Since so many of my readers are college students I thought it would be nice to show you a few ways to use non-verbal communication to your advantage in your everyday lives. But don’t assume that the strategies I present here will work only for students. These same strategies apply equally well to most business environments. The only difference is that instead of getting you better grades, they’ll help you better meet your boss’s expectations.
The first two techniques are straightforward and honest, the third technique is deceitful and manipulative. Just so you know, I’m not entirely serious about technique number three.
1)Watch for your professor’s ‘tell.’
I had a philosophy professor in college who smoked like a chimney during lectures. Back in the ’80s profs would do things like that. You could always tell when he was saying something you should take notes on when his cigarette ash got very long. This is because he was so passionate about what he was saying that he forgot to take a drag on his cigarette. Obviously what he was passionate about is what he thought was truly important, and it was a cinch that’s what would be on the test.
Every professor has a way of signalling when he’s come to something important. Some start pounding the lectern. Some point to the board. Some start to pace back and forth. It doesn’t matter what your professor’s ‘tell’ is, but understand that there will be one. I’m not suggesting that you should only take notes when you see the ‘tell,’ but do pay special attention to the material being covered at that point, because you will be hearing about it again.
2)Use body language to make the professor see you as somebody who is both studious and interested in his subject.
Proxemics is the technical term for communicating through the use of physical space. You should know that if you consistently sit in the front several rows, the professor will interpret that to mean that you care about doing well in his class. That will have a profound effect on the way he relates to you both in class an out. During class he will likely address a lot of his comments directly to you, and he will be examining your body language to determine whether he’s communicating the subject matter effectively. If he see’s he’s not getting through, he’ll likely adjust his teaching to suit you specifically. That kind of personal interaction can make a huge difference. Also, if he sees you as being engaged in his class, he will be more helpful when you approach him during his office hours, and probably even more forgiving if you don’t to as well as expected on a test or quiz.
Understand that professors don’t generally mean to play favorites, but these non-verbal signals act upon them unconsciously. Also, it will help if you adopt the body language of a good listener: face forward, lean in, always give good eye contact, and nod occasionally to let him know you understand.
3)Sit next to the smartest guy in class and mirror his body language.
Mirroring a person’s body language tends to cause that person to like and trust you more. If the smartest guy in class likes and trusts you, perhaps he will be more willing to share his notes with you, or even let you cheat off him if you’re in a jam.
Ok, I’m not really serious about that cheating part, but I am serious about using your non-verbal skills to improve your relationship with the class brain. First, if he likes and trusts you he really will be more inclined to help you if you need it. Second, the act of mirroring body language also tends to cause you to subconsciously adopt other habits and mannerisms as well As strange as it may sound, there’s no telling what might rub off. You may start to adopt mr. brain’s note taking techniques, or the way he asks questions, and you may discover that some of the strategies he habitually employs are the same that give him an edge as a student. In all seriousness, it’s never a bad idea to develop a stronger relationship with somebody who is better at you in a skill you’d like to develop. Humans are exceptional at mimicry, and we do it without being aware of it. Finding yourself strong role models will benefit you in ways you never expect.