It’s only in recent years that I have come to realize just how much physical space I take up – and therefore, how I must come across to people. I am quite a big person, standing 6’4” (193cm) and weighing 230 lbs (104kg). In addition, my first reaction when I am engaging in stimulating conversation is to become animated and to shape my words with my hands and my body.
And since many cultures around the world are extremely put off by boisterous movements that are natural to me, many times I’ve missed opportunities of connecting with people for reasons that I never realized at the time.
For those reading this who don’t really have any way to relate, I’d have to say that it’s a bit like being a fully grown Labrador retriever that still thinks it’s a lap-dog. It’s a big, fumbling animal that reacts cluelessly to its owners’ attempts to get it to understand it’s all grown up. Except, most people are too polite to ever tell me that I am intimidating them with my loud presence and quick hand movements.
Over the years I’ve learned that I need to curb my activities when I speak to others and sculpt my words less with the motion in my hands and more with the choice of my words. This, of course, allows the person I am speaking to to be less focused on these big, swinging arms that I am waiving around and more on my topic. I also notice that when I speak with young people, it’s better that I fold my hands together behind my back or place them in my pockets and not square up my shoulders to them so as to not seem too physically engaging.
There are many other examples of the conscious effort I make not to subconsciously affront people. But suffice it to say that we all expend a great deal of energy communicating our information to others. So it makes sense that we should also pay a certain amount of attention to whether or not these efforts may be misaligned or misdirected.
There’s really no way to measure how much of what we say comes across differently than we intend. The best we can hope to do is to come close to getting our ideas out there. But if we take the time to investigate how we come across to others, we can maximize our efforts and use our best attributes to our advantage.
This will also go a long way in letting us know of items in our lives or about our appearance that we might like to change or do away with altogether. After all, if what we’re trying to communicate is only lost in a sea of actions or visual attributes that are working counter to our aims, we would benefit from knowing of that which stands in the way of our interpersonal contact with others.
This may well be the difference between connecting with people in that new place that we visit along our travels, and missing opportunity after opportunity to get a deeper sense of the foreign cultures which we’re exploring.
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