Communicating Without Saying A Word


Whether you’re unemployed and looking for a job or employed, your non-verbal body language is sending out all kinds of information to those within eyesight. What message you’re sending is entirely up to you of course; but pay no attention to ensuring the message you’re sending is the one you want to communicate and your lack of attention to this could harm you in ways you haven’t considered.

Even noticed the difference in how people move when walking? If you’re looking for a low-key but profitable way to spend your lunch hour, sit down with your lunch in a public space and people watch. Follow several passersby’s with your eyes – not just the handsome or cute ones! – and as you do so, be aware of the assumptions you’re making. When you see someone ambling along at a leisurely pace, their hands in their pockets, how do you perceive them? They don’t seem in a hurry to be anywhere.

Contrast the above with the person you see enter your view who is moving at an accelerated pace compared to others around them. They are walking briskly with one arm swinging at their side and the other clutching something that could be a document folder. Their head is up as they walk, looking for the clearest path in front of them, their eyes focused on what’s ahead of them. Again, what’s your brain communicating to you about them with little else to go on?

Did you assign a gender to either of the two examples above? Did you picture the first one with hand in their pockets to be dressed down from the second one hustling from point A to point B? Did you see the first person as enjoying the sunshine, making the most of their personal time on their lunch hour? Of the second, did you picture them still on the clock, obviously not on their lunch even though you’re on yours? Did the brisk walker seem to move with purpose while the ambling, leisurely movement of the first suggest at the moment they were in control of their time and what to do with it?

How you move says a lot to others who likewise make inferences about what you’re doing, your level of activity, the urgency or lack of it in how you’re going about things at the moment.

Now earlier I’d said jokingly that you should look at all people not just the handsome or cute ones. Think on that now though; what is it about how people dress, the way they move, the attention or lack of it that they take to their personal grooming, their facial expressions, etc., that attracts us to them? When we find ourselves drawn to someone do we sometimes also give them positive attributes and think positively about them before they’ve even uttered a word? Similarly, if we find ourselves disinterested or even negatively affected by someone on first sight, do we likewise perceive them negatively before they’ve opened their mouth to speak?

Our body language communicates much about us. We can seem dominant, defiant, submissive, reclusive, introverted, outrageously confident and non-conformist etc. In the clothes we wear, the tattoos and body piercings we may or may not have on display, the attention we put into our makeup, hairstyles, shoes on our feet etc.; everything about us communicates to others.

So all of this is important to acknowledge and understand when it comes to those times in our lives when making impressions on others is important to us. The job interview, meeting the potential in-laws, the date on Saturday night, your appearance in court, your friend’s wedding, the prom, spiritual gatherings, lounging at the golf club or yoga studio; we never stop communicating to others and all of it non-verbal.

The good news of course is that with some thought and attention, we are largely in control of the non-verbal communication we send out, hopeful that it is received by others in the way that is consistent with our intended message. Are you going for, ‘confident’, ‘professional’, ‘casually comfortable and relaxed’? Sometimes of course you may be told in advance how to dress. An invitation to a party might say that formal wear is in or the person setting up the interview over the phone might tell you that business casual is expected.

The best time to put some thought into your clothing and the image you want to communicate to others through your body language is always the same – now! When you know the kind of work you are interested in, you can safely predict with a high degree of accuracy the kind of clothing you’d like for a future interview. Now might be the best time then to get out and get that clothing together while you’re relaxed and not distracted with the pressure and stress of preparing for an actual one in a couple of days.

Be it a skirt or dress, formal suit, shirt and tie, getting things now – or at the very least budgeting now to acquire these items as you can afford them, will pay off when you go to the closet and they are there at the ready.

Remember, you’re in full control of the messages you communicate to others simply by entering their visual proximity. Best to make sure you give some thought now to how you want to be perceived.

 

“So What Do You Do?”


When meeting people for the first time, one of the questions that comes up inevitably in the first few crucial moments is some version of, “So what do you do?” The question is really an abbreviation for, “What’s your job or career title?”, and if you don’t provide the name of the employer, that may be the next question to be asked.

So given that so many of us ask the question, my question is, “Why?” I mean what is it that causes us to ask people whom we’ve just met, how they occupy their time and derive a living from that? The question of what we are doing is really connected of course to the income we derive which in turn indicates how we support ourselves financially. Make no mistake about it.

Imagine for example you overheard a conversation where someone asked, “So what do you do?” and the reply you heard was, “Oh I love to garden, take in the football matches and watch the sun go down on the back deck each night with a warm drink in one hand and my spouses hand in my other.” Well that might be all well and good and carry the conversation for the next few minutes, but something interesting would occur shortly after. “But seriously, what do you do? – I mean career wise.”

It’s as if the initial answer wasn’t taken as a serious response; was the person avoiding answering the question? Technically of course they weren’t; they answered the question in the way they wished. If the person doing the asking wanted a specific answer respective of an occupation, then the question should have been formed to ask, “So, what’s your job title?” Doesn’t that seem unnatural and perhaps a little invasive?

We all, “do” many things. We shop, dress, eat, read, rest, relax, laugh, cry and thousands of other things. But when we are asked, “So what do you do?” there is this implied understanding that the question really be poised is about occupations.

Okay so that being the case, why is this of interest to us when we meet someone new? At the root of it I suspect is a desire to assign some kind of value to the person based on our own value of the work they perform. If you think a Cashier is a rather non-noteworthy position, then meeting a person who is a Cashier may cause you to place the person into a category based on your own value system. Meet a Photographer, and you might then say you’d like to see their work – and why? Because once you’ve seen the quality of their work and their preferences for subject matter, you then assign some kind of appreciation (high or low) for not only the quality of their work, but the quality of the person.

Now is this fair? No. You may suppose that clothing models are superficial, self-indulgent and perhaps not all that intelligent. Were you to actually meet one and have a conversation of any length to get to know the person behind the runway model, you might find yourself correcting your initial assumption. And it works the other way doesn’t it? You might revere a person with what you think is a job of great prestige and engage them in conversation only to find them evasive, unsure, boorish and shallow.

Still, when we meet people, we start a process of gathering information and clues that collectively permit us to form opinions based on our own experiences. The more information we gather, the more our opinions become formed on real data rather than guesswork and suppositions. We gather information on how people dress, their posture, their smile (or lack thereof), where they live, who they know, what car they drive, their environmental consciousness, their income level, so why not the jobs they hold?

Young and old do this. Suppose you were given a list of occupations held by people in a large room without being able to first enter the room and look around. Who would you like to meet and have a conversation with based on nothing more than knowing their occupation. Are you equally anticipating a chat with a housewife and a rock musician? Without knowing either or seeing either, you’re own upbringing and personal view of each may lead you to prefer one over the other. And if it were a small business owner and an Accountant, would you care? Maybe and maybe not.

For you personally, whether you are employed, unemployed or underemployed, think carefully then about your personal response to the question, “So what do you do?” What impression do you want to make initially on others? Even if you are out of work, would you answer the question, “I’m unemployed”, or would you come back with, “Carpenter by trade specializing in historical restoration work.” Which of the two responses might generate interest in the person who asked to want to know more about you?

Here’s the best thing about the question, “So what do you do?” YOU get full control over what first comes out of your mouth and the confidence or lack of pride which your body language will communicate in answering. Do yourself a huge favour and spend some time carefully crafting a good answer. Then practice so it comes across the way you want it delivered.

Reading People


Sometimes I get asked by people I’m working with why it is that they seldom get the same advice from different professionals when it comes to interview suggestions. The simple reason really is that the two biggest variables from interview to interview are the people involved. People don’t have the same communication skills, and people will respond differently to exactly the same information when they receive it.

First of all let’s look at the person giving you advice and I’ll use myself as an example. I’ve gone to my share of interviews for jobs over the years. During that time, I’ve learned what to share and how to share it, how to deliver a line, and most importantly I’ve learned the ability to read the interviewer quite well. By reading the interviewer, I mean that I can pick up subtle cues in their facial expressions, their happiness in the answer they are getting or their concern over certain issues. If an answer I’ve provided isn’t clear and it required the interviewer to ask a second question to get at what they really want to know, I’ve remembered that, and provide clear and direct answers in subsequent interviews.

So you can see I hope that it is the frequency of interviews and the lessons I’ve learned through trial and error that allow me to suggest what works and what doesn’t. However, I’ve got skills and attributes that are unique in their sum total to me. You on the other hand, have a number of skills and attributes that when you add them all up are unique to you. If we were all the same in every way, advice would be more straight forward but we’re not. And those sitting on the other side of the table are never the same from interview to interview, and they don’t react the same all the time either.

It’s for this reason that you can help yourself immensely in an interview by learning to look for the visual and auditory clues that will tell you how things are going. So if you shared a small joke in an interview and got a positive response in the form of a broad smile and a wink from the interviewer, you may assume you’ve scored a point. Should you repeat that same small joke imbedded in the same answer but with another interviewer, you may get anything from no reaction at all to one with pursed lips, a frown or raised eyebrows indicating surprise. Based on the reaction whatever it is, you can either cease to continue with light-hearted banter and play it completely straight, or you might be encouraged to use humour and come across as taking the interview but not yourself too seriously.

You see the one thing that is almost never known going into an interview, is the background of the person or people conducting the interviewer. That would be tremendous information to have. If we knew how their past dealings with people have shaped their views of new people they meet, we would probably try to act a certain way, so that we were closely associated with the people the interviewer has come to work well with and like as people over the years. If they’ve got a disposition against aggressive people and we are aggressive by nature, it may be wise to ratchet it down a notch.

Some interviewers are extremely well-trained at masking their reactions all together. They either sit straight-faced and make it hard for the interviewee to read them at all, or they are smiling, pleasant and encouraging to all interviewees even when they’ve pretty much decided a candidate isn’t what they are looking for.

The general advice that is usually best is to be genuine in an interview. In other words be yourself. However, that doesn’t mean let your guard done completely, slouch in the chair like you would if you were reading a book at home, and put your feet on the coffee table in front of you. What I mean by this is that the interviewer is trying to read you too. They want to see the person who is going to show up everyday if hired, and that person may not be the person sitting in front of them right now who is nervous, fidgeting and stressed. And because you are generally on your best behaviour and may have been coached to act and answer in a polished and professional way, they may ask additional questions – some unusual in nature – to get you off the rehearsed answers and get you to reveal who you really are.

Like so many things in life, the more you do something, the more you do it well. Interviews are no different. Many folks hate the thought of going for interviews altogether. As a result of these feelings, it’s no wonder they don’t apply for many jobs, and so the ones they do apply for are generally the ones where a great deal is at stake because they want a certain job badly. However, because they’ve had limited interview practice for real, they perform poorly. My advice therefore would be that if you haven’t been to a job interview in a long time and are out of work, get into a few interviews if you can for jobs that are not always with your ideal employer. Consider it practice for the dream interviews upcoming. Practice and learn to read the cues from the interviewer as to what works in your favour.