8 seconds. That’s all it takes. Recent research says that we will decide within 8 seconds of meeting someone whether we want to continue to engage with them or not based on what they are transmitting non-verbally. Researcher Albert Mehrabian, professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA and famous for the 7%-38%-55% rule on verbal and nonverbal cues, says body language is powerful and often discounted by most people. Nonverbal communication accounts for 55% of the information we transmit overall during interpersonal interactions. 38% is attributed to the tone of one’s voice, while only 7% is conveyed through our actual words. Knowing this can be a powerful tool in how we share our work and our faith.
As a young actor in school, I’d spend class after class staring at another actor doing an acting exercise to learn how to interpret what was really being communicated by the subtle nuances and facial expressions of the other actor. It wasn’t the words we were taught to pay attention to but what was really being conveyed through body language and the tone of the other actor’s voice. Great actors know that the communication and story told by the actor’s character choices are often more important than even the words written in the script. Actors must play each moment in a scene. It’s why live theater is so fun and compelling to not only act in but to watch.
Former FBI agent and body expert Joe Navarro said when he interviews a suspect, “It really is looking at an individual and asking, ‘What are they transmitting?’ We communicate by the clothes and shoes we wear, the hairstyle we choose, the kinds of foods we eat or don’t eat, and even how we eat and with our quirky habits and personal routines.
Each part of our body talks.
When you pitch a project, conduct business, audition, or work on a production or artistic endeavor, your body language is being read. As Christians often working in mainstream places, we’re called to lead with our talent and skills and not just be good at what we do, but excellent. How we conduct ourselves with grace, kindness, integrity, and respect for others shows. It’s watched and judged in 8 seconds. Our faith and what we believe is read, and no words may ever be spoken. Yet people sense that we possess something different and something they, too, want.
Walk the walk and don’t talk the talk.
Be the lamp of God’s light for others to see. Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” In today’s instant, opinionated, and depressed world, you only have 8 seconds. Whether you’re in an office, on a production set, or just standing in line or waiting for something, how you react when the pressure is on, and the kind of body language you use is noticed. You are communicating God’s light. It only takes seconds, but it may make a difference in someone’s eternity.
When you walk out the door each day, say a prayer to transmit light.