total cost (gas, insurance and upkeep).

Yes, when it comes to shopping our eyes are easily deceived.

But the same is true in dealing with people.

Speaking is our main form of communication and while it is definitely the most convenient, it’s not always the most reliable.

It’s easy enough to say you’ll lose 20 pounds (9 kilograms) but it’s another to actually do it.

How many of us have promised to be on time, only to show up late?

From my studies and own observation I have found that we need to take into consideration a variety of factors to truly understand people.

  1. Body language
  2. What people don’t say (omissions)
  3. Pauses or delays
  4. Changing the subject
  5. Vagueness
  6. Anger in response to relatively unimportant questions
  7. People’s actions

These all tell us a story. Words have become so easy to manipulate but mastering our emotions, our body language, and our actions is another matter entirely.

We must also listen carefully to the words people choose – any deviation from their normal choice of words is an indication that something’s up.

Let’s say you ask your friend what they are doing this weekend.

Under normal circumstances they would simply tell you they are going to the city to watch the new Bruce Willis movie “Die Hard 5” with their friend Chris because they love action.

But today when you ask them, they look away. (hint #1)

Then they say they’re going to see a movie with a friend. (hint #2, they declined to mention a name)

They quickly ask you what you’re doing. (hint #3, changing the subject)

When you ask them what movie, they say “We haven’t decided.” (hint #4, vagueness)

When you ask them who you’re going with, they get irritated and say something like “You don’t know them.” (hint #5, emotions coming into play)

You get the picture.

By studying the art of body language we give ourselves a subtle advantage in numerous situations.

Having taught in one capacity or another for over 20 years I’ve gotten pretty good at understanding people’s choice of words but body language is still very much a mystery to me.

If anyone’s got some tricks out there I’m all ears.

Adrian Shepherd

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