by Ashley Logsdon

What’s Left Unsaid – Nonverbal Cues (Episode 192)

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Have you considered how much is unsaid that speaks so loudly? There have been studies showing that over 55% of all messages come from nonverbal cues like posture and gestures. 

As we seek to move from communication to connection, you have to go beyond simply the words and address the nonverbal cues that impact us so much. And, if you're questioning why it's a big deal, think back to the last time your child rolled their eyes at you or your partner was looking at their phone when you were trying to talk to them. 

Listen to this episode on Apple MusicSpotifyStitcherGoogle PlayTuneInYouTubeiHeartRadio or your RSS Feed  *Now also on the Pandora app and!

A Song And Its Lyrics

Think about a song - there are lyrics that carry the melody for sure. But think about all the other things that make it into a song. What is the rhythm and tempo? How loud/soft is it? Think about every instrument being another nonverbal cue that accentuates the music. Maybe the words we say are more like lyrics, and our nonverbal additions of things like our body language, facial expressions, and eye contact are the harmony that shifts it from words on paper to the music in our ears. 

#1 - Facial Expressions

Some people, like my husband Nathan, are so expressive! I know I've been affected simply by seeing Nathan's expression - where I might soften what I say because I see the sentimental look, or I get defensive when he shows that skeptical one, or on edge because he's not showing any expression. 

Or maybe you mask your expression with a default one, like people who hide behind a smile or a laugh whenever they are nervous or uncomfortable...and yet the message that may be given isn't one of nervousness, but looking condescending. 

The expressions on your face can say a lot. And even in a world of mask-wearing, it's amazing how much can be expressed simply through the eyes. People complain that no one can see a smile anymore. Yet look at the eyes - I know what is hiding behind the mask:

#2 - Eye Contact

I have to admit, I have a confession. My name is Ashley Logsdon, and I'm a lip-reader. I tend to watch people's mouths more than anything else. Some may have to do with the fact that I'm 5'2", so mouths tend to be more at my level than eyes! Because I know the importance of eye contact, however, I have to be intentional about looking people in the eye. 

Too much eye contact can be intimidating. Peering into someone's soul without blinking is a bit overboard. But connecting to someone with eye contact is important to ensure they are attentive to the conversation at hand. We all know the frustration of trying to have a conversation with someone who's eyes are glued to their phone or TV. 

Be intentional with connected to someone's eyes, yet ease your approach. Nathan talks about "splatter vision". Splatter vision is the same technique taught to FBI agents to spot threats in large crowds of people. The tactic involves scanning the crowd by looking into the distance and not focusing on anyone in particular. Once the agent fixes a general gaze on the crowd, he or she looks for any deviation or change.

Experiment with splatter vision to soften your gaze - take in their whole face, move around the different facial features, and just keep going back to the eyes as your main "home base" for a connected conversation.

#3 - Body Language/energy

This is a great opportunity, as a partner, to recognize a need in the other. Nathan is a pro at noticing when my shoulders are more tense or slouched over, and recognizing an opportunity for some massaging touch. 

Pay attention to how you are holding yourself - are you sitting up straight and attentive? Are you standing with arms folded and every bit of you closed off?

Also, it's not just about what you're visually seeing. I cannot stress enough the impact of energy around a person. I'm highly sensitive to the energy others bring into a room - you can sense tension, anxiety, hyperactivity, anger, sadness, frustration, helplessness, excitement, joy, happiness, anticipation....all simply by the energy in the room, or the energy someone brings into it. We address this a lot in our family as we focus on awareness in our home

#4 - Hand Movements

I get in trouble for this one a lot by my 8-year-old, who says I use my hands too much when I talk! With a degree in American Sign Language Interpreting, it's clear I default to hands and signs more often than some, for sure. 

What are your hands doing when you're talking? Are they flapping all over? Fidgeting nervously? Playing with change in your pocket, or folded to clearly indicate you are not willing to open up? 

What you are doing with your hands can either accentuate what you're doing or be a great distraction. Reaching out and touching someone to connect with them as you speak can capture their attention dramatically. Twiddling your thumbs (twiddling!! If you listened to the podcast you know this is the word I couldn't remember on it!) while they are talking could imply to them that you're bored. 

#5 - Personal Space

The universal rule is that a person must be an arm’s length away to honor someone’s personal space. Think about that - people's arms are a different length! 

A great exercise to really see and understand personal space with your family is to go outside with some chalk, and have every person literally draw their personal "bubble" around them. Have everyone stand around that edge and feel exactly what that comfort level is for each person. 

Keep in mind the different personality styles - high I personality styles, for example, are fueled by that interaction with others. And the more attention they get, the more excited they may be...and start moving in closer. They will tend to move in closer, get louder, and talk faster the more excited they become. When someone pulls triggers the worst fear for an I personality: rejection. And you can end up in this dance where one person is constantly moving backward while the other one keeps walking forward. 

Simply knowing this fact - that this personality style tends to feel rejected when you back away and they thrive on the engagement, can be super helpful. Giving someone the assurance that you want to hear them and can better focus on what they are saying if they stay put in a certain place and give you space is a whole different approach than actual rejection of just saying 'back off'! 

And why am I so passionate about personal space? Because this, my friends, is often one of the first invaders of consent. If someone cannot be confident in asking someone to respect their personal space, how can I expect them to be confident enough to step up and ask them to respect other areas of their body? There are so, so many opportunities in our lives to have that "birds and the bees" talk. It's not just a talk; you have to view it as what sexual legacy are you imparting on your children. Conversations around things like consent oftentimes are built way before sex is ever broached in the conversation. If you haven't yet watched the "Birds and the Bees" series we did recently, start here.

Your Challenge:

Go through these five with your family. How would you rate yourself in these areas? How is your family doing?

Are you confident in your ability to present yourself nonverbally in the way you intend?

Are your nonverbal cues matching up with the words coming out of your mouth? 

Sometimes we don't have the right words to say. We don't see things from the same perspective as another. What nonverbal cue could you use to create a common ground? Can you connect eye-to-eye? Can you take a few deep breaths and calm your energy a bit so you aren't as agitated? 

We are beautiful individuals with superpowers and quirks. We don't always connect well - but the more we know ourselves and learn about others, and the more we can take into account all the ways we communicate to each other, the more we can celebrate how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. 


About the author, Ashley Logsdon


Ashley Logsdon is a Family and Personality Styles Coach and Lifelong Learner. She and her husband Nathan are RVing the States and unschooling their 3 girls. Her mission is to shift the mindsets of families from reaction to intention, and guide them in creating the family they love coming home to. Looking deeper than the surface, we assess the strengths, triggers, and simplifying your lifestyle so you truly recognize how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.

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