Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Body Language and Book Covers

Jeremy and I had lots of visitors this past weekend, which was awesome for so many reasons. First, because we rarely have visitors. And second, because it's important to socialize our new puppy.

After a busy weekend of hanging out with friends and family, visiting Pearl Street, eating at The Med and dealing with my daughter's identity theft, it was nice to settle in Sunday night with Jeremy and the pets and watch some Walking Dead.

I had a text message conversation that same night with a good friend, where we talked about how people mistake our facial expressions. We joked that we needed facial expression classes. It got me thinking about words and body language.

Women especially are programmed to read body language. We do it without being taught -- it's a natural talent. And these days there is increased awareness about how important body language is. You can even take courses on how to succeed in business using the right body language. It's gotten a little insane.

Body language is extremely important. It helps us gauge each other's reactions and it helps us identify when someone is lying. But where we get in trouble is that it has to be balanced with listening to people's words.

I can't tell you how many fights I've gotten into with Jeremy because I asked him to do something and his words said Yes while his body language said I am so annoyed that you asked me to do that. After years of this, and many, many conversations, I finally understand that 99% of the time Jeremy is not annoyed. I just read his face wrong. Broken down even further, I realized that I am worried he's going to think I'm nagging him, so, I read my own worries into his body language.

And the other 1% of the time, he is annoyed, but he knows he shouldn't be so he reacts appropriately instead of instinctively. Give the man some credit for reacting thoughtfully, shall we?

I could tell you a dozen stories about how I or someone I know was read wrong. I go into each conversation believing that people will take my words at face value -- and I do my best to take theirs at face value as well. But too often, someone reads more into the conversation than the words I spoke.

I believe we all have our unreadable facial expressions, too. I have a sweet friend who people read as "unfriendly" when she is meeting someone for the first time. Jeremy's neutral/thinking face has been read as anger. And people often read my "I'm so sorry, you poor thing" expression as "judgmental" -- which blows my mind.

So I guess what I came to is that you can't read a book by its cover. But you can't read a book without a cover either. Words and body language go hand-in-hand, and without both working together, miscommunication is bound to happen.

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