“There were rumors of downsizing in our company but my supervisor told me my job was safe. Of course I believed her, I trusted her and besides, I wanted to believe her. Then one day she wouldn’t make eye contact with me. Then I heard about a meeting, after the fact, that I usually was a part of. I thought it was strange at the time, but I kept hearing my supervisor’s words in my head, “You have nothing to worry about.”
This story has been shared with me by numerous clients over the years. Sure enough, within days, the employee is terminated. You can almost take the lowered head, no eye contact to the bank as a sure sign you are soon to be let go.
How can someone be so wrong? Didn’t they see the signs you ask? We communicate three different ways; with words, tone and body language. Words account for 7% of much communication, tone accounts for 38%, and body language, the most underused and under trusted method, accounts for a whopping 55%.
I digress, let me tell you a truism. If your supervisor tells you your job is safe and there are rumblings of change in your company, get your resume tuned up. They are not lying per se, they just don’t know. Now managers, directors, VP’s, they may know, supervisors are usually the last to be informed. I am not a fear monger I am telling you how it often is.
So what’s my point? Read peoples’ body language if you reaaaaly want to know what is being said. Then listen to the tone of their voice, then maybe consider what they have told you….”the check is in the mail.” And this is why it is so important to communicate in person whenever you can. Voice mail at least entails 45% of a message, but email, yikes, with no body language and no tone, all you have is some hackneyed memo with spelling mistakes and no punctuation telling you they are not upset or don’t care if you can’t make the event because you are getting a perm.
When a friendly, self professed team player type supervisor goes from “how’s it going Joe?” to not looking you in the eye and ignoring your requests for another assignment, know that changes are in the wind. Change is not always a bad thing but it is change all the same. The status quo is no longer the way you’ve known it to be. That is ok, but be prepared.
One’s face can easily belie one’s thoughts If you notice the inconsistency, ask the person about it. “You look like this is *&^% to you, but you say you don’t care. What’s going on with you? Talk to me.” At which point, a discussion might ensue that could uncover a whole new outlook, a conflict, truism, or a bright idea.
Slow down when you are speaking and look around you. Look into peoples’ eyes, are they clear or squinty? Look at their brow, is it furrowed or relaxed? Where are their hands? If on the hips, look out, here comes a disagreement. Crossed arms over the chest does not necessarily mean someone is not open to your comments or that they don’t like what you are saying, it might just be a comfy place to hang their arms, for now. If quick, sharp movements are made, it is more than likely that body language is at work. Slow movement is often just moving around.
Not making eye contact screams negativity when it might be shyness. When you are unsure whether someone is using body language to communicate, take into account the tone and verbiage as well to help you make a proper assessment.
When people lean into you they are interested, when they slouch back, they’re not. When they return phone calls they are interested, when they don’t, they aren’t. Start being more aware, you’ll be surprised what you’ll uncover. How do you think fortune tellers get it right?
Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer
Author of Networking How To Build Relationships That Count and How To Get a Job and Keep It