Speaking a different language

Every day we speak to many people. It may be at work, home, picking the children up from school or at the local shop, but we will have a conversation however brief. But how much are we getting from this interaction beyond the words that are spoken? Can we spot body language that is telling us much more?

This week, I had a couple of occasions when I found some body language shouting at me. The shocking thing was that many other people just hadn’t noticed it or had chosen to switch off to what was obvious.

In the most significant situation I met a work colleague in the canteen one lunchtime. I hadn’t seen him for a long time as we don’t work directly together. It was one of those brief lunch meetings. Most of the time it is a brief exchange ‘how are you’, ‘ok’, ‘and you?’, ‘not bad’, and then we would go our separate ways. But it was clear that something wasn’t quite right. I exchanged the usual pleasantries and then decided to have a further conversation. What was clear was this was a person in crisis and in need of help?

What did I do? Well, nothing really I just listened. That was probably the one thing that they wanted but hadn’t had. Giving him a chance to just talk without me judging, advising or giving my opinion was an important opportunity. It wasn’t much but I wondered why no-one else had spotted this person in crisis. I wondered what his colleagues were seeing and why they hadn’t helped.

Communication is an important thing. It is fundamental to everyday life and is also one of the things we take for granted. But this is not just about the things we say there is so much more being said through our body language.

Would you be able to spot a colleague in crisis and in need of help? If you did what would you do?

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