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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Understanding What People Really Mean

With practice, you can learn to interpret
subtle nonverbal "cues" such as this one.
Studies show that ninety percent of our communication is nonverbal; these means that words, the actual things we say, are far less important than other social "cues" which indicate our true intention.  For example, if someone asks you, "Do you have a watch?" you would be totally missing the point if you merely say, "Yes," and keep walking.  The proper response to such a question is, "Hell no, I don't have a watch.  I have a smart phone like a regular person.  What century are you living in?"  Or if a teacher says, "This test is so easy, even Albert will be able to pass it," she's subtly communicating that this will be a true-false test and the first question will be "true."

Understanding these subtle forms of nonverbal communication can greatly enrich your social life.

For example, if a waitress says, "Can I start you off with some deep-fried pickle chips?"  What she's really saying is, "I'm desperately attracted to you, but I'm too shy to show it.  I'm trying to give myself excuses to come back to your table as often as possible.  Please spend the meal hitting on me, and then give me a crappy tip so I'll know it's me you're interested in and not just my guacamole."

Suppose you run into an acquaintance who says, "Hey, how's it going?"  This person is subtly communicating, "It's been so horribly long since I've seen you, and I'm dying to know every all about your personal experiences to enrich my own drab colorless life.  My only joy is living vicariously through you.  Please tell me all about your recent gall bladder surgery.  Don't leave out a single detail."

Let's say you're in the doctor's office, and he says, "I'm concerned about your weight and your blood pressure.  You need to go easy on the fried pickle chips once in a while, and it wouldn't hurt to get some exercise for a change."  What he really means is, "God, you magnificent animal.  I don't know what your secret is, but I'd sure like to.  My sense of professionalism keeps me from just fawning over your perfect physique, but whatever you're doing, just keep it up."

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