Communication is so much more than words

August 18, 2008

I’ll admit it. I’m sort of addicted to the Olympics — but not for the reasons you’d expect. Sure, it’s always impressive to see what the human body can do. It can be fun to get into the spirit of the competition. But the thing that fascinates me is watching the faces of the athletes.

Sitting on my couch at home, all I can HEAR is the commentators. But when I pay attention to the faces of the athletes, they communicate so much more! For example, think about the parade of nations during that opening ceremony. Some of the athletes were clearly thrilled to participate in such a huge spectacle — big gleaming smiles. Some of them were nervous or perhaps a little overwhelmed — wide, searching eyes. Some of them felt the honor and the pageantry of the ceremony — serious expressions, just a hint of pride.

Forget the language barrier. They don’t have to speak. It’s all there, in their expressions and mannerisms.

And it got me thinking that this might be a useful practice for managers and leaders. Next time you’re sitting in a meeting, take a look around. Watch people. I mean, don’t stare, of course. But watch. If you tune in to the subtle (and not-so-subtle) hints that humans drop with their facial expressions, you might learn valuable secrets that will help you become a better leader.