Nonverbal Communication; the Heart of Emotional Intelligence

I really enjoyed watching Courtney Waller and Michael Bryden, talking about leadership within organisations, recently. Michael is Director of MSB Max, a training organisation with a leadership focus. I've been working with him to create content for the nonverbal component of their communication and leadership training. Courtney is a Film Maker at Courtney Waller Productions you may remember he interviewed me several months ago. 

Michael talked a lot of sense about leadership within organisations and I'm sure we can all relate to some of the examples that he talked about, both good and bad. He describes Leadership as being able to develop (provide and nurture) an environment that allows people to thrive and produce.

I've been lucky enough to have been my own boss for most of my life, and out of the two organisations that I've worked for as an employee, I've had one good, and one exceptional leader as my manager. Unfortunately I've seen examples of bad leadership within the same organisations and seen how negatively it can impact the individual, department and organisation on the whole. I feel grateful that I haven't been on the receiving end directly. 

Michael talked about the difference between managers and leaders, a key element of which is emotional intelligence. Michael describes emotional intelligence as awareness, understanding and appreciation that we are a bundle of emotions, and so is everybody else. He explains that once we're aware of this we can practice and develop emotional intelligence as a skill, resulting in a good understanding and control of ourself, and an understanding of, and good relationships with others. 

Nonverbal Communication and Emotional Intelligence

Nonverbal communication plays a large part in emotional intelligence. The most obvious link is in understanding the true feelings of others, based on their nonverbal communication cues; a topic I write about a lot. If you can read these cues, you have the ability to understand people's emotions and can therefore adapt and respond appropriately. The latter part of the equation (your response) being the most significant.

Less obvious is that understanding, and awareness, of nonverbal cues can also help you to understand yourself! When I notice myself doing certain cues (many are involuntary), I pause and re-evaluate my own emotions, or what I just said. For example if I notice myself doing a one-sided shoulder shrug, or nod, as I say, "I don't care what they think", I can then re-evaluate my thoughts and conclude that I'm kidding myself. Of course I care, why wouldn't I?

I recently pulled out of a project that had been causing me many negative emotions, which were beginning to encroach on my home life. I'd brushed these emotions aside time and time again, for months. The final straw was down to a one-sided shoulder shrug, as I said, "It's going to work"! My belief in it 'working', was not really there, it never had been. I'd been kidding myself all the way; flogging a dead horse! Pulling the plug on the project was an instant relief and I wish I'd done it sooner. My time and emotion would have been better spent elsewhere, on things that were more important. It's good to look on the bright side, but not when you're pulling the wool over your own eyes. 

I generally don't point out people's nonverbal cues to them, unless I've been asked to, or know them well enough to know that they are open to it. When I do so, I see them re-evaluate and try to figure out their own thoughts. It's often an ah-ha moment and several people have commented that it's self enlightening. A couple of times recently my partner, Lee, has pointed out to me that my toes have curled and asked, "What was wrong?". Sometimes I have to pause to think what is wrong, but there's always a stimulus, even if it isn't on the surface, or in the current conversation. 

If you're one of my regular readers, you'll already be familiar with some of the nonverbal cues I write about and hopefully, you're already noticing them in others. I'd love for you to take some time to focus on you. Notice your own nonverbal behaviours, and use them to get a better understanding of yourself. Take note of how you really feel, and acknowledge that your rational thoughts and statements are not always the truth. I'd love to hear what you discover! 

You can watch Courtney interviewing Michael below.

Side Note

At around 50:50 mins into the video, Michael and Courtney talk about nonverbal communication. I had a good laugh when Courtney realised him and Michael were mirroring each other and asked if I was impressed that they noticed. Absolutely Courtney and Michael, I'm very impressed!

Sophie ZadehComment