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Lend Me Your Eyes


My first class at Iowa State University was Speech 110: Listening. I took that because I figured that I could only enhance my experience of being lectured for the next few years if I was a better listener.

The first thing that Dr. Kaufmann taught us is that 90% of listening is non-verbal. It's not what you say - it's how you say it. Conversely, it's also not what you hear, but what you see. Body language provides a context through which we hear more than what is spoken. Is a picture is worth a thousand words? Absolutely.

In her book, Listening: the Forgotten Skill, Madelyn Burley-Allen lists 36 non-verbal behaviors. As you read through this tweaked list, based on what she gave in her book, think of how you interpret it when you see someone else do each behavior in conversation with you.

  • Raising an eyebrow
  • Smiling
  • Nodding the head
  • Sitting forward in the chair
  • Remaining silent
  • Frowning
  • Looking away
  • Rolling eyes
  • Opening and relaxing body posture
  • Touching
  • Being attentive
  • Putting a hand over the mouth
  • Not moving
  • Being restless
  • Nodding the head
  • Looking at the speaker sideways
  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Sighing
  • Squinting eyes
  • Moving backward/withdrawing
  • Yawning
  • Scowling
  • Reaching out
  • Slumping in the chair
  • Folding arms across the chest
  • Tilting the head
  • Narrowing the eyes
  • Arching the neck forward
  • Stretching
  • Pursing the lips
  • Tapping the foot or drumming the fingers
  • Sudden leg or foot movement
  • Shrugging the shoulders
  • Puffing the cheeks
  • Shaking the head
  • Looking downward
Some are positive, some are negative. It doesn't really matter what is said. Each of these communicates volumes by their very act. Often, these are "spoken" without any thought. They're natural body movements, subconsciously responsive.

So think it through... if you have an important point to make, how do you react to these when you see these behaviors? For those that are perceived negatively, how you do move the conversation forward into positive territory?

Now consider how you respond to others through what you communicate with your body. Are you subconsciously killing conversation by showing that you listen poorly?


Tags: listening | relationships
by Brett Rogers, 6/23/2007 7:24:25 PM


Now this is an interesting post. I have been thinking about your listening well posts quite a bit. But really in a sense "listening" is overrated. Isn't observation more important? After all, people often don't say what they think. What people do is a whole lot more important than what they say. So really in a sense your professor was on the right track in my book. You need to observe rather than listen.




Posted by Rush Nigut (, 6/26/2007 11:15:36 PM

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