Did you know only seven percent of what someone actually means, thinks and feels is truthfully conveyed by the literal words they speak? As fundraisers, our word choice is extremely important. But according to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, a lead researcher in the study of understanding body language, this statistic implies there is a much more effective way to successfully understand people, and that is to pay attention to their body language.
Because 93 percent of communication is nonverbal, learning to read nonverbal cues is a valuable skill whether you’re at the office, grocery shopping or speaking with a potential donor.
Contrary to popular belief, the face is actually a poor place to focus when reading body language. By the time we reach adulthood, we have mastered the art of masking our true emotion for the mere sake of getting along with our co-workers and family members or in social settings where opinions may differ. Our body language, on the other hand, signifies our emotional intent and is not easily masked. By the time our conscious mind recognizes uncertainty or whatever the emotion may be, it has already shown up in our bodies.
With this knowledge, we shouldn’t disregard the impact of nonverbal communication in understanding how our donors are feeling and what they are thinking. Below are simple nonverbal cues to look for when communicating with donors.
- People are so focused on controlling their facial expressions that their feet become a direct giveaway to their true feelings. Whether standing or sitting, people will point their feet in the direction they want to go, so look for feet pointed at you, which implies favorable feedback.
- A genuine smile engages the entire face and suggests that the donor is enjoying your company. A fake smile uses only the mouth and is meant to convey happiness or approval when the donor is actually feeling something else.
- Slow nodding shows donors are interested in what you are saying and giving approval for you to continue. Fast nodding indicates they have heard enough and want you to finish speaking so they can.
Mirroring your Behavior
- When donors mimic your behavior, they are trying to establish a rapport with you. If they distance themselves, they may be uncomfortable or uncertain.
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