One of my former bosses was fluent in American Sign Language. I asked her once how can you convey emotion through signing—our voices allow us to speed up, slow down, have a *tone*, so to speak—and she responded that it’s the exact same thing. Just not verbalized. She actually said that it’s probably clearer when someone doesn’t like someone else via ASL.
Nonverbal communication is happening all around us, all the time. We recognize it in obvious situations. A nod, a wave, maybe an inappropriate gesture involving a single finger…but it’s not always so apparent. And when it comes whether or not you’re liked by your coworkers, all you have to do is pick up on the nonverbal clues. Emotional intelligence (or EQ) is something that’s becoming more valued in the workplace these days, but just like common sense, EQ ain’t all that common, either.
So how do you tune into your EQ and find out what others, particularly those with whom you closely work, think of you? Let’s run down some common signifiers:
1. Do they initiate conversation?
Depending on your workplace culture, there may or may not be common space for gathering. While business used to be done over coffee and cigarettes, now it’s more likely to be IM, e-mail and web conference. However, if you’re walking down the hall and someone stops to chat with you, they’re breaking up their routine to check in with you…a good sign that they like you and respect you. On the other hand, a pointed look in the opposite direction, or constant phone-reading while chatting indicates the opposite.
2. Do they offer feedback?
In one-on-one situations, are they responsive and engaged in the conversation? Are they looking at you and leaning in to you?The more animated a person is in a conversation, the more invested they are emotionally.
3. Do they seem to talk more quickly or slowly to you than with others?
When people are nervous or uncomfortable, their speech changes to reflect that. If they enjoy your company, their voice patterns won’t change; however, if they’re normally a speedy talker and now there’s stretches of silence (or the opposite), something might be up.
4. Do they seem to let you control the conversation?
It’s one thing to ask your opinion, but it’s another to let you take control of the conversation. If coworkers allow you to drive the conversation, and look to you for reactions or cues, it’s a sign of respect.
5. Do they make room for you?
We’ve all been there. You’re late to the meeting in a smallish conference rooms, and the only remaining chairs are the *buffer* chairs that we in the Midwest leave between us (someone needs to research what THAT nonverbal communication is all about). But if coworkers move their things out of the way, or push their chair back to make more room, that’s also a sign of respect.
It should be noted that nonverbal communication, and emotional intelligence by itself, are highly subjective. Within context, behaviors that are highlighted here as suspicious might be the totally innocent byproducts of a bad morning or a stressed home life. The point is, don’t assume that because someone didn’t stop to talk in the hall this morning that they’re trying to sabotage your career.
Take incidents in context and over a period of time; by simply paying closer attention to what people aren’t explicitly saying, your EQ and intuition will tell you more than you probably thought possible.
What nonverbal cues do you tend to pick up on at the office?