Wordless (But Deadly) Communication

I was recently in a restaurant with a buffet-style, all-you-can-eat salad bar. I’d never been there before and did not know the serving procedure. I was happily helping myself to some Caesar salad out of a large metal bowl when a 20-something server suddenly appeared in front of me. With a stern, disapproving look, she whisked the bowl from me and the large spoon poised in my hand. Banging and clanging the bowl, she angrily dumped the salad in its proper serving tray nearby.

The message was clear: I was an idiot. I should know that the salad is served out of the tray on the side. How dare I help myself to what was in the mixing bowl?!?

I felt humiliated. And angry at myself. I wanted to yell at the server that she was insufferably rude. At the very least, I wanted to report her to her boss. My daughter, who was with me and was more than familiar with the look on my face and what it meant, kept whispering anxiously, “Don’t make a scene Mom. Please don’t make a scene.”

Deep breaths. Deep breaths. I took more than a few as I wound my way down the rest of the salad bar. I was fuming. I heard my daughter’s words, but they weren’t registering with me. I was really ticked off.

In the 1960’s, UCLA Professor Albert Mehrabian studied communications effectiveness. He came up with this now-classic finding:

· What we say expresses 7% of our meaning.

· How we say it communicates 38% of our meaning

· And our face and body language express 55%!

The 55% is what I experienced when that server showed me her disapproval. This is the wordless – but deadly – communication that causes problems every single day in the workplace and in the world at large.

We are shocked and appalled when we read news articles about young children who are so ostracized in school that their solution is to shoot and kill their classmates. “How terrible,” we cluck, “children can be so mean.” Children learn that meanness from us. They hear us gossip around the dinner table about our co-workers. They listen as we say things like, “I showed her. The next time she tried to talk to me, I simply gave her a look and turned my back. Believe me, she got the message!”

Every day, in our workplaces we shun and punish each other without saying a word. Not only is this no different than children who are mean to each other, it is worse! We are adults and we are supposed to be able to handle things in a mature way.

Dr. Wayne Dyer teaches that acts of kindness go a long way to improve the world. When you extend yourself to act kindly, it impacts you in a positive way. It also positively affects the person who receives your kindness.

No surprises there. What IS surprising is recent research that shows this one act of kindness also positively impacts anyone who observes it! What an incredible ripple effect.

However, don’t be nice to others because it will make THEM feel good. Be nice because it will make YOU feel good. The rest of it will take care of itself. You have a positive impact on the larger world around you just by making yourself feel good.

The Law of Attraction says you attract more of what you focus on. The more you focus on and wordlessly communicate to others that they are idiots, the worse you feel and the more idiots you draw to you. I hate to be obvious here, but doesn’t that make YOU the idiot?

It is annoying, but true. When you point a finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you. So, before you judge those mean kids who drive others to murder, make sure you’re not sniping wordlessly at the people around you.

By the way, I didn’t report the server. It wouldn’t have made me feel good to do so and I’m selfish about feeling good.

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