You get home. There’s a suitcase on the stairs.
It’s full, it’s packed and you’ve no idea what it means.
What goes through your head? What’s the first interpretation you make? And how do you feel?
Symbols and actions can affect us in profound and unpredictable ways. We can’t always tell how we’ll react to a situation, or how others will react to the things we say and do.
In April’s ‘G’ blog I explained the concept of taking control over your reactions and responses; and by doing so, being able to take back control over your emotions. That’s relevant again here. If you can master the technique of reinterpreting / reframing events in the most positive way possible, then you’ll be able to keep a reign on your natural instincts to cry out, fight back or run away.
The suitcase on the stairs is a fascinating image in my mind. For me, it immediately conjures up a feeling of loss, of heartbreak and of saying goodbye. It’s used in many films and TV series as an iconic shot of one character’s decision to leave another. No words are needed; the actions say it all.
Can we reframe this?
What about if the suitcase actually represented a selection of clothes that someone had packed up ready to give to a charity collection? What if the suitcase represented a free holiday that the person had just won – and rather than tell them the news, they wanted to let them find out for themselves?
I’m sure there could be a million more interpretations if we look hard enough.
Nonverbal communication is often overlooked but can be extremely powerful. When you’re talking to someone, start to notice how much you can observe about their body language; the way their eyes are moving, the posture they’re holding and how readily or frequently they’re looking at you. All of these clues can reveal so much about how a person really feels and what’s really going on.
And if you’re the one in the hot seat? The next time you’re planning to use actions to get your point across, make sure you give the other person a chance to understand where you’re coming from.
Actions may speak louder than words; but sometimes actions say the wrong things.