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    NARRATOR: Mike Siegel is a communications consultant, a media giant, a pop culture icon. You can find him on Wikipedia. A big-mouth lawyer, a liberal-turned-conservative, an advocate of business, a bit of a health nut, and a good mama's boy from Brooklyn. What most people don't know is that Mike Siegel has a PhD in communications, volunteers for several charity groups, and has dedicated much of his life to higher education, both as student and teacher. Now enjoy this presentation from Dr. Siegel.

    MIKE SIEGEL: Folks, as we cover the various elements of communication, let me just make a simple point. The power of nonverbal communication is probably the most impact of any areas we consider, and there's a reason for that. It's not because we create our elements of nonverbal in a contrived way; it's because nonverbal communication is really representing who we are in that communication environment, far more than the words we say. We all know that people can say things that may or may not be believable, but nonverbal communication is typically very believable, and the reason is very simple. It's because nonverbal communication is oftentimes instinctive. It is not contrived. It is not created, and it's not planned in the way that speech can be planned or the way that words can be planned. Nonverbal communication simply happens. And what we know from studies that have been done is that when there is a disagreement between verbal and nonverbal behavior, an audience; and again this could be one person in the audience, it could 10, it could a 1000; the audience is going to believe the nonverbal behavior because it is primarily involuntary, and it is not controlled by the participant in the communication process.

    So let's go through some of the areas because this will help understand and make this very practical for you. And understanding this is going to be extremely important to your being successful as a communicator. Just to give you an example. If you're sitting there with one other person, having a conversation, and we'll get into eye contact in more detail later, but just to make one quick point, if you're looking out the door, if you're in coffee shop, and you're looking out the door, and that person is looking at you trying to communicate, or you're looking at your telephone messages or your text messages on your phone, is that person going to believe that you are paying attention to them, that what you are saying is important to them?

    Scott Thayer is with us once again. It's always a pleasure to have him here. Scott, what do you think? If I'm talking to you and we're in a coffee shop and you're looking out the door or you're looking at your telephone checking messages or checking text messages, and I'm trying to make a point to you and I'm communicating verbally, am I going to believe that you're interested in what I'm saying?

    SCOTT THAYER: Absolutely not! And it's great to be here again. You know, I have 3 wonderful, beautiful children, and one of my biggest pet peeves with them is that when I'm talking with them after a discipline moment or after an issue that they need help with and their eyes are dashing around from place to place to place and my continuous encouragement to them, hey look at my eyes. Look at me when I talk to you. I think it is crucial that we understand the need for eye contact in conversation.

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    MIKE SIEGEL: We'll get into that more detail, as I said, but I just wanted to open this up so people understand we're talking about the nonverbal elements. And there's a whole range of nonverbal elements we're getting into here folks, so again, you're going to need to listen and re-listen to this conversation, and you're going to need to take notes, and you need to try to apply this in your own way of presenting yourself to other people.

    This talk first of all about personal space and one of the questions to ask yourself about personal space is whether the people you communicate with like close proximity or like distance from the people they're involved with. And I'll give you an example. In different cultures, it works differently. We all know that people coming from Arab countries, people from coming from Latin America, people coming from certain cultures love to hug when they meet with each other. If they're friends, physical hugging becomes very important. On the other hand, Europeans often times, particularly Northern Europeans, like to have more distance. And to give you an example in my own life, I have a friend who comes from a Northern European background, and we've known each other since the 1970s. And when we first met, Bob was a very distant kind of person. We would have distance between us. He liked personal space. And over the time we became very close friends, almost like brothers, that became more and more of a reduction of a problem, because we became closer. We became, not only emotionally closer as friends, but we became physically closer in terms of distance from each other, more comfort. And ultimately he said to me a number of years down the road, he said, "you know, Mike, I really appreciate something. You have shown me how to actually hug a male friend and feel good about it, something that in my own home I didn't have happen. My parents didn't hug me. There was not a lot of physical touching between parent and child, and so you've taught me how to be closer to a person, actually be able to hug as a friend if we haven't seen each other for a while. And that means a whole lot to me." And frankly, folks, that meant a lot to me that he was able to break down that barrier. And Scott, I think that's so important for people to know when they're communicating, whether it's one person or a group, what is there is preference in terms of proximity? Do they like to be close, or do they like to be distant? And I think that's something you have to take into account.

    SCOTT THAYER: Most definitely. In my experience with Latin culture, I spent time in both Guatemala and Chile and Mexico and what not, and it was always, always difficult whenever I would bring a group of people down with me or just go down by myself to kind of transfer from that nonphysical, get out of my personal space mentality, into the hey we love to hug, we love to put our arms around each other, we like to hold hands when we're walking around, and trying to get people out from mentality that we have here in America sometimes to a mentality of hey personal space is okay to be violated in other cultures I think is both fun and a little challenging.

    MIKE SIEGEL: And it's something that you have to be aware of. And frankly, I have the luxury of having a friendship with this fellow that I mentioned for many years. Now, it's been over two decades, I guess three decades. Time flies when you're having a good time. But the fact is we had time to nurture that, but when you're going in a communication experience with one person or lots of people and you don't have luxury of that kind of relationship, you need to respect their view of personal space. And that's just something important to be aware of. Especially in a business meeting. If you're in a business meeting, if you walk into a business meeting, again in an Arab country, they may want to hug, and they may want to sit down and be very close with the chairs right up next to each other and have a conversation, have a cup of coffee, and enjoy that time. A business meeting in America might be very different. More distance. More formal. Maybe more rigid, and not as much kind of personal contact as there would be in an Arab country or a Latin country in a business meeting. So it's very important that you understand those personal-space issues when you're involved in a communication transaction, and I guess from your own experience, Scott, you've seen this first hand.

  • About the Author

    Mike Siegel is a communications consultant, a media giant, a pop culture icon (you can find him on Wikipedia ™), a big mouth lawyer, a liberal-turned-conservative, an advocate of business, a bit of a healthnut and a good momma's boy from Brooklyn. What most people don't know is that Mike Siegel has a PhD in Communications, volunteers for several charity groups and has dedicated much of his life to higher education both as student and teacher.

    Mike has made numerous appearances on a variety of television talk programs including Oprah, The O'Reilly Factor, Politically Incorrect, Geraldo, Fox News Sunday and more. He is revered and respected but most of all he is a great lover of learning and strategic communication. We invite you to learn more about how Mike's broad professional experience and communications expertise.

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Power of Non-Verbal Communication

Simply put, this can be the most powerful influence in a Communication Transaction. When there is a discrepancy between verbal and non-verbal behavior, people believe the non-verbal factor. Learn how to control this behavior and enhance your personal and professional success.

Mike Siegel is one of the nation’s foremost experts in media and communication. He is an author, attorney and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, with a PhD in Rhetoric and Communications. Few others are as uniquely qualified for understanding the nature of human communication, the political system and business positioning.

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