It goes without saying, by Guest blogger Lorie Sheffer

Vulnerability, trust, and non-verbal communication (photo: Lorie Sheffer)

When a cat lies in it’s back and exposes its soft underbelly that is a sign of trust. The cat is in a position of vulnerability by an attacker. In order for it to expose that part of itself it must feel totally safe and not threatened by its surroundings.

I recently read a study that concluded we humans are losing our ability to interpret social cues and body language. We are becoming increasingly distracted by technology, communicating via social media such as Twitter and Facebook. In doing so, we are literally rewiring our brains.

When my husband had a massive stroke in 1996, he was left with severe expressive and receptive aphasia. What that means is, he was unable to understand language or speak coherently. He lost his reading comprehension as well. During his recovery time, we had to rely on other means of communication. The same holds true to those who have small children, and sometimes it holds true if we have elderly parents. They are unable to effectively communicate verbally, so we need to be more in tune with those other signals.

Most of us can tell if someone has a strained look on their face that they’ve had a bad day. Raised shoulders mean they are carrying stress. A slumped, deflated posture can be a sign of defeat or fatigue. Fast speech or rapid hand movements signal excitement or unease.

How sad if, in our race to Tweet real-time or immediately race to post photos, we lose the subtle art of wordless conversation.

By jeff noel

Retired Disney Institute Keynote Speaker and Prolific Blogger. Five daily, differently-themed personal blogs (about life's 5 big choices) on five interconnected sites.


  1. Technology is a double edged sword. On one hand it creates the setting for impersonal communication. But on the other hand it affords others the real power to be heard. I’m thinking of the nonverbal autistic women whose world was revealed when she started typing and of course Stephen Hawking. Amazing.

  2. Patty, I totally agree with you that technology can be a wonderful thing. However, imagine if those who could walk would use Hawking’s wheelchair and stop ambulating. Eventually those muscles would atrophy and they would lose that ability, making them dependent on the chair for mobility. It makes me so sad to see parents texting instead of giving their child or their spouse full attention, or seeing someone texting real-time events instead of fully experiencing them. Even I am guilty of sending emails instead of making phone calls.

  3. I agree with you too. Listening to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, the NPR show, yesterday the commentator said accidents in young children are up because parents are preoccupied with their electronic devices. It’s interesting something so good, technology, can have such harsh side effects.

  4. And I’m guilty too. I text my college aged daughter everyday instead of calling. We text instead of chatting due to poor signal. Only calling when necessary due to medical situations.

  5. Well, Patty, texting our kids after they move out of our house is better than no contact! Plus, we don’t have to worry about calling them during class or bothering them when they are studying. (Or socializing!) So it’s great for that. Long gone are the days when colleges had a pay phone in the hallway for everyone to share.
    What floored me was one evening a group of my daughter’s friends were at my house having a pool party and everyone was texting and tweeting and posting photos during their party. I wonder how much conversation they missed while documenting it real-time? It just seems like there’s such a lack of full attention that the subtleties are often missed. Tone of voice, facial expressions, body language…..

  6. I wonder why we are becoming a society that thinks to share electronically with the world before interacting with the people sharing the same venue? Is it the same concept of the photographer capturing an event through a camera instead of viewing it real time? I use the example of a photographer because I take thousands of photos each year. Trying to capture life’s smallest special moments. I wonder.

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