What is the significance of physicality in communication?

In the modern world of business a lot of communication is indirect. We spend much of our time with e-mails, letters and the semi-direct device that is the phone. All of these methods are of course important and, well utilised, can have a very positive effect on your productivity. However there is not and never will be a substitute for face-to-face communication. No matter how much ground work you lay digitally a big deal is almost always sealed face-to-face. As human beings the higher the stakes the more we need to actually look someone in the eye.

Why is that?

Human beings, for all our intelligence and information retention talents, are still animals. Our capacity for sophisticated linguistic discourse is, on the evolutionary scale, relatively recent. For thousands of years before our lexicons grew to tens of thousands of words in dozens of languages we managed to communicate quite effectively. How did we do it and more importantly why do we seem to have forgotten that which we did effortlessly for millennia?


Or to be more specific: the ability to communicate and interpret ideas and behaviour through the understanding of body language. It doesn’t require a lecture from Albert Mehrabian to realise that we pick up on, analyse and respond to body language all the time. In social situations most people have at least a reasonably developed sense of how much someone is interested in them from their body language. Teenagers devote considerable effort on trying to interpret the desires of potential partners from physical behaviour. Even very small children quickly learn to process a threat or a friendly gesture from body language alone.

Why is it then that so many of us forget these fundamental lessons as soon as we get to our desk in the morning?

Learning to harness your own natural ability to identify, understand and respond to physical cues from others is a profoundly helpful skill. Reading the clues from an unhappy customer or colleague can allow you the chance to make really good problem-solving decisions. Understanding the physical responses from a managing director to a pitch you’re making can help you nail your presentation. Recognising the feelings of a colleague or staff member based purely on their physical attitude can make you a better leader.

The most important part about understanding physicality is that you already know how to do it. It’s just that, like so many childhood communication skills, you have forgotten that you know. It’s so easy to be lulled into believing that all you need to communicate is the right electronic device. But you can re-learn this skill of understanding physicality any time you want. My workshop is designed to help you to rediscover those skills that are already there. Come to one of my public events or call me direct today to find out more about how you can improve your physicality.

Then maybe you’ll remember why it’s so important to look someone in the eye!