We don’t always realize the message we’re sending to others, and often, it’s not the message we intend to send. Did you know that 93 percent of a message someone receives is from everything other than the actual words? Your facial expression (or lack thereof), tone of voice, pitch, volume, physical stance, eye movement, sighs and other noises are communicating much more loudly than the words you are saying. And even with our words, it’s tough to convey the intended meaning because everyone has different associations with words.
I remember driving with my then 9 year-old daughter when she asked me what was wrong. I said “nothing, why?” She said “you look mad.” So I froze my face and took a look in the mirror. Whoa, scary! I did look mad - and mean. I had been deep in thought, pondering something, but I wasn’t mad.
The fact is, most people are not going to ask you what’s wrong or what you really mean. They are going to make assumptions based on your nonverbals, and your words - you are unapproachable (or rude, or a jerk or worse!). People make assumptions so quickly, most don’t even realize they’ve done it. And then consequently, they react to what they think that person has said, or thought, or is feeling. No wonder there are so many miscommunications!
If you sense your demeanor might be scaring people away and communicating the wrong message, here are a few things you can do:
Start paying attention to the words you use, the facial expressions you make, and the tone of voice you use.
Make sure you are aligning your intent (what you really want to communicate), with the message you are sending.
Ask someone you trust who sees you in action if there’s anything they notice that you should start doing, stop doing, or continue doing.