My mom’s computer crashed the other day, and the tech could not fix it. Her only option was to purchase a new a computer. It is always gut wrenching to get a new computer; I never know what I’m getting into, and I always have to ask for help. Since I was obviously not the person to explain what to look for to my mom, we had to ask for help. After a few minutes in the store, the sales person asked if we had any questions and my mom said I would like more information about three computers.
The sales guy automatically goes into, “Well, this one has a 2.6GHz processor, and this one is a…” He kept rattling on the specifications of each computer. I couldn’t help myself, I jumped into the conversation stopping him and said, “We have no idea what you are saying because it’s all gibberish to us.” He was obviously taken aback. I didn’t intend to be rude, but there was no hope of even attempting to follow along with his comparison because we were lost. Our lack of understanding meant there was no reason for him to keep talking.
He then started again pointing to the computer, “This one has a bigger processor, which means it’s going to run faster than these two and that’s important when you are doing multiple things at once.” Pointing to the same computer, “This one also has a bigger memory which means you’ll never run out of room for storing pictures or documents.” Hallelujah! English at last!
1) Head nodding with “uh huh,” “ok”, and unimpressed “wow” – This is the classic I’m pretending to listen, but I’m not really listening at all sign. You will also hear this on phone calls when one person won’t stop to breathe because they have been babbling for 30 minutes, and you don’t want to listen anymore. You reply at random with “uh huh, ok, wow,” but you can’t repeat anything that was said because you’re not paying attention.
2) Distraction – This sign is the I’m so lost I can’t even begin to figure it out myself, so I’m going to be productive or occupy myself another way. This response happens when the audience gets glazed over because they are thinking of the personal and business to-do list, but still trying to look as if they are still paying attention.
3) Fidgeting– It’s a physical sign of unease. This response is when the clock gets looked at every 60 seconds, and the audience starts squirming in their chairs or discretely attempting to get away, but they get pulled back in by force because they simply don’t want to be rude. The mind begins to think “when will the torture end…” and counting down the minutes and seconds.
Take a look at your audience next time you speak. Do you see any signs of stress and misunderstanding present in your audience? If the signs are there, you’ll want to rethink what you say. If others don’t understand it now, they certainly aren’t going to comprehend anything else later. Unfortunately, you can’t teach through osmosis.
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