The Power and Therefore The Danger Of Being A Serial-Speaker
Typically, when we think about communication, the focus is on what we say with our mouths. The focus is on words, maybe stage presence, gestures and eye contact, but not much more than those four.
The importance of those four areas is not to be minimized in any way because those are some of the most important means of communicating. Indeed, some will be categorized as good-great public speakers if they have a good stage presence and eye contact, even if their words are not that compelling or the speech or message they are sharing is that effectual.
However, non-verbal communication is a second dimension of public speaking, and especially of public speakers who are “repeat-performers.” Some public speakers do not have to be as concerned with this second dimension of public speaking because you never really get to know that individual.
Circuit speakers like Mary-Lou Retton, Tim Tebow, or even Tony Evans show up for several hours, speak, and we get to know very little about them as a person. That is far different than public speakers who are teachers, pastors, or preachers within the local church setting.
Pastors or preachers are “speaking all the time” in their setting, not just verbally, not just in a Bible class, at various church services, in different official capacities, at brief devotional settings, in counseling sessions, in the church aisles, and/or special programs, but ALL THE TIME!
As a “serial-speaker,” the pastor constantly and steadily generates speech through non-verbal behavior, using behavior which is far greater than his voluminous words. Unequally, through his behavior which is constantly on display, he is communicating through . . . .
- Facial expressions
- Heartiness in singing
- People who are recognized as special or return guests in the audience
- Facial response to what others are saying
- Ease or difficulty in movement (on the platform, up and down any stairs)
- Reliance on notes or manuscript / or no notes
- Movement to the front of the pulpit or stepping back from it
- Speaking from a raised area or from the floor
Thinking About Non-Verbal Speech
Do not think of non-verbal communication as the opposite of verbal, but as an escort or companion of the verbal.
While the content of the verbal is less subject to misinterpretation (even though we all know that our verbal communication can be misunderstood), the non-verbal is subject to more subjectivity.
While the verbal uses words that speak of what we feel, think, and/or believe, the non-verbal can contradict the verbal.
While the verbal uses words that speak of what we feel, think, and/or believe, the non-verbal can confirm the intensity of the verbal.
While the verbal is generally subject to the rules of grammar, the non-verbal has no such grammatical constraints — other than that it be consistent with our words. When it is not consistent, we create confusion or humor. We create humor when the verbal does not purposefully correspond to the non-verbal.
What we communicate non-verbally often trumps the verbal. People generally believe we “do” what we believe, that what we say is not as accurate of what we actually believe as our behavior.
Non-verbal messages can sink a speaker. There are messages which a speaker can communicate in a speaking situation and in a repeat speaking situation the more, which will cause listeners to lose regard for what is being said and/or the person who is saying it.
Let me close with a link to a message by Andy Stanley — “Developing Moral Authority” — which powerfully argues the difference between position and influence!
Take time to listen to the beginning of this message where Andy Stanley sets up the Big Idea which draws a distinction between authority and influence.
“Often the people who have the most authority in our life, are not the ones who have the most influence in our life.”