Were you ever in a situation where you sat in a meeting, and your colleague or manager said something quite inappropriate or insensitive, and you thought to yourself, "did this person not read the room before they said such?"
Sometimes, these situations spring up when a person fails to "read the room". What do I mean by this? It is someone's inability to understand the general feeling or emotion in the room. Think of it this way - people have gathered at someone's house to pay their last respects upon hearing that the person has lost a loved one. One would assume that cracking a joke about death, in that moment, wouldn't be the most appropriate thing to do (unless everyone is into dark jokes).
Not everyone has the ability to understand non-verbal behaviour (body language). This can really destroy communication between colleagues, partners, family and friends. That is why it's important to understand the three levels of communication: vocal, voice inflection and non-verbal behaviour.
38% of what we communicate is based on voice inflections; 55% of what we communicate is based on non-verbal behaviours; and 7% of what we communicate is based on vocabulary.
Voice inflections are based on the tone, speed, volume and the emotion in which something is said. I would much prefer someone sending me a voicenote via text, than typed out words - I often misunderstand how a person is saying something over text, because I am unsure of their tone. The tone determines how one receives what is being communicated.
Vocabulary messages consist of the actual words we use to communicate with others, and surprisingly enough this is what we focus on the least when it comes to communication, and that's because a bulk of our focus is on the non-verbal behaviours - the body language.
Body language is key. Take a look at the image below. Without her even saying a word, what do you think her body language is telling you?
With her arms being crossed, one would think that she is closed off, defensive or unapproachable. Since she isn't smiling, one would think that she isn't welcoming or kind. If she started to smile, no matter what she may be communicating, you would probably be more receptive to what she is saying. Body language definitely influences communication the most.
So, if you have reached this point in the article and you're thinking to yourself that all three levels of communication are something that you master, I would like to ask you to reconsider that. While the above info may seem like something we all should know, we don't always have a good way of putting into practice what is already stored in our minds. We often miss the mark.
Watch my short video below and get to know some of my personal tips on how to "read the room":
Resources to help you learn how to 'read the room':
Eliminating microaggression (video)