Most communication is unconscious. You may think you’re delivering clear and consistent messages based on your words and intention, but unconscious nonverbal behaviors are key to power communications.
This is a harder concept to grasp because if something is unconscious, you’re not aware of it. How can you take control of a conversation or presentation when the cues you project are hidden?
Startling advances in brain science have made it possible for us to gather and test evidence as we uncover the unconscious mind’s amazing strengths. While our conscious brains can only handle some 40 bits of information per second, the unconscious mind processes an astounding 11 million bits per second. Amazing isn’t it?
Evolution has given our unconscious minds the ability to handle most incoming cues automatically and rapidly, thus freeing our conscious minds to make complex decisions. Much of this activity occurs instantaneously, nonverbally and unconsciously.
Examples of when your unconscious mind is at work are when:
- You quickly brake or swerve to avoid an object in the road.
- You physically shift position to mirror a colleague’s posture.
- You and a friend simultaneously blurt out the same phrase or idea.
- You have a gut feeling that the person speaking to you is concealing information.
Without the activation of your unconscious mind, you would react too slowly to avoid danger, would have a hard time relating to others and would be unable to read emotional cues that detect lies or authenticity.
The same holds true for leadership communication. If you rely solely on your words, you’re missing opportunities to more powerfully inspire others. Studies continue to confirm that listeners perceive a message’s meaning largely through nonverbal, subconscious processing.
Despite all of this research, some of us cling to the notion that we rule our unconscious minds, and not vice versa. In truth, we make most decisions unconsciously, only becoming aware of them when we start to act upon them.
What’s important here is that we can shine a light on many of the communication cues that we don’t pay attention to. We make the unconscious conscious by becoming more aware, more sensitive.
It’s work that few leaders and managers excel at intuitively. The great news is that most of us can learn to read unconscious cues better by working with a coach. I’ve seen it happen and over again in my own coaching practice.
If you’re curious, let’s talk – contact me.