I’m Going to Need You to Move Your Face
Amanda Box here, your personal communication evangelist.
For the past couple of years, I’ve worked with a civilian branch of the army. Basically, it’s my job to train their trainers. Bless, their hearts, they have an uphill battle. The procedures, processes, and depth of information required for the job are maze-inspired with more than a few landmine gray areas. We spend three days together, laying the foundation for how people learn, working on the fundamentals of communication, and putting together a group presentation that takes place on day three. Basically it’s my challenge to teach trainers how not to be boring. Yes, apparently that’s a job. Now that I think about it, that’s always been my job.
There is a huge disconnect between how people learn and what trainers generally do. The first challenge is the tendency for trainers to deal with content only, rather than a balance of information and emotion/engagement. To some degree, I think this is just some tired leftover of what people think a teacher is supposed to do. This presents a large and immediate snooze problem. Essentially, if you can’t keep the attention of a group, it doesn’t matter how much you know. A group simply can’t listen to you if you are only presenting facts. I’m reminded of Professor Cuthbert Binns who was infamous for being one of the most boring professors at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from the Harry Potter series. He taught until a very old age, then died in his sleep in the staff room. Reportedly, his teaching style was so boring that, after he died, he continued teaching and no one noticed he was dead. If people only need the information, then send them the book and skip the boring training.
The second challenge is nonverbal. I find that people know what they should do; they just don’t do it. This is why I use video to record, review, and coach. I can coach until my throat is raw; I can write until my hand falls off. But when people watch a video, they can see themselves a great deal more objectively. In a sense, they can see what I see and are far more convinced to make adjustments.
I spend a lot of time telling this group, many of whom are post-military, “I’m going to need you to move your face.” This cracks me up. Really? Do I get paid to tell people to move their face? Yes, I do. While the military is specifically trained to be more robotic than most, I have to say this to 90% of my male clients. The most common instruction for my female clients is, “Talk louder.” Is the non-moving face thing intentional? No, people just aren’t self-aware and don’t understand the significant difference this will make when trying to connect with another person. Since nonverbal communication is 65-90% of all communication, your body is a critical part of your message. The more sincerely demonstrative you are, the more effective you will be. People respond to emotion, inflection, intensity, activity, diversity … not information alone. I find my job is very similar to a baseball or basketball coach. Effective communication is largely a physical skill, hence the 65-90% rule. So just like a ball coach is changing the way an athlete’s body works during a specific play, I change the way a client’s body works during conversation, an interview, or presentation. I might be the only person in someone’s life who is telling them the truth. “You are being judged very harshly because you don’t move your face.” It’s not fair; it’s just true.
The public arena principles are the same for all conversations and are even more critical during tense conversations and conflicts. In fact, no matter what the coaching point is, I’m constantly telling my client to practice it in everyday conversation in order to form a habit. The point is, as a communicator, what you know to be effective and what you actually do, may very well be two different things. This disconnect is damaging our attempts to deal with complex issues and a changing culture, and certainly our attempts to deal with each other in our beloved churches. My heart is truly broken at our inability to talk to each other.
Are the two things I wrote about your issues? Until I hear you talk for a few minutes I can’t know. I can, however, guarantee that it’s impossible to be objective about your own communication. I can also guarantee that your success as a communicator will determine your success in every other area of your life. So find out. Don’t guess. Tom Brady has a throwing coach. John Grisham has an editor. Lauren Daigle has a voice coach. Warren Buffet has financial advisors. My prayer for all of us is that we have the deep desire to be the person God wants us to be and the humility to get the help that he provides through a coach, a mentor, or even an honest friend.