Ever since I watched an Oprah show that pointed out how important it is to let children see our faces light up when they come into a room, I've been conscious of doing just that. I don't ever want a child to come to me without seeing on my face how happy I am to see him or her. And I mean all children, not just my grandchildren. When children receive love, they give it back tenfold.
Freeze a moment sometime when you are deep in conversation with your best friend and you will be amazed to find that you are 'mirroring' each other. You are standing or sitting in the same position, your faces have the same intense expression. It is eerie. Psychiatrists often 'mirror' patients' body language intentionally to create a comfortable situation for them.
Nikki Douglas, who is our General Manager and like a daughter to me as well, has 2 wonderful children. Five year old Christopher attends the excellent pre-school in our building, Greenbrier Manor, and his nine year old sister Michelle is there after school. When they leave with Nikki, they pass my office window and often stop to blow me a kiss. Sometimes they run in, exclaiming, 'Ms. Jean, Ms. Jean!' as they leap to hug me. What a thrill it is to have those 2 precious children give me such ongoing, spontaneous love.
I've been thinking lately that it is not only children who respond to love and that it is also important to show adults how much we value them. Recently I was telling my daughter Natalie how much I enjoy the company of my step-son, Jeff Barnard. 'I just love talking with Jeff,' I said. 'I just jump up and down when I see him coming!' Natalie's brow furrowed. 'You don't jump up and down when I come,' she told me. I jumped right up! How could I not have let her see how very much I love her?
Not all non-verbal communication is as dramatic as jumping up and down with glee to see someone. When we sit down in one place and watch a crowd go by, it is easy to tell which couples are in love without ever hearing them speak a word or embrace. The pace of their walk shows they are in no hurry to end this moment, they focus on each other totally, they can't not smile.
It is also easy to pick out best friends. Freeze a moment sometime when you are deep in conversation with your best friend and you will be amazed to find that you are 'mirroring' each other. You are standing or sitting in the same position, your faces have the same intense expression. It is eerie.
I've heard that 85% of communication is non-verbal. We may not realize it, but we constantly give and receive information through body language, eye movement, breathing, etc. People watching us may not be consciously aware that our subtle movements are giving them ongoing information, but they will be aware of 'feeling' that we do or do not like them, are or are not paying attention to what we say, etc.
Have you ever been at a party talking to someone who is saying, 'Uh huh, mmmm, uh huh' to you while her eyes are looking around the room to see who else she might find to visit? That's just a more obvious form of non-verbal communication that most of us have experienced.
While we've had others communicate boredom to us, we've just as likely done it to them. I've felt the urge to look away from someone talking to me at a party to see whom I might visit next. It takes conscious effort to keep fixed on the person speaking. It is all right to detach from someone, but it needs to be straightforward. Let us end, and then leave a conversation with our whole body, not by letting our eyes lead the way.
We are going to communicate with others every moment, whether verbally or nonverbally. Let's think about what we are 'saying.' Let's show our friendship, our love, our support to the children in our lives - whatever their age.
Jean Loxley-Barnard has been a writer all her life and studied both sociology and psychology at George Washington University where she earned a B.A. Her company, The Shopper, Inc., encompasses all the Loxley-Barnard family publications - The Shopper Magazines and Doctor to Doctor Magazine. She has been in the advertising, consulting and publishing business for 39 years.
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