Two weeks ago I delivered a keynote address to a group of CFO’s titled “Eyes of a Leader” and we talked about the importance of non-verbal communication. Researchers say that 93% of communication is communicated non-verbally: facial expression, body language, tone of voice and gestures. We decided to do some improvisation where we had a CFO trying to make a sale to a potential client and we would focus not on the words but what was being communicated non-verbally. In the skit, I played the CFO salesperson while an actual CFO played the client. Here are some of the observations regarding improvisational skit.
First, when we performed our skit we put barriers up immediately. The CFO acting with me in the skit crossed his arms and I naturally crossed my arms as well. I was reacting off of him and my natural reaction was to meet his barrier with a barrier. I also crossed my legs as we were talking which allowed me to have a second barrier up as we were improvising. These physical barriers had a direct impact on our relationship and our inability to connect.
Second, my feet were pointed to the door. As I was sitting in the chair with my legs crossed my feet were pointed toward the door. Researchers of nonverbal communication have made the point when one’s feet are pointed to the door they are ready for the conversation to end. Sure enough, I was ready for this conversation to end in that I was uncomfortable and nervous.
Third, I was leaning back in my chair throughout our discussion. This is yet another sign that I was disconnected to the person I was talking too in the skit. When we are engaged and interested in a conversation we tend to lean forward and open up our body language. Conversely, I was disengaged and disinterested in this improvisation and my body language backed this up.
The skit lasted a total of 90 seconds and during this time period I never felt connected to my partner. I read an article recently where it said that we can be inauthentic with our words, however, we can’t fake our body language. My body language included barriers, feet pointed toward the door and leaning back in the chair which all spelled disinterested, nervous and wanting to end this conversation. In reality, this is exactly what I was thinking and feeling in our skit.
When we finished the skit I asked the CFO’s a simple question; if 93% of our communication is communicated non-verbally why don’t we focus on it? I looked out at them and they looked at me and we all had a confused look on our face. I went on to say we have it backwards in that our focus is on the 7% when it should be on the 93%.