Avoid ‘connection fail’ by ditching the botox
It is a well-worn fact that most of us know already: 93% of communication has nothing to do with what we say, rather how we say it. Only 7% of the impact of communication is related to the actual ‘content’. The rest is about body language, tone of voice and emotions.
Bodily sensations influence emotional response
Imagine for a second that we could remove some of the ‘unspoken’ stuff. What kind of impact would that have on our ability to communicate in a social or business setting? What would that mean for our success and wellbeing? There is growing research that bodily sensation strongly influences our emotional response to particular situations.
A Botox face is hard to read
In a recent experiment the facial expressions of a group were recorded as they read a series of short statements ranging from happy to angry. In the first experiment their facial reactions where clear to see and we could understand from each expression which emotional response they were having to each story. Prior to the second experiment the group received a series of botox injections. This time it was much harder to read the emotions of the group and how they were reacting to the happy, sad or angry stories. We vastly underestimate how our physical responses and actions convey our emotions to those around us. It is likely we do this because we can’t see our physical selves as we communicate with others – unless we do it in a mirror or are video-recorded.
Social understanding from reading others
Every day in developed and socially driven societies most of us interact with a multitude of other humans. From our waking moment we are in a cycle of social connection. Some of it with strangers, some of it intimate. Some of it conscious, some of it conducted with a complete lack of awareness. All this time, day after day, we are giving off – and receiving – social understanding from how we are communicating. Much of this communication is down to our emotions. As is clear from the botox experiment, much of our emotion is driven from our physiological responses.
The physical dimension of emotion
There has been a range of research experiments over the last two decades around this idea of physically driven expression of emotion. However, if you just take a moment to think about it you know it yourself. When you are angry how does it feel? What does it do to your body and how is this radiating to others? The same applies for happiness, sadness, anxiety and euphoria. We know in our hearts how it feels, how we respond and importantly how others react to us.
When we feel cold we are cold
Research does reveal some extraordinary results that are worth thinking about. In one experiment those who experienced social exclusion estimated the room temperature to be colder than its actual. In other words, emotional coldness was equated with physical coldness. Conversely those engaged in conversation whilst holding a warm coffee were received as radiating warmer emotions (such as care and generosity) than those holding an iced coffee.
Fancy a smile? Follow the monkeys
It seems therefore that when we adopt specific movements, gestures or take specific actions we tend to experience the associated emotions. Smiling makes us happy; frowning makes us sad and so on. In the context of social intelligence this means that smiling makes us seem happy to others and frowning makes us seem sad, irrespective of how we are actually feeling ourselves. So, like in apes, physical gestures and facial expressions form a huge part of how we communicate.
Your own emotional ‘range’?
Consider your natural style. Do those around you perceive you as a positive or negative person? If you dig deep you know who you are. How is your body language affecting your relationships and connections with others? Learn how to be aware of the subtler emotional cues you are giving off – even when you buy your morning coffee. Conduct some of your own experiments. Try smiling a lot more one day and frowning more the next. See how those around you respond.
Harness dual awareness
This is a very difficult skill to master. Self-awareness is one thing but dual awareness (knowledge of both the self and the response of those around you) is a much tougher gig. However, it is tried and tested and it works. Stage actors and performers use it all the time. This is why they can make you laugh, make you cry and deal you a defining experience – often all in under an hour from a standing start.
Forget the botox. Connect with your inner ape and thespian. Wouldn’t you like to make your friends and colleagues smile more every day?