What Are You Saying?

When in France, returning from a camping trip around Morocco, I had a problem. Our gas cylinders and attachments were all in imperial sizes and we were unable to use the European gear, which was in metric sizes.

Completely out of cooking gas, we stopped off at a hardware store in the French countryside to see what could be done.
With less than ten words of French in my armoury, I approached the assistant and tried to explain using hand signs to explain our dilemma. He spoke no English, but both being hardware salespersons, we seemed to relate well and both understood what had to be done.

Together we went out the back of the store to the workshop area, cut, spliced, joined tubes, added fittings, and screwed up clamps. In 30 minutes I had paid for my gear and with a big smile on both our faces, a very warm handshake and loud ‘Mercy Monsieur!’ our cohort were back on our way north to the campsite to cook lunch.

This interaction has stayed with me for the last 35 years. I often ponder about that really enjoyable meeting and the power of non-verbal communications.

Another enjoyable observation was at my brother’s wedding where our two youngest girls (7 and 9) were flower girls along with two Italian girls of the same age. Although our girls had no Italian language at all and likewise the little Italians had no English, they played together for three days laughing, chasing, and shopping together.

We all gazed in amazement and many commented as the four played together like they were sisters despite the lack of oral understanding of each others languages. We came to the conclusion that maybe it was us adults that were the less developed and lacking in understanding and supportive cultures.

Psychologists tell us that only about 15% of human communication is verbal. Dr. Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, conducted studies on nonverbal human communication stating “around 7% of messages are conveyed through actual words and 38% through ‘vocal elements”.

Examples of non-verbal communication are our volume and the pitch of speech, our articulation, fluency and our pronunciation. The remaining 55% conveys our messages through non-verbal elements. Examples of this are our facial expressions when speaking or even not speaking, gestures and posture which might be interpreted as relaxed, uncomfortable, dominant or submissive.

I speak to people like myself with Tourette ’s syndrome about vocational issues. I am often observing what signals I send out especially when in those situations. We may stutter on our words, twitch and squirm a bit, but do we send out signals of ‘I’m ok in my shell’ or ‘I’m good with this’ or do our gestures and postures sometimes betray us and signal ‘ I’m desperate’, ‘I want to be loved’ or ‘I don’t really believe what I’m telling you’?

I know it is hard to present who we are as individuals with Tourette’s, when we are nervous or under stress. What do we think our body language is saying? What are we really saying?

One thing that helped me was to realise that the world bows to confidence. I trained myself to reflect my ‘best self’ in all the areas of communication, especially where I am not affected by TS.

This week, why not ask those around you what signals they pick up from your communications and practice being the person you want to be in front of a mirror. You are here for a reason! Let’s put our best forward!

Remember that being different is your biggest asset and you don’t have to be like everyone else.

If you need a career coach, drop me an email or private message today to get you on the right track.

Dave Brebner.



About the Author:

Dave is an Adult Educator, Speaker and Youth leader living in Western Sydney, Australia where he teaches the Electrical Trades at the Western Sydney Institute. He has Diplomas in Business and Training, a Bachelors Degree in Adult Education, Vocational and Workplace Training and a Masters of Education with a major in Career Development. He has lived with Tourette’s Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Anxiety Disorders since an early age. He is married with 6 children. He is a passionate coach and mentor to young people especially in the vocational guidance and career development areas. Dave is a professional member of the Career Development Association of Australia and has authored a course on Living with Tourette’s which you can study and purchase online through his website – www.davebrebner.com.



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