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Social subtleties

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

Our April NED Talk was given by Graham Woodham on the topic of ‘Non-Verbal Communication – The Subtleties of Social Interactions’. The talk proved to be both entertaining and highly informative – an interesting blend of psychological theory and practical observation.

Graham (who edits our Newsletter) has had a 40-year career in qualitative research and studied non-verbal communication for his degree in Psychology before that, so he has plenty of experience in observing and interpreting how people’s posture, gestures and facial expressions interact with the words that they utter. Sometimes their behaviour reinforces their verbal comments but at other times the observed cues contradict the views expressed. It is these cases, perhaps, that are the more interesting. Graham identified a number of subtle behaviours – ‘tells’, as they have been termed – that can indicate when people are being untruthful, including fidgety hands and (especially) legs, or unconscious touching of the nose or hair.

One point that Graham was keen to make was that such ‘tells’ are to at least some degree personal and individual: the better you know someone, the more likely you are to identify the idiosyncrasies that betray their own feelings. Even then, reading the cues is a far from infallible skill. But with training and careful observation, we can learn a lot from the non-verbal messages that our friends, colleagues and respondents are broadcasting.

Our final NED Talk of the season will take place on Wednesday 21 April, when Simon Chadwick will speak on the subject ‘Through the looking glass darkly. What the hell is wrong with America?’ Invitations to this event have been sent out recently by email. Please contact Gill Wareing if you would like to attend.