Silent Lessons

When I was a child, one of the things that my favorite uncle shared with me was his love of classic movies. Some years later, when I was in college, I happened upon a class in film appreciation and I have been a dedicated movie buff ever since.

The most significant discovery I made during that long-ago film class was the genre of the silent movie. Prior to that time, my limited awareness of silent movies was due to a television show which featured silent films run at the wrong speed (with silly captions inserted) strictly for comic value.

In this film class, the silent films were played at the correct speed and frequently had an added orchestral soundtrack to simulate the original live piano accompaniment. The lighting and photography in these films was frequently superb, but the truly amazing thing was the ability of the actors to communicate action and emotion without words (beyond the occasional – and largely redundant — title card). Facial expressions and body language were the primary means of telling the story.

Perhaps in the days before the media barrage that is so prevalent today, people were able to read or “hear” the body language of others more readily than they do today. So much of any situation is in what is NOT said – the raised eyebrow, a clenched jaw, or the failure to make eye contact. These actions can frequently impart an entirely different message than a stream of words pouring from somebody’s mouth. Frequently, the body language tells a truth that the words may not.

In the business world, it is critically important to listen to what others are saying. But while you are listening to the words, also make the effort to “hear” what their body language is saying. This additional information could aid in your decision making process or at least make you aware that all might not be as it is presented.

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