We all know the expression, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
However, I used to operate on the assumption that verbal communication (the specific content of words and speech) was often more impacting than nonverbal. In other words, I thought, “I’ll believe it when I hear it.”
I now have a better understanding that we believe what we see, as the saying goes. There are good reasons to say “I believe what I see” rather than “I believe what I hear.”
A recent life experience helped “open my eyes” to this. I was sitting next to a friend who happens to share the same first name as mine. Another person in the room looked at him and said his name.
If that person had looked at me, I would have expressed that the person said my name. If that person had looked at neither of us, we would have simply been confused. However, what happened next did make us both confused.
Instead of looking at my friend, saying his first name, and letting us assume (correctly) that he was referring to my friend rather than me; this person tried to specify the person to whom he was referring by mentioning the last name.
The problem is that he used my last name on accident.
He was looking at my friend, but he used my last name to specify which one of us he was addressing.
At that instant I knew he was referring to my friend and that he simply slipped on the last name. Simple mistakes like that happen to the best of them, especially when someone has a lot on his mind.
The lesson I learned was that I believed what I saw. I did not believe what I heard. I actively doubted it. Sure, I was confused for a brief moment until the person cleared up the misunderstanding and we all simply smiled about it and moved on. But even in the midst of the confusion, my mind believed the sincerity of that person’s nonverbal communication — his expression and his eye contact with my friend.
Take notice of your nonverbal communication. Others are noticing, whether consciously or subconsciously. People believe what they see more than what they hear. We have all heard this demonstrated by various theories and studies of communication. My experience is just one example.
You will be a more effective communicator if you make your nonverbal messages consistent with your verbal. We often think the most about the words we will use in communication, but we should spend as much time on the tone we will set through body language and nonverbal cues.