We speak more with our bodies and behavior than we'll ever put into words. I think it's an 85/15 ratio - 85% of our communication is nonverbal. Startling, isn't it? It can also be thrilling.
The importance of body language in communication means we don't have to be very skilled verbally, either in speaking or in writing, to communicate eloquently.
A dad's face can light up when his child enters a room.
He can throw open his arms, scoop up the youngster and twirl around with a hearty laugh and an enthusiastic hug. Not a word is required to have his message of love and joy communicated.
My earliest memories of my Dad are of holding his hand while walking. He's been gone 14 years and I still feel the warmth of his presence. Even though he was a great talker he found it easier to show his love than say, 'I love you,' outright. His nonverbal behavior said it every day of my life. Lucky me.
It isn't only children who pick up on the body language we use to enhance - or negate - what we say. While the most innocent read body language most easily, everyone reads our signs, whether or not they are consciously aware of them.
We ourselves had best pay attention to what our behavior is shouting above our words. It might not even be about the conversation at hand. If we aren't focusing on what we are doing right now, we could be letting our mind wander to another topic. What if we are supposed to be listening to a child describe an important event and our mind is focused on a work problem? The child could see us frowning instead of saying, 'Good for you!'
One of the greatest gifts we can give is to pay attention to the person speaking to us, verbally and behaviorally. Addressing both, especially if they are conflicting, will let the other person know that we are paying attention and that we understand the whole communication.
Telling the truth makes us a valid person. We all know when someone is valid. Their words and their behavior match up. No matter what they are communicating, we feel a comfort level with them. We know they are speaking their truth in words and body language. We trust them. Our inner core tells us they are valid.
We don't have to agree with someone to feel their validity or to be valid ourselves. What a thing to teach our children! Are we?
Here's to Dads this month giving their children the essential ingredient of real success - validity.
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 38 years.
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