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The subject of body language keeps popping up in my life of late. As a result, I have spent some time dwelling on the connection between body language and the work place. Personally and professionally, we often hear the words, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” This statement has more to do with quick judgments made on physical appearances than body language. Reading someone’s body language goes well beyond the first impression. Therefore, is there a career advantage for individuals that can “read” people? Are actions really louder than words?
Let me share an example from my life. When my father was three days old, it was discovered that he was deaf. My grandmother, not wanting her child to be different, refused to allow him to go to a school for the deaf or to learn to use sign language. Instead, she taught him to read lips and subsequently how to speak clearly so that he could go to public school. My father continues his public education and in high school becomes part of the football team because of his ability to read the opposing team. He then completes his public education and goes on to college to receive his BS and MBA. While working on his education, my father partners with his father in an established auto parts store. After sometime, my father opens his own parts house. When my father retired, several of the vendors and customers he had worked with over the years, were startled to find out that my father is deaf. They had only just now learned of this news when I shared his life story. I wondered how this could be. Then it dawned on me. What others would consider a handicap was a super power for my father. Because he was not allowed to be different and one of his senses was missing from his personal-interaction toolbox, he just developed a new one. My father had the benefit of not being able to hear what someone was telling him and therefore “listening” to what their body language was saying instead. No wonder my father has enjoyed a life of success and popularity. My dad is a motivational listener. He actually “listens” to people….to what they are really telling him.
So ask yourself again, do individuals that can “read” others have a career advantage? Do actions really speak louder than words? I have to believe so from my father’s personal experience. Therefore, I have spent time in my life honing in my “other listening” skills. I took a lesson from my father; I turn off my ears for a moment and “listened” with my eyes when engaging with others. Sometimes, I find myself “listening” too much with my eyes and not enough with my ears, so I shut my eyes. If you want to sharpen one of your senses, then take one of the other senses away and force yourself to adapt.