One test of how well you read nonverbal is when you travel abroad. On my recent tour to Russia, the people in big cities knew English, but not in the small villages.
I thought I’d pick up Russian quickly, however, jet lag turns your brain to mush, and then you have “white nights”. In the summer, there’s daylight up to 24 hours a day. When we were there, we had 3 hours of darkness.
When you learn a spoken word, you can’t identify it on billboards, menus or street signs because the Russian alphabet is Cyrillic.
The sounds and cadence aren’t familiar because Russian’s not a Romance language.
The Russian’s are naturally reserved so when you say Das Vedanya, you’ll get the same thing back, not a conversation.
So, with your neocortex mushy, and words of small use, we turn to our empathy and other EQ competencies.
Sign language works well. You can exaggerate your expression (pleading) and gestures (2 fingers for $2), and put some warmth in my eyes. Fear is contagious; so is trust. Nonverbal expressions are nearly universal, and you’ll have no trouble getting the message if you tune in to it, i.e., a shrug, breaking eye-contact when they’ve made their last offer, a “twinkle” in their eye when they’ve decided you’re the friendly sort.
Then look to see how others are reacting. For instance, in museums such as the Hermitage or the Armory, older women sit in a chair in each room. It’s their job to make sure no one touches anything.
When the Ugly American (Paul) in our tour group touched a curtain in Peterhof, the Russian grandmother (babushka) sprang to her feet with a thud, clapped her hands twice, loudly, then advanced toward Paul shaking her finger and barking Russian. We didn’t need to understand the words.
But what did this mean in this country? Was Paul going to Siberia? How could we find out?
One of the things our mother does is interpret for us. We look at her to see how we’re supposed to be reacting. When we grow up, we do this with our leaders or people we assume more knowledgeable. So we turned to Leo, our Russian guide, to see how serious this was. Leo was laughing and relaxed. A young man with much EQ, he put his arm around the Russian women, turning her away and soothing her. How? Babushkas all over the world are soft on young men.
In sign language I asked a vendor if I could take his picture. Then I offered him money, he refused it, I tried again, he accepted it but handed me a matroshka. I returned a hug and got one back.
A little girl in a park caught my eye and I started flirting with her. Eventually she ran over to me and jumped into my arms and gave me a big hug and kiss. We spoke the same language!
©Susan Dunn, MA Clinical Psychology, The EQ Coach, http://www.susandunn.cc . Does your brain turn to mush when dating? Increase your Emotional Intelligence and improve your dating and relationship life. Coaching, training and distance learning courses. Mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org for FREE eZine.
Submitted by: Susan Dunn, MA Clinical Psychology, The EQ Coach *
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