More than words
People who are travelling are open to discover new places and communities and are open for new experiences. But what if you’re abroad in a country where they don’t speak your language? We start using our hands and feet to book an excursion, buy a ticket or reserve a table for dinner in the restaurant. Because at the end, we can communicate via much more ways than only using words.
There are quite some different languages. We talk about the language of love, og sign, of our body, about spoken and written languages. Via all these different languages we are able to communicate with each other. Often our words doesn’t stand on its own. When we are talking to a colleague, we use words to express ourselves, but body language and context play a role as well. When you are saying something very enthusiastic, the other perceives the message differently compared to when you’re sitting laid back in your chair. Having a talk with your colleague in the canteen is different from a talk with your director. The contact can influence the way of communicating.
Without language there is no interaction. A reaction cannot take place without language, no matter in which form: using your hands and feet, sending a text message or having a face to face talk. The sender does expect a reaction from the receiver. This can be a message back, a feeling that arises at the receiver or an action taken by the receiver. A red traffic light would expect that the receiver will stop. A green traffic light will expect the receiver will drive through.
The influence of language to others
The way language is being used does influence others. Are you happy when your manager looks all the time busy and doesn’t have time for you? What if you’re talking at home with your partner about a bad day at work, but he or she seems to be somewhere else, not listening? How does it feel? You would feel being useless, not being understood. But it can work out positively as well. How does it feel when you’re coming back home after a busy day at work and your partner bought a beautiful bouquet for you? Or how does it feel when you receive a postcard from your friend, just because he or she was thinking about you? Or what if your manager invites you for a cup of coffee, just for a small talk? You’ll get a positive feeling, a feeling that you’re useful and that you do matter.
The influence of language to yourself
The sender does influence the receiver by the way how language is being used. But language can influence the sender itself as well, according to Amy Cuddy. When you see the Ted Talk you’ll get that body language does not only influence others, but influences ourselves as well. There is a correlation between the way how you use your body and the level of testosterone and cortisol in our brain. When you make yourself big, you’ll become more certain about yourself and the situation. And the other way around: when you make yourself small, you’ll feel less confident.
The universal language
Body language seems to be universal, but this is not the case. In one country raising your thumb is something good, while in other countries this doesn’t have to be the same. Looking in someone’s eyes during a conversation is well perceived in some countries, while in others it’s perceived as disrespectful. Word, symbols and body language can be interpreted in different ways. However, we do have one world language that we all know very well: the language of pictures. In his Ted Talk, Christoph Nieman explains that wherever you are, pictures are being read the same. The picture itself doesn’t have to tell us everything. We add the missing elements ourselves, based on our interaction with the picture and the questions we raise. This is how the dialogue starts.
Interaction and communication without words
How often did you receive a text message or email that was received differently compared to how it was meant? How often did you proof that you don’t have to speak the same language to communicate with each other? What is the value of the written and spoken word if our universal language is based on pictures? Do we need to start communicating in pictures from now on instead of the written and spoken word? No. Frida Steurs wrote in her book ‘Language is business’ about the economic value of the written and spoken word. With this skill, we are able to describe and transfer very complex processes. And to develop and share knowledge we need the written and spoken word as well.
But instead of only focusing on these ways of language I propose to start looking at the other languages and start to apply this in our interactions. Do you want to learn more about interaction? Join our Velites Online Leadership Program.