We all know the important role body language plays in effective communication. And we’ve all heard the statistic that the majority of human communication is actually non-verbal.
Yet, we are obsessed with speaking, and generally terrible at listening. And we are often unaware of the ways our body language is communicating louder than our words.
So how do we become more aware of our body language and the impact that has on our overall ability to communicate with others effectively?
We have help here at Leading Edge in the form of our horses. As prey and herd animals whose communication is largely non-verbal, they make us acutely aware of our own non-verbal signals. They respond to incongruent cues between words and actions that we humans emit. A French study in 2020 showed that horses can recognise and interpret our facial expressions. And it makes perfect sense as horses’ survival depends on their ability to sense even the slightest change in those around them and their environment.
There are great leadership lessons in this. To be trusted as a leader, our inside and outside need to match. And our body language can give us away – where are our eyes, are we fidgeting, what tone are we using, how is our posture, what are we doing with our hands.
During one of our team coaching programs, project manager, Sally, had given verbal directions to her team on how to tackle the task at hand. It sounded clear enough to everyone listening, but for some reason, horse team member, Vinnie, just wouldn’t move. Turns out that Sally really wasn’t so sure but thought she start the ball rolling. And her team wasn’t 100% sure either. How did Vinnie know? We can’t ask him, of course. But horses pick up on even the most subtle signs. Sally hesitated slightly and kept looking down and back indicating doubt in her suggestion. All it took was a quick team discussion to tweak Sally’s plan and have the whole team on the same page.
Do you think about your body language and its role in how effectively?