Did you know that 93% of communication is based on body language and tone of voice?   Only 7% of communication is verbal.   I picked up this tidbit when I completed the module on effective communication, part of the training for the in-home hospice program.  For kicks I decided to check out the impact of the 93% on Saturday.

 As I walked down my block, I took note of the sky, the brown spots left by the dogs on the grass, the unhappy flowers on this crisp morning.  It felt more like autumn than August.  The concrete was stiff and unyielding beneath my squeaky new shoes and I regretted wearing them.  I crossed the street to the athletic field and saw a black and white cat stalking a squirrel.  The squirrel is an old friend known to me from daily walks, but the cat was new, and I silently cheered the squirrel on as he sped along the top of the fence.    Maybe it was my imagination but that squirrel was laughing at the cat’s frustration, unsure of her ability to navigate the fence top.

I pulled up short at the field to watch a rugby game, a sport I had never seen before.  I think it was rugby as the players all wore striped shirts with long sleeves and white collars.   The ball looked like an ostrich egg, all shiny white and slick.  I stood and watched for a few minutes without a clue as to the rules.   The men reminded me of a little league soccer game where the kids all run in a clump after the ball.   A man in a wheelchair sat outside the fence watching the game.   His intent stare and crossed arms indicated to me that he took this seriously and understood what was happening.   I thought to ask him to explain the game to me, but I sensed a force field around him and finally walked away.

I continued on.   An orange pigeon waddled in front of me and I wondered what kind of toxin the mother must have got into to cause this strange colored mutation.  The pigeon strutted.  He owned the sidewalk, forcing me to step around him. 

When I reached Roosevelt Road, I saw a man walking toward me wearing a floppy clown suit, his stomach bellying out as if a hula hoop was secreted inside the loops of his pants.  Like a mime, his shirt was striped black and white, but rather than a red tie around the neck he wore loops of chains and white beads hanging low beneath the triple chin which sported a perfectly formed goatee.  His hair really caught my attention.  It reminded me of the trees in my old backyard after the ComEd crew came through, hacking chunks away to clear the power lines with no thought of esthetics.  His oddity was riveting and I wondered if he looked in the mirror before he left home.  But he strolled along with a straight spine and a forceful step.  No one would mess with him and I made a point to steer clear.

Arriving at the Green City Market, I immediately sensed something special was going on.  Rachel Ray was wandering the outdoor market, a film crew trailing behind.  Her bright smile, her laugh, her expansive gestures invited people to rush to her with excitement.  People responded to her every welcoming move and I, too, could feel the pull of her energy, how wonderful she was.

I stopped at a vegetable stand manned by teenagers.  Part of a city-sponsored gardening project, the kids offered up their produce with shy smiles.  There were so many professional farms represented but I was drawn to these kids who beamed with pleasure while I inspected the turnips.   The pros had better looking veggies, but the smiles sold me and I filled my bags from the kids’ stand.  The young man helping me dropped one of my turnips on the ground and he flushed bright red.  He stammered and asked if I would like to pick out another one but I laughed and told him I planned to wash it anyway.  Then his ear splitting grin made me laugh again. 

Walking back home with my treasures slung over my shoulders, I took deep breaths of the blue sky and warm sun.   I felt so good it must have been written all over my face.  People, strangers, nodded to me and many said hello.   I wondered what it was about my own body language that prompted their greetings.  And I thought about my reactions throughout the morning.  The crossed arms and hard stare of the man in the wheelchair, the forceful walk and odd clothing of the clown, even the quick strut of the pigeon put me off.  But the warmth of smiles drew me in. 

Lesson learned.  


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