For most of us, this winter has been exceptionally cold. When I was skiing in Colorado earlier this month, there were days where the temps dropped to – 4º on the mountain. As you can see, I was dressed for it, but all those warm layers can create a communications barrier. I was reminded of this when another skier stopped me to ask directions. As we continued to talk, we shared where we were from and what we do. She said, “My luck that the first time I meet an expert in nonverbal communications, and I can’t see any nonverbals because your facial expressions are obscured by a ski mask and helmet.” I told her that she was only partially right.
It’s true we couldn’t see each other’s facial expressions, but it’s called “body language” for a reason. There are plenty of nonverbal cues you can still read from a person’s body position, posture and gestures. I gave her the example of how I turned when she approached to ask me directions. I moved my feet so my whole body faced her. That showed I was open to taking time to speak to her. Had I just turned my upper body towards her that would have signaled a desire to limit the interaction. You see this in business when someone tries to join two people who are already engrossed in a conversation either at the office or at a networking event. If they only turn from the waist to greet you and then turn back to each other, you probably should move on. If they open their stances so that you are included in the circle, you are welcomed to join the conversation.
Also, you can read nonverbal signals in arm and hand gestures, even under layers of clothes. In the case of my new skier friend, that’s how I showed her directions to the ski run she wanted to find.
I’m curious: do you feel like it is more challenging to read people when they are bundled up for winter?