Blunderment: Where Wonder Meets Blunder

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September 22, 2014
Author: Dr.

In a world where communication comes to us from a hundred different tributaries, and with every one of them shrieking for our attention and input, we seldom think of the stronger rule of communication – What is not said is often far more powerful than what is said.

While writing may be a solitary act, speaking and engaging are a dual-strand process; two languages going on simultaneously. These strands form communication DNA and are made up of verbal sentence structures and non-verbal emphasis. Blunders in the non-verbal world can undo every pretty word one has to say and tells far more about a person to an interviewer or client than does the slickest PR.

Avoid “Blunderment” – A combination of “wonderment” and blundering reaction can cause an interviewer or client to call the meeting to the end. This occurs especially in interviews and covers a multitude of facial expressions. These include eye rolling, tilting the head backwards or forward, or brushing one’s hand across an eyebrow or forehead. Mouth shaping; either a thin line or a round “Oh” signals two different problems. Nose scratching conveys a separate frantic response, as do wide or narrowed eyes.

Remember, we are civilized but at the same point – non-verbal sight cuing is a language of power and dominance and is inherent in our very core. Hostility or pleasure are generated far more by non-verbal communication than by verbal “assurances” and a skilled interviewer or sales executive will know how to read the non-verbal text.

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Let us take a look at “Blunderment” – that sense of wonder that signals approval or disapproval without a word being spoken:

Eye rolling – This seems obvious but even a slight roll or jerk betrays annoyance or disapproval and is easily seen. Make your eyes look straight ahead, staying focused on the interviewer or the client and moving slightly up and down to demonstrate your focus on that person. Narrowed eyes signal distrust, wide eyes signal gullibility. Eyes must always remain natural.

Head-tilting. No, you can’t sit like a manikin, but tilting your head backwards looks as if you are trying to get away or doubt what you heard. Tilting your head forward (what we call the “over the glasses” look) has a parental message of disapproval or ensuing punishment. Both generate distance or hostility.

If you need to move your head, turn it sideways slightly, making note of the office as if preparing to compliment a picture or a fishing trophy. Slight movements this way will be appreciated as it will be perceived that you are “taking in the corporate culture” of the office space, as well as recognizing personal traits (an avid fisherman or golfer or photographer) of the person with whom you are speaking.

Brushing/stroking your face. Avoid this. If an itch on the nose is unavoidable, just give it one good scratch and carry on. Running your hand across your forehead or scratching it signals stress; rubbing your eyes signals tiredness, excessive hands-to-face movement signals a lack of attention (or hygiene).

The mouth says it all without saying a word. A tight lipped, bloodless smile or straight line says “I’m unhappy with what I just heard” A mouth that shapes itself into an “o” or when the cheeks are drawn in signals confusion and indicates that you “can’t move with quick change or problem solving.”

The non-verbal rule? Natural is the key word. Attentiveness is not in a poker face but in your most natural sense of self. If you hear something you don’t like, file it away and address it later when you’re alone, making all of the facial expressions you wish.

Avoiding “Blunderment” is a balance between a “poker face” (too severe and robotic to be effective in mutual benefice communication), and your natural ease of self. The smile you give your puppy or kitty at the door when you get home is the smile you should give your interviewer or client.

There are many more non-verbal cues that engage most of our body. Keep in mind that if you think the Oxford English Dictionary is huge – the non-verbal catalogue is every bit as big and its etymology – (origins), can make or break a deal. Your non-verbal sight clues are powerful.

Non-verbal language ismind reading and it says much more than the softest phrase ever written.


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