Friday, 19 August 2016

Does my body language matter when I share the Gospel?

The way that we communicate and interact on a one to one basis is very important. Recent discoveries in communication tell us that the words that we use are very important.  Even more than that, the tonality that we use when we speak and the way that we utilise our body language can have a dramatic effect on the people we are speaking with.

Whether we like it or not, people make assumptions about us according to the way that we behave. Our body language is simply a range of signals that we give off that relate to how we think or feel about something. It is nonverbal communication, where our thoughts, intentions, or feelings are communicated and expressed by physical behaviours such as our facial expressions, body posture, gestures, eye movement, touch and the use of space or proximity. We all give off body language signs without realising it most of the time. Very often we are also unaware that below conscious levels we are constantly reading the signals that people give while we are communicating with them.

The scripture below is a very interesting one, as well as being one of my very favourites.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone”. Colossians 4: 5-6 NIV

Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. Colossians 4: 5-6 Message. 

This scripture can be interpreted in a number of ways.  I am going to look at it on the basis of witnessing for Christ.  Especially when you consider the fact that it is something that Jesus commanded each one of us to do.

Other findings from communication studies have produced facts that have become widely known.  Understanding this information will certainly improve the way that we interact with others.

The first area is that of congruence.  When someone is using communication that is congruent, it basically means that while they are talking on a face to face basis, the words they are using, their tone of voice and their body language are all in harmony or agreement.  In other words, they are all saying the same thing.

A simple example would be to ask you to imagine me not being congruent while telling my wife Desiree that I love her.  If while saying “I really love you”, I used a tone of voice that demonstrated I was unsure, I didn’t make direct eye contact and shook my head from side to side at the same time it would be obvious that my communication was certainly not congruent.

It is essential then that we do our best to ensure that when we share the gospel with an individual or a group of people, that we make sure that our communication is congruent. When we are intentional about what we say as we witness and rely on the Holy Spirit to help us it means our effectiveness is sharpened.

A good question to ask ourselves is, “When I share the Gospel, do I really sound like I believe what I am saying and does my body language also demonstrate that belief”?  This is very important when we understand how people take in and comprehend what we are saying.

When we share the gospel with somebody, especially scripture, we need to stand on the word of God that says, For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” Hebrews 4: 12

Key Point: The word of God is powerful, and we should expect something positive to happen when we share it

Experience has shown me that it will be even more powerful if we look and sound like we believe it in our interactions.

When we talk to people on a face to face basis, we know from research that people form an understanding of what we are saying in the following ways:

Words: only 7% on what we say is comprehended from the words are we use in conversation.  This may surprise you but the facts are now well known.

Tonality: this area accounts for 38% of our comprehension. The way that we sound when we speak really does make a huge difference.

Body language: is by far the largest area because 55% of our understanding is through our reading of it.  The way we stand, the way that we use our arm and hand gestures as well as the expressions on our faces when we speak can have an enormous impact when we share the gospel message.

Think about it for a moment. That means that 93% of a conversation isn’t really understood by the words we are using.  You’ve probably heard the saying, “It’s not what you say, but it’s the way that you say it”.

In my communication classes, I explain that we are all experts on the understanding of the tonality of a person’s voice, or by reading body language.  Many of us don’t realise that we are able to do this, so I will give you a few common examples.

To read a person’s tonality we don’t always need to be face to face.  I’m pretty certain that at one time you have telephoned somebody close to you, and when they answered your call, the sound of their voice made you ask the question, “Are you OK”?

If I was to come home from work to find my wife standing in our entrance hall in a particular way, I may instantly say without even thinking about it, “What’s the matter”?  Or, if a salesperson was trying to sell me a product or service without making direct eye contact with me, I would immediately detect that something was wrong and start to become suspicious.  We all do this, every one of us, every time we communicate with people.  So it would be na├»ve of us to think that people don’t read us as we speak to them.

I am only touching on this because it really is a huge subject.  I will go through different aspects of this in more detail in future blogs.

How do you think that people read you when you speak to them?  When you’re speaking, is what you’re saying congruent or are you producing a mixed message that creates confusion?

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