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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

GEL 2006 - Marc Salem

Marc Salem illustrated the potential to read and interpret non-verbal forms of communication. The presentation will be difficult to describe but I'll try anyway. A neighbor of mine in the auditorium was quite skeptical after the performance. He did not "buy" the success Mark demonstrated without use of a plant or other conspiratorial device. I was able to observe some details that may have escaped him and thereby my understanding was more grounded on the real possibilities of non-verbal communications. I would also highly recommend taking in one of Marc's performances to see for yourself.
Marc solicited 5 volunteers from the audience. They came up, were given a white piece of cardboard and a marker. They stood in a line facing the audience, Marc stood in front of them talking to us (keeping his back to the 5 most of the time). They drew a picture in only 30 seconds without making very visible movements to indicate to the audience whether they were drawing a circle (with a big swirling motion), etc. The cards were collected by one of the 5, shuffled and handed to Marc face down. He proceeded to ask them one at a time who picture it was that they were holding and they were only supposed to say "no", even if it was their picture. He proceed to correctly identify the first four artists based upon the way their body answered the question although their voice said "no" in each case. For the fifth, since it was by process of elimination known who was the artist, Marc went further and with a series of questions to which the artist could not answer verbally, to deduce the nature of the picture (something like four two-legged animals and an object with wheels). The picture indeed was of four people behind an automobile.
What was the point of this?
Communication certainly happens on many levels. Surprisingly, only 7 to 11% of all communication is verbal, the rest being non-verbal and its aspects. When you are on a phone call the tone of the speakers voice and the content of the conversation becomes very critical to the success of the discussion. You can have more leeway with the same conversation face-to-face, as more body language comes into play.
Successfully reading this body language is Marc's point. The body will unconsciously provide signals that to one who is tuned to observe them can use them to add meaning to the conversation. Some of these signals are cultural but many of them are wired into every person. How else would we learn to talk? We learn by observing our parents and those around us when we are infants.
For those in the internet world, until we do get connected with picture phones or web cameras, what we write in our blogs or in our emails or text messages is what is interpreted to be what we are meaning to convey. Which can be both good and bad. So be careful what you convey!
Marc's web page has additional info on what he does, how he does it, and video clips of some of his performances.
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