Non-Verbal Intelligence with Joe Navarro

Check out an excerpt from the transcript for The Social Capitalist interview featuring Joe Navarro. Read Tahl’s Raz’s blog post on the interview here. Access the audio recording here. Click here for the full transcript: Social Capitalist – Joe Navarro. Enjoy!

Tahl Raz:    So much of what you advise and so many of the concepts that you teach seem to be and revolve around the ability to detect discomfort or comfort in someone. How does that work? Is that true that it’s a central concept and is that something that people should focus on?

Joe Navarro:    Well, yes absolutely. You know from the time we’re born we are reflecting whether we’re warm or cold, whether we’re comfortable or uncomfortable, whether we’re hungry or satiated. Our bodies are immediately reflecting how we feel, what we think, what we desire, any mother or father will tell you that. And throughout our lives we’re constantly reflecting are we comfortable or uncomfortable. You’re sitting at a business meeting and somebody just says the most impolite, politically incorrect joke and you will see immediate discomfort in everybody at that table. It’s instantaneous, it’s authentic. Now, it will manifest in different ways but it’s there. The reason that I have focused in my books on comfort and discomfort is because when I looked at all the books that had been written on body language over the years … oh my God is was painful. It was painful for me to read that. I said, “Why don’t they simplify this?” because it really is quite simple. What we see when we’re with other people whether you’re dating somebody or you’re in a business meeting or so forth … are they comfortable with us? Do we see the signs of comfort or do we see signs of there’s some sort of discomfort? Now, is it discomfort because of what we’re talking about? Is it because I’m standing too close? Is it because my body smells? Or is it the topic? Has something been brought up that’s causing discomfort? And what we find, universally, is that our limbic system will reflect, very precisely, whether someone is comfortable or uncomfortable. And what I found was is most people don’t know where to look on the body for that information. They tend to either focus on the face or the eyes but really not pay attention to the whole body.

Tahl Raz:    Well, let’s bring this down to a place where we can really apply it and people can see how it functions in their work. For instance, I know that in your work with poker players you say you can sit in observing a game, even on television, and tell whether people are bluffing or not. And that obviously, if you can do that more than the average poker player, there’s something for them to learn there. For business people, what have you seen in dealing with them and teaching them in your interactions with them where some of this stuff comes up and their greatness weaknesses lie? Because they just haven’t been taught to read or process any of this?

Joe Navarro:    One of the biggest issues that I see is that you go through graduate school and undergrad school and nobody really teaches you how to observe. So, then you get hired by a company and they say, “Well, go do due diligence” … all right so, I ask questions? That’s not good enough. It’s how people react to questions when you’re conducting this due diligence. Quite often people wait till well, when I’m in my job I’ll wait to observe people and I’ll learn to pick up on body language or when I graduate from college or when I go to the new job, that’s when I’ll begin to focus on body language. Well, the fact is it’s too late. You’ve got to start right now because there’s no such thing as dating body language, work body language and as you said poker body language. Our limbic brain doesn’t work that way. It deals with threats and it deals with comfort and discomfort. So, the displays that we want in leadership of high confidence well, those are non-verbal. When we look at a leader and we admire how they lead one of the things that stands out is they’re non-verbal. They command the room. Their gestures are smooth. Nobody likes an erratic person. We lose respect for anybody that has jittery gestures and they’re just all over the page. So, when we look at somebody like Colin Powell … my God, the man comes into a room—he dominates the stage. His gestures are smooth and we know he’s a leader, we want to follow him and he hasn’t even spoken to us yet. So, you begin to appreciate the power of non-verbals to really influence others. Because you don’t walk into a room and say, “Hi, I’m here to influence you.” We are influenced we are seduced by very subtle things. So, it doesn’t matter what profession you’re going into. We’re basically dealing with people. I tell business people, “You’re in the same business I was in, which is two things you do every day that I did—you observe and you communicate. And if you fail on one or the other you will fail in your business. You will fail in your enterprise because if you can’t observe changes, if you can’t observe how people react to what to you and what your message is then you don’t know how to communicate.” And interpersonal communication is anywhere from 70 to 80 to sometimes 90% non-verbal communications. Then, we see how important the non-verbals are to your success.

Tahl Raz:     Let’s do a mini case study here of that kind of idea. I mean I think that some people think of non-verbal communication and immediately they just focus on the idea of picking out whether someone is lying or not. But in fact, you say … and it’s persuasively … if you understand these cues and how people receive them you can actually modify your own behavior. So, in terms of maximizing your influence in a first encounter with … our case study is John Smith.

Joe Navarro:    Right.

Tahl Raz:    You helpfully break down influence into two categories at a distance and up close.

Joe Navarro:    Yes.

Tahl Raz:     So, let’s start at a distance and we’re meeting someone … an important meeting for the very first time. What should we be concerned about? What are the variables at a distance to convey that sort of leadership to start maximizing our influence?
Joe Navarro:    Well, let’s clarify some things … non-verbals are anything that’s not a word that communicates so, the fact that I’m groomed, the fact that my clothes are clean, the fact that my shoes are clean, the fact that I have a Watermen pen instead of a Bic pen is communicating something about me. So, that’s non-verbal. Body language is part of that but non-verbals are the colors of clothing that we choose and so forth. So, at a distance, one of the things that people begin to notice and it registers with is for instance, how quickly you get out of your car and how quickly you move to come inside. Do you meander? Do you smoke? Do you stop? Are you fixing your clothes and so forth or do you look like you have your act together and you promptly walk into a room. This is chronicity—how we use time and space. People are influenced by a person who walks in briskly. And you can do this experiment anytime just ask somebody to sort of meander over to the Xerox machine and take their time and meander back and then ask people what they rate them and you’ll see that they rate them poorly. So, just that … just how we use time, how we command a space, how we move through space, how we’re groomed. Secondly, is you know that you are seeing somebody walk down the corridor—are they making eye contact with everybody or are they looking down at their Blackberry or down at their shoes? This is something that in corporate America I hear a lot of complaints about—people aren’t making eye contact. They’d rather look at their Blackberry. Well, guess what? When it’s time for promotions they’re going to say, “I don’t even know what this guy looks like so how do you want me to make a decision? I’d rather go with a guy that I know.” These little things add up. At a distance, we’re assessing each other for … does this person look socially competent? Well, you know Danielle Golden was talking about with emotional and social intelligence or do they look like boy this is the first time this guy looks like he’s wearing a suit I mean look at him—the suit is hanging down to the end of his thumb, he’s just not well cared for, not well dressed and so forth. So, all these things begin to transmit information because unless you are dressed by your mother, you’re making these decisions on your own and so your brain is governing your behavior. So, we take information from that. How we greet each other … do we give each other just a simple greet or when we greet each other do arch our eyebrows … we do that eyebrow flash and we go, “Hey, how are you?”

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