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Archive for the ‘Listening’ Category

Whether you’re speaking or not, you’re always communicating. Research consistently suggests that over 90% of a person’s thoughts, feelings and intentions are conveyed through non-verbal channels, including the voice and body language.

Through careful observation you can gain insights into a person’s state of mind, emotions and attitude. A person’s pitch, pace and tone of voice, movements, gestures, and expressions, as well as posture, dress, and spatial distance communicate even when no words are being spoken. By observing and responding to others’ non-verbal behaviours you can influence their thinking and persuade them to agree with your suggestions.

Because many people have learned how to put a mask on to hide their true feelings, if you sense that someone’s face is concealing what’s going on inside, observe the whole body. Legs, feet, arms, shoulders, hands and fingers give valuable indications of consistency and authenticity, or a lack thereof.

Through astute observation you can figure out what’s being communicated even when the verbal output is turned off. Questions to ask yourself when observing others include:

• Are the messages coming from the spoken words consistent with the messages coming from the non-verbal behaviours?

• Is the person being consistent in displaying non-verbal behaviours?


Technical Stuff: Individuals cannot control normal eye dilation. When you are looking at something that pleases or arouses you, you your eyes measurably dilate; when you see something that you don’t like or that threatens you, your eyes constrict.

Regardless of what a presenter is saying, if he looks at his audience as he speaks, his listeners will perceive him favourably and view him as confident, credible, qualified, and honest.

If someone speaking doesn’t want to be interrupted, she will glance away and continue talking. If she wants someone else to speak, she will pause and make direct eye contact with that person.

If, while you’re speaking, someone is checking his BlackBerry, texting on his iPhone or looking at his watch, he may be indicating that it’s time for a break or that you’re boring him.

Tip: Words are accentuated and punctuated by movements, gestures, and facial expressions. When there is a lack of congruency between the verbal and nonverbal message, people believe what their eyes and ears tell you, not what the speaker is saying.

Warning: While certain gestures and expressions – such as a genuine smile in which the eyes as well as the mouth are engaged, or a clenched fist slamming down on a table top – convey specific messages, interpret them carefully in the context of the situation that is occurring at the time. Because observing non-verbal behaviour is open to interpretation, practice your observation skills and when appropriate ask the people involved to verify your observations and interpretations.

Anecdote: I recently ran a session for a global corporation on the Body Language of Leaders. During my presentation I noticed that while most of the women in the room were smiling and nodding as I spoke, several of the men had serious expressions on their faces, which I initially interpreted as unconvinced or doubtful. In order to gain rapport with these individuals (see Body Language For Dummies and Persuasion & Influence For Dummies on how to establish rapport) I reflected back their expressions as I directed my comments to them. What I observed was that the men relaxed and engaged with me as I mirrored back what I observed them doing.

Remember: No single non-verbal sign is a reliable indicator of mood, attitude, or intention. To support a particular conclusion, observe and interpret several consistent signals.

For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

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Several weeks ago at a Sunday lunch with friends and family I embarrassed my son. I embarrass him on a regular basis, as doing so is part of a mother’s job. This particular day I went a step too far and Max demonstrated a degree of self-control that made me sit up and notice. While he didn’t say a word, his body tightened and he wrapped his arms around his torso as if keeping his emotion in check. His jaw locked and his lips puckered in disapproval. Add to that, his eyes became steely as he glared at me, suggesting that I might want to stop what I was doing. And I did.

Your body’s speaking and people are noticing. How you’re holding your body, focusing your gaze and what your feet and fingers are doing tells a tale of your inner state.

Below is a snap shot of gestures and the emotions they’re conveying. Before I go any further, remember that no one gesture tells the entire story. In order to interpret what the body’s saying, you must reflect on the whole picture of the person.

Fiddling fingers, bouncing feet and sideways glances reveal feelings of doubtfulness, rejection or suspicion. A combination of picking at fingernails, pinching the fleshy part of the hand, rubbing or caressing a personal object (ring, cufflinks, watch, for example) or chewing on an object, such as a pencil or pen translates into insecurity.

To spot enthusiasm, look for smiles in which both the lips and eyes are engaged. People who are enthusiastic move with a bounce in their step. Their posture is erect, their hands are open and they frequently extend their arms in the direction of their interest.

Negative emotions such as secrecy or nervousness tend to manifest themselves through minimal or no eye contact, throat clearing and covering the mouth while speaking. Boredom reveals itself through drumming fingers, swing feet, picking at clothes and jingling keys and coins.

People demonstrating superiority and authority come across as both relaxed and expansive in their gestures. They steeple their fingers, are comfortable putting their feet up or on their desk. You often see them leaning back with their fingers laced behind their head with their chin lifted upward.

When you notice someone with their hands on their hips or sitting forward at the edge of a chair, you’re right in thinking that they’re ready to go. As you may be by now.

For more about how body language reveals attitudes, emotions and feelings, buy a copy of Body Language For Dummies. You might want to wait to the end of January 2012, when the 2nd edition hits the stands with more photographs and expanded content. Until then, pick up an app to get you started.

For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

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Sometimes we don’t all have time to read a lot of materials, so here’s Kuhnke Communication’s cheat-sheet on how to communicate with impact.

When You Speak

 Make your language vivid and descriptive

 Be clear, complete and precise.

 Repeat your points for emphasis, confirmation and clarification. Be creative in your phrasing.

 Confirm that your listener understands.

When You Listen

 Give your complete attention

 Listen with an open mind. Refrain from judging what is being said and shutting down.

 Listen for and reflect on both the words and the feelings behind the spoken words.

 Ask opened questions: who, what, where, when, and how. Avoid asking why. It will lead to a vague, unspecific response and may sound condemning.

 Pause to process what you have heard before responding.

 Avoid responding with but, yet and however. If you disagree, do so diplomatically.

 Let the speaker you know you respect them and value their thoughts and opinions – especially when they differ from yours.

 Confirm meaning. Clarify important points.

Nonverbal Communication

Use positive body language

– When speaking: well supported posture; look at your listener and use comfortable eye contact; varied volume, rhythm, pitch and pace; expressive facial and hand gestures.

– When listening: alert body; face the speaker; comfortable eye contact; receptive gestures.

– Be Aware of Cultural Differences in Nonverbal Communication

For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

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If you’re looking for a simple formula for success here you go:  Understanding is the key to effective communication. Effective communication is the key to success. The more you understand about yourself and others the more success you can have in your communication.  So, how can you understand yourself and others better than you currently do?  Read on. 
In 1955 the American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Inhgam developed a simple and useful model to demonstrate and enhance self-awareness and mutual understanding between individuals working in groups.  They cleverly named their model Johari, after combining their first names, Joe and Harry. The model emphasizes ‘soft’ skills, including behaviour, empathy, and cooperation.

Two key concepts underpin this tool:

  1. Building trust with other people through self-disclosure.
  2. Giving and accepting feedback in order to gain a deeper understanding of yourself and others.  

So, what is the Johari Window?
The Johari Window communication model consists of a four square grid which represents the individual and is intended to help people understand the way they communicate and build relationships.  Soliciting feedback from others is an integral part of the instrument. Take a look at the model below:





Behaviour, attitude, feelings,
knowledge skills etc

Ignorance about oneself,
issues in which one is deluded etc


Information, feelings, fears,
hidden agendas, secrets etc

Feelings, behaviours,
capabilities, aptitudes etc

Quadrant 1 – Open area.  What you know about yourself and others know, too. In this space you find information about you that both you and others know, from the colour of your eyes, your height, the way you hold your knife and fork any other information you’re willing to share. The more open you can be with others about who you are, the more effective and productive both you and the group can become. 

Quadrant 2 – Blind spot.  What you don’t know about yourself and others do including behaviours and habits you’re not aware of, like nervous laughter or revealing facial expressions.  You can decrease this area – thus increasing your open area – by soliciting feedback from others and taking on board what they say.  Avoid hanging out in your blind spot because it’s neither an effective nor a productive place to be.  Ignorance and delusion don’t lead to success. 

Quadrant 3 – Hidden area.  What you know about yourself that others don’t. Information you keep here could include fears, feelings, hidden agendas, secrets and sensitivities – anything you know about yourself that you choose not to reveal.  It’s natural, and often appropriate, to keep certain personal information under wraps, as long as the information has no bearing on the health, safety or productivity of others.  If what you’re hiding could benefit others and enhance relationships, I encourage that you share this information in an amount and manner others can comfortably digest. 

Quadrant 4 – Unknown area.  What neither you nor others know about you.The issues tucked inside here take a variety of forms from feelings, attitudes, behaviours and aptitudes.  They can lie deep down inside you or right up at the surface and influence your actions from major to minor degrees, including unexpected emotional outbursts.  People lacking in experience or self-belief tend to have a fairly large quadrant 4.


An advanced understanding of yourself and others leads to improved communication and relationships. 

The process of self-disclosure and seeking feedback can be filled with landmines.  Beware of your own limits and sensitivities.  The extent and depth you want to go into understanding yourself must always be your own choice and not foisted upon you by an overzealous champion or conspirator as you may discover traits, feelings, and characteristics you’re unable to cope with on your own. 

Brush up on your active and empathic listening skills to make the exercise successful. Differences within teams, when communicated properly, create greater depth of competence.  

Learn more around the relevance of trust, respect and clear communication to drive team effectiveness take a look at the study compiled by the Korn/Ferry Institute


Some cultures have a very open view on receiving feedback, some less so. Take care in how you give feedback – slow, sensitive and steady are the golden rules.  Only provide feedback when it has been asked for.  

Using the Johari Window framework results in a stronger and happier, creative, communicative and cohesive team.  

 For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

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The ability to connect with your listener and to communicate clearly, concisely and confidently is consistently ranked the number one key to success by leaders throughout business, politics and the professions.

 No matter how sound your reasoning, how compelling your arguments, or how logical your conclusions, if you fail to persuade, motivate, and convince your listener your efforts will be in vain. 

And how can you convince your audience – be it an audience of one or one thousand? 

By connecting at an emotional level.

In order to connect successfully with other people your voice must be free, compelling, and authentic.

Add Vocal Variety

Depending on the tone of your voice, you can either instantly engage your listener or turn them off entirely.  Aim for a voice that has a range of tones.  No matter how interesting the information, if your tone is monotonous your listener will tune you out. 

Observe Your Listener

There are numerous traps people can unintentionally fall into when speaking.  Some people speak too loudly in an effort to make others listen.   Others are surprised to learn that they come across as aggressive when making their point.  And there are those who mumble, letting the ends of their sentences trail off, forcing the listener to strain to understand what they’re saying.  When you speak, observe your listener to determine how you’re being received.

 Release Tension

If you’re holding tension anywhere in your body, it will constrict your voice.  A tight voice sends out negative messages, regardless of how you’re actually feeling.  If you’re concerned about what you have to say, yawn before speaking.  Yawning opens your throat, frees your voice and eliminates tense sounds.

 Connect with Your Content

If you fail to make an emotional connection with the words you speak you can’t expect your listener to connect with them either.  Make a list of powerful words – for example, love, hate, beautiful, everything, nothing, always – and practice saying them with energy and meaning. When you feel a connection to the words you speak, your audience will feel compelled to listen to what you have to say.

For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

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In order to interpret body language accurately you have to notice it first. If you think this sounds pretty obvious, you’re right. And yet some people just don’t pay enough attention to how someone else is behaving. Then they’re surprised when the person tells them he’s unhappy, he’s angry, or he’s packing up and leaving home. ‘But you never told me’, is the response. ‘If you’d paid attention, you’d have realised’, comes the reply.

Noticing how people behave is the first step towards understanding. After that you can begin to interpret what their behaviour means. Be careful at this point. The experience observer knows that it takes more than one gesture to convey a message.

Think of body language in the same way as you do the spoken word. If you want to communicate a concept you have to speak several words, or even a few sentences, to express what you mean. Body language works the same way. One gesture doesn’t tell the whole story. It takes several actions, working together, to signal a person’s feelings, thoughts and attitudes.

When people are wrapped up in themselves, they often don’t notice how someone else is behaving. Big mistake. By failing to spot the signs, you edit out valuable information. The way a person behaves can complement, supplement, and even supersede what he’s saying.

By observing people’s body language, you’re on the inside track to knowing what’s going on between them. Whether you’re observing participants in a business meeting, a family negotiation, or watching a couple in a restaurant, by being aware of how the people position and move their bodies, you may end up understanding more about their relationship then they do.

Here’s a list of the telltale, mainly facial, expressions for different emotions:

  • Happiness: Lower eyelids are slightly raised, crinkling around the outer edges of the eyes, eyes sometimes narrow; the corners of the lips move up and out and lips may part to expose upper teeth; cheeks are raised with an apple-like bulge; C-like wrinkles pull up from corners or raised lips to the sides of the nose. Body is open and forward moving.
  • Surprise: The eyebrows zoom upwards in a curve, wrinkles spread across the forehead; eyes open wide showing their whites; jaw drops; mouth slackens. Head hunches into raised shoulders.
  • Sadness: Inner ends of the eyebrows rise; eyes appear moist; mouth drops at the corners and the face appears limp; lips may quiver. Shoulders hunch forward; body is slack.
  • Fear: Similar to surprise with subtle differences. Raised eyebrows are pulled together [not as much curve in the brow as in surprise]. Forehead furrows in centre [when surprised, furrow carries across the brow]. Whites of the eyes show; lips are pulled back; mouth is slightly opened. Shoulders are hunched, with a backward movement to the body.
  • Anger: Eyebrows are pulled down and inward; vertical crease between the brows; eyes narrow and take on a hard, staring look. Lips close tightly, and turn down at the corners; nostrils may flare. Hands are clenched, body is forward moving.

Tip: Be subtle when watching other people. If they feel they’re being scrutinised, they may become antagonistic toward you.

Note: In order to read body language signals accurately you have to consider the combination of gestures, whether they match what the person’s sayin, and the context in which you’re seeing them.

For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

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The Three Stages of Circular Communication

Listening, learning and leveraging…


The ability to connect with your listener and to communicate with clarity, confidence and commitment is your number one key to success. Sound reasoning, innovative solutions and logical conclusions are rendered meaningless if you fail to persuade, influence and inspire your listener.

During these tough times of belt tightening and cutbacks, clear, credible communication is no longer an option, it’s a necessity. Colleagues, clients and constituents demand transparency, honesty and accountability and with the empowered citizen having choice and voice, frank and candid two-way communication if the only alternative for building relationships and enhancing your reputation within your communities.

Communication is circular; it is not a one-way street. By repeatedly practicing the three steps of circular communication – listening, learning and leveraging – you can gain your clients’ respect, establish rapport, and produce outstanding results.

Listening Actively

In addition to what your customers say, listen for how they deliver your message. Details and data are important in understanding your clients’ requirements and how they expect you to address their interests. The way they speak – revealing their moods, attitudes and emotions – provides you with further valuable information. Turning your antenna and responding to what you observe through their non-verbal behaviour increases your ability to understand and respond to the speakers’ needs and concerns.

Learning to Learn

Soliciting specific feedback and being willing to act on what you hear increases your ability to connect with your customers. By engaging your clients as partners and giving them responsibility for identifying problems, you empower them to work with your departments and agencies as you seek sustainable solutions together.

 Aristotle believed that effective communication is a combination of ethos [the credibility of the speaker], logos [the truth and relevancy of the message], and pathos [the emotional and appropriate response of the receivers]

 Leveraging the Learning

Having listened and learned, now’s the time to leverage your gains. By improving deliverables and performances, you demonstrate that you’ve taken on board what you’ve discovered. By improving the services you offer, you show that you’re responding to customers’ needs. By improving your communication, you display willingness to engage with your communities in positive, proactive, and productive ways.

The Benefits of Circular Communication

Because the pressures and priorities of the public sector shift and change according to circumstances, so do the requirements and expectations of its customers. Nothing is set in stone and agility, flexibility and a willingness to listen, learn and leverage separate great communicators from the also-rans. Circular communication creates trust between and agency and its communities. No long lasting, productive relationship can exist without trust at its foundation.

For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

And… Follow us on Twitter! www.twitter.com/diamondpolisher

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