It is amazing how much non-verbal actions can affect us.
In a previous world, I was Human Resource director for my company which means that I conducted a decent number of job interviews. It was amazing to me how quickly new applicants could set the tone of the interview simply by their body language.
I remember one individual in particular who spent the whole interview with his arms folded, sitting back in his chair. He was very monotone and I don’t remember him cracking a single smile.
It was actually a really awkward interview.
The crazy thing was that he was the person I was planning to hire. His resume and skills were exactly what we needed. His answers were spot on and in terms of the interview itself he nailed it.
However, he didn’t get a second interview. He just wasn’t engaging and didn’t appear interested in the position or me as the interviewer.
It was actually pretty sad.
Shortly after this interview, I read a post about the work of Gerard Egan who developed S.O.L.E.R. which is the model of active listening. His theory was that if you physically demonstrated interest and engagement in what others were saying it would increase your ability to actively listen.
Egan believed that you showed actively listening through the acronym SOLAR:
- S – Square: Face People Squarely
- This shows that you are involved in the conversation
- O – Open: Keep an open posture
- When you fold your arms or cross your legs you are naturally disengaging with people.
- L – Lean: Lean into the person you are speaking to
- When you lean towards someone it shows you involvement and helps them feel included in the conversation.
- E – Eye Contact: Use solid eye contact
- Constant eye contact shows you are engaged in what they are saying and paying attention to them rather than surrounding events.
- R – Relax: Stay relaxed regardless of the tone of the conversation
- Avoid fidgeting and showing anxiety when speaking with others
The SOLER concept is very simple and yet super effectively.
I know that when I’m speaking with people and they are showing these behavioral traits they are interested in what I have to say. The conversation instantly goes up a notch.
Here is the issue though, it is really hard to always do each of these forms of non-verbal conversation.
I find myself constantly crossing my arms when speaking with people. I constantly lean back, particularly when seated. I’m also very easily distracted and don’t always remember to look people in the eye.
I really want to be a better communicator and become better at actively listening. So what I decided to do was work on one part of the SOLAR communication theory at a time.
In my opinion, making solid eye contact is the most important component of the Solar communication theory. This week as I’ve talked to people, I’ve been focusing on making eye contact.
It is funny how much of an impact this one little change has had for me.
I feel like my listening skills really have increased and that I’m more engaged in the conversations I have. It really is kind of cool how such a small change can have a big impact.
If you are struggling with your communication skills, I really encourage you to give the SOLER theory a try. I think like me, you’ll find that if you make a conscious effect to appear engaged in a conversation you’ll find yourself automatically become more engaged in the conversation.
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