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Posts Tagged ‘body language’

Jo 23I sat down for a moment at our local shopping centre, in order to respond to a phone text and, as I did, I noticed a lady at the other end of the seat. Soon after, a man sat down between us—and that was when things became interesting! Suddenly, the lady began talking to him—or rather at him.

‘Wasn’t it shocking, that attack in Parramatta on a young mother-to-be! What’s the world coming to? That’s just terrible. I bet the man was high on ice or something. And what will he get for that? Nothing much, probably—just a slap on the wrist! You wait and see. What sort of person would do that to someone else? It’s awful when a young woman can’t sit down with a friend in a café and enjoy a meal!’

She went on and on, her voice loud and indignant. Unfortunately, I suspected that man next to her had hoped for some peace and quiet, as he waited for his own wife to finish shopping. And that became clear from his response.

‘Oh … now I’m well and truly stirred up! And I thought I was going to have a nice, quiet, peaceful morning!’

He spoke softly and smiled as he said it. He even went on to agree with her. Yet I could tell he was irritated by the way she had harangued him. I hoped this lady would get the message, but she seemed oblivious.

‘Yes, and my daughter wanted me to wait downstairs in the car park for her, but I said no. I’ll sit here where I’m nice and comfortable. I’m not going to stand down there, breathing in all those fumes. No way! Then there’s all those people who go down there to smoke too! It’s terrible.’

‘Now I’m even more stirred up!’ the poor man said then.

Regardless, she continued on and on about other issues in her rather grating voice—so much so that I decided I was glad I did not share a house with the poor lady! But then I felt a little uncharitable. After all, she was obviously on edge about lots of things and maybe others had stopped listening to her.

Later, when I thought about this experience, I began to wonder how I myself come across whenever I voice my opinion on matters I feel passionate about. Do my hearers perhaps feel a little assaulted, as that man and I did? Do I take note of their body language and facial expressions to gauge their responses? Do I give them time to speak and share their own views? Hmm.

In Proverbs 25:11, King Solomon writes:

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

Or as The Message version puts it:

The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewellery.

Sometimes, we need to speak those challenging words to stir others to action or to stand up for what is right—especially when God prompts us to do so. But we need to be careful to say them in the right way, at the right time and in the right setting. Then they will hopefully be heard and valued, like those precious apples of gold in settings of silver.

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Jo 17Sometimes it’s not so much what we say but rather how we say it that conveys our true feelings about something or someone, isn’t it? We can try hard to reign in our emotions, but, whether we are aware of it or not, those extraneous messages of ours can often shout louder than anything we say. Perhaps it’s our facial expression or some other type of body language that gives us away. Or, when on the phone, our tone of voice can also convey so much, in either a positive or a negative way.

Recently, in the space of about an hour, I had two interesting phone conversations which differed markedly, like the proverbial chalk and cheese. After the first, I felt I had been heard, understood and encouraged. After the second, I felt the exact opposite—ignored, misjudged and extremely discouraged. And this largely resulted from the tone of voice each of these ladies employed.

In the first conversation, the caller conveyed from the outset via her voice alone that she was interested in what I had to say and concerned about the issue I wanted to discuss. It began something like this:

‘Good morning. Jo-Anne, is it? My name’s Bec. I’m calling back in regard to the message we received in our office this morning. Now how can I help you?’

I like this caller, I thought instantly. Her tone was warm and caring and this continued throughout our conversation, as she questioned me more and listened patiently while I explained my dilemma. She took time to respond to my concerns, gave me the clear information I needed and, at the end, reassured me she would do all she could to help. Even more than the words she spoke, it was her kind manner that impacted me the most and still stays with me now.

The second conversation was just a tad different. It began something like this:

‘Hello. It’s Mary here. I just have this name ‘Jo-Anne’ written on a note to me. So what’s this about?’

I was taken aback from the outset at this caller’s abrupt, aggressive tone. I tried to connect with her in a friendly way before asking my questions, but to no avail. She answered in almost monosyllables, giving as little information as possible, then asked rudely if that was all. I had a further issue, however, and she grudgingly stayed online, but I could hear the increasing annoyance in her voice and sense her unwillingness to listen and help in any way. Now, sadly, all that remains with me from that conversation is frustration and resentment—and the need to forgive!

Since then, I have asked myself what my own manner and tone of voice convey in general. I know at times I too can become impatient—and I’m sure that shows. But I hope and pray I am learning to speak with much more grace and kindness, like my first caller did, and that my manner communicates something at least of the godly love and understanding we all need to experience.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

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For some reason, I can’t say I always enjoy phoning up people, even if they are well known to me.  Firstly, I don’t like the thought of interrupting them in whatever they are doing, but more importantly, I can’t always tell by the conversation that ensues, exactly how they are feeling.  Over the years, I’ve learnt to look at people’s faces and especially their eyes, to try to discern how they are actually travelling – whether they are tired or sad or worried or whether they are doing well and are at peace with the world.  I might come to the wrong conclusions, but at least it gives me much more of a clue than merely hearing someone’s voice on the phone. 

Of course the tone of our voice does often convey quite a bit  – I may pick up at least some degree of tiredness or discouragement or joy or excitement through a phone conversation.  On the other hand, meeting face to face with someone means we can not only see their expressions and reactions but also take note of actual body language.  And occasionally we can just sense in some way too, irrespective of what we see and hear, whether a person is bothered by something.  But beyond even that, I do believe God can give us insights on occasions into another’s heart so that we can help them move forward into greater wholeness.  I have experienced that in counselling with others and have also been on the receiving end myself of such ‘words of knowledge’ or whatever one might choose to call them.  I remember one occasion when I was sitting with a friend of mine who happens to be blind during a training course.  I was worried about something in the course, but hadn’t said anything.  I was simply sitting near her but not touching.  And of course she couldn’t see me.  Yet suddenly she said to me: It’s okay, Joey – you don’t have to worry about it!  To this day I can’t honestly say whether some sense or intuition, heightened by her blindness, caused her to have that insight, or whether God prompted her and gave her the words to say.  Knowing my friend, I suspect the latter, but either way it was a very comforting moment for me.

God can prompt us in this way because he is all-knowing, all-powerful and ever present.  He sees us ‘face to face’ every day of our lives, as it were – he knows my very thoughts and is ‘familiar with all my ways’, as Psalm 139:3 says.  And one day I too will have the amazing privilege of seeing him face to face and will understand so much more:

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

That blows my mind.  How about you?

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