Did you know that 92% of communication is non-verbal? It almost makes you question why we bother to speak at all?
But, our words and language really are essential for effective communication.
This Monday, I was returning from a 4-day business trip and was waiting for a shuttle van at JFK airport in NYC to take me back to my home to Connecticut. There was a sweet-looking elderly fragile-looking woman waiting to be picked up.
She, through gestures, offered me a seat beside her. It was soon clear that she only spoke French, and alas, I speak none. While we made eye contact and smiled at each other, I felt at a loss that I could not speak with her.
One of the transportation agents nearby came to realize, by speaking with her, that she had been waiting there a very long time and she had lost the information specifying her pick-up details. Luckily, the agent was French-speaking, from Haiti, and was helping her determine what her next steps would be. I felt helpless that I could not even commiserate with her due to lack of my knowledge of French and her knowledge of English.
In September, I traveled to Germany, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. In all of those countries, we felt so grateful that most people in Europe know English, because our knowledge of those languages was limited to the German phrases of Guten Tag (Good day), Guten Abend (Good evening), and a few other short phrases we were able to learn prior to the trip. Things as simple as a menu are challenging if not impossible to decipher without some knowledge of the language.
While non-verbal communication like gestures and facial expression are incredibly important, it is necessary, but not sufficient to communicate effectively. Thank goodness for verbal communication.
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