Author: John Boland
Category: Workplace Ministry, Evangelism Training, Unreached People Groups
MINISTERING THROUGH NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION
How does one minister to people you barley know, between 8 am and 5 pm, so to speak? People you hardly talk to except at the water cooler and lunch, if that? Isn’t it frustrating to look around your workplace? Do most co-workers seem unapproachable and uninterested in things of God? Are they really? How do you know? Is there a way to really read people that well? Do you just see people at work doing their jobs or are you able to read their relationships, moods and situations? Are you a good judge of whether someone is sick, sad, happy, experiencing pain, just lost a family member or are content with life? Can you tell if they attend a church or not? In this latest presentation on workplace evangelism, I make the case that each of us, as committed Christians, in order to be effective ministers within our workplace must be able to read the nonverbal messages sent out by others. How better to minister to people, who you do not know very well, than to read their nonverbal communications? Even God chose to use make nonverbal ways to communicate throughout history in the scriptures[i] Just in Genesis alone, God used trees, the rainbow, and a fig tree to nonverbally transmit information.
On their side of the communication network other people let us know what they really want us to understand. Sometimes, after our conversation, we might perceive it as “hints”. We realize what they were “trying” to tell us. Were they were lying to us? Were they paying attention? Were they really interested in what is being said? We can sense hurt feelings, pain and misunderstood messages. All these and other questions can be answered simply by reading the body language of others and then we can minister more effectively to them based on what we perceive.
Most dictionaries will define verbal communication as the encoding of messages into words, written or spoken. In Genesis 11:7-8, God confounded human speech so we would have a hard time understanding one another anyway. This is why we are having such a hard time communicating verbally. So what can we expect when nonverbal communication is added into the mix? Nonverbal includes anything we don’t write or say. It is said that we communicate in this manner (nonverbally) anywhere between 65[ii] to 92[iii] percent of all our messages. So it is reasonable that we struggle to understand simple verbal and nonverbal messages when they are in combination in our own language, not to mention when these signals do not agree; or when they come across two or more culture and language lines.
God knows that nonverbally we transmit much about our motives because of the seven things which the He hates and considers vile (Proverbs 6:16-19). Four of the things He lists are nonverbal: 1) arrogant eyes [facial expression]; 2) hands that shed innocent blood [actions without words]; 3) a heart that devises wicked schemes [body language expressing motive], and 4) feet that are quick to rush into evil [attitude]. The others are verbal: 5) a lying tongue; 6) a false witness; and 7) and those who stir up conflict.
Nonverbal cues transmit two important facts:
1) How we fell about & toward others, and
2) How they relate to us.
Nonverbal information is transmitted through:
o Transmits: gladness sadness, pain, anger, loss, disinterest, disgust, etc
o Transmits: alertness, caring, flirting, desire, disinterest, lying, etc.
o Transmits: relationships, interest, disinterest, anger, etc.
o Transmits: importance, anger, confrontation level, aggression, trust, etc.)
o This varies from culture to culture so if you interact with co-workers from different cultures know their
nonverbal cue before trying to interpret.
o Transmits: mood, attitude, conduct, relationships, etc.
Vocal tones & sounds
o Transmits: anger, interest, frustration, sarcasm, emotion, etc.
o Transmits: agreement or disagreement, interest, commitment level to a conversation
o Transmits: relationship (attachment level), degree of comfort, aggression level, etc.
o Transmits: importance, respect, relationship, etc.
o Again, this too varies from culture to culture so if you interact with co-workers from different cultures know
their nonverbal cue before trying to interpret.
o Transmits: importance, relationship, status, mood, etc.
As we come to realize that we can read other people we must take stock in the thought that we too transmit information all the time without ever saying a word! If we are to minister within the workplace we must be thoughtful of what we are transmitting when communicating to others. We must become skilled at coordinating our verbal with our nonverbal behavior messages, whether in our own or in another culture. It is easy for us to fail to understand the powerful impact that nonverbal communication has on what others take away from a conversation. These unintended signals can undermine everything we intend to say in our verbal or written messages. A message has meaning only in the context of its original conversation; however, cues or signals are easily open to being misunderstand[iv] reaching far beyond that initial time frame. The one warning we must always live with is this: there is always a danger of misunderstanding that which is not said!