Body of Knowledge: How You Can Speak Volumes without Saying a Word

In The Power of Slow, I talk a lot about the importance of communication. Today I’d like to do two things: tell a story and offer advice.

The Story

I always know when my husband is less than interested in what I have to say. He literally turns on his heal to exit the room while I’m in mid-sentence. In his defense he rarely gets in a word edge-wise. I am a talker ~ and a passionate one at that. Sometimes his only method of ending the conversation is to physically remove himself from the premises.  My husband is a pensive communicator. You ask him a question, and he pauses for a long time before answering. Sometimes he won’t even say a word of acknowledgement that he has heard you, which can be irritating for the individual who learned turn-taking in isochronous beats. But his body says, “I am thinking. Give me a minute. I’ll be back in a few with a thoughtful response.” His posture continues to communicate, even if his mouth has checked out altogether.

Body language speaks volumes, even if you don’t. Actors rely on body language to convey information on a few yards of celluloid. You can say a lot about a character just by the way she moves and how she peers out at the world.

They say the eyes are the window to the soul. If you avert them while talking to someone, it signals to the other person that you do not trust them or that you have something to hide. In some cultures eye contact is considered rude. But where I come from, if you don’t offer the eyes, you won’t be offered the ear of the person you’re trying to reach.

The Advice

Skype is a great, free tool for eye contact communication (  With a web cam, headset and Internet access, you can chat with people face-to-face, even if they reside half way across the world. A lot of times, people will look at the screen when they video-conference. When you do so, it appears you are not looking at your communication partner at all.

Slow tip: When engaging in a video conference, look into the camera, not at the screen.

It may feel odd at first because you aren’t actually looking at the person you are talking to. Occasionally, glance at the screen to reconnect with the person, but remember how it occurs to them: as if you are darting your eyes elsewhere.

The other great thing about Skype is it forces you to stay still. In our wireless, cordless, mobile world, we are often on the move. Skype harnesses you to one location, thereby slowing your pace, if only for a little while. If I were to Skype with my husband, he wouldn’t be able to leave the room as he does on occasion. To me that’s worth the price of a headset any day!

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