Most of us understand the importance of listening. We’re taught it from a very young age – when we first go to school bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and are taught to practice ‘active listening’ so that we truly understand everything that’s being said to us. But as we get older, we’re taught about the other forms of communication in life – non-verbal communications, body language, eye contact and more – all designed to help us really understand other people.

It was Peter Drucker who once said: “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said”, and we firmly believe that this couldn’t be truer. The things we miss that weren’t actually spoken in a conversation can be the most important parts of the discussion, but unless you’re aware of that and paying attention, you might never know. So, how can you, as a person and a business, hear what’s not being said?

Pay attention to body language

The next time you interact with someone face-to-face, we want you to try something. Watch their eye movement, look at their body position, the way they use their hands, and see if their face changes to convey a different meaning than the choice of words they are using. All of these non-verbal cues can be intentional, but more often than not we do them without thinking. This means when you ask something simple like ‘are you feeling ok?’, it’s actually really easy to tell when a ‘yes’ actually means a ‘no’, if you’re paying attention.

Studies have shown that body language and other non-verbal communication made up around 55% of all communication, with tone coming second, followed by the actual words making up the smallest percentage. When a person is talking about their emotions or experiences, this goes up to around 93%. So if you truly want to understand what someone is saying, or hear the things they aren’t saying, you need to be listening to their body language and non-verbal cues as well. There have been a lot of articles detailing all the things you need to look out for, but the most common aspects of non-verbal are:

  • Facial expressions
  • Body movements
  • Posture
  • Eye contact
  • Paralanguage (tone)
  • Proxemics (proximity and personal space)
  • Physiological changes (like sweating or blushing)

Ask questions

Being actively engaged in a conversation is something we’ve talked about before, and it’s equally important if you want to recognise the subtle clues of ‘what’s not being said’. One of the key elements here is to act ignorant, and ask as many questions as possible. If you think you know, you won’t ask. And if you don’t ask, you won’t find out why you need to know. So even though you may feel you know, pretend you don’t. On top of that, try to use those questions to explore the situation and try to find the truth. After all, the important and difficult job is not to find the right answer, it’s to find the right question. So asking questions will help you find the right one to get to the bottom of the situation.

Give people a safe way to say it

Sometimes, people aren’t saying things because they are afraid, embarrassed, or don’t feel safe and secure enough. This is the worst-case scenario for a business, because any good business owner wants their employees to feel safe and happy at work. But sometimes, wanting to say something isn’t the same as being able to, and when that happens, you need to offer employees a way to express their views and concerns that they are comfortable with. Just one of the ways you can do that is through anonymous reporting. These platforms help Enabling employees to raise concerns or ideas anonymously, encourages them to contribute ideas and give their take on the way you are doing things. All of this adds up to a total involvement from the employee, feeling as though they can say what they need to without fear of judgement or embarrassment. You might be surprised by what they have to say!

If you would like to find out more about how you can hear what’s isn’t being said, or how to implement an anonymous reporting platform in your business, just get in touch with the team today.

WorkInConfidence is the industry leading people involvement platform: One place to MEASURE where you are at any time with pulse, mini or full surveys, DISCUSS how to improve on forums and RAISE ideas or concerns anonymously directly with senior management and have an ongoing discussion. Contact us today to find out more or arrange a demonstration.