Posts Tagged ‘communication’
Fox has a show running right now that probably won’t last long (surprise surprise…) called Lie To Me. Have you seen it? Tim Roth plays an ex-government, now private sector consultant who specializes in reading body language. The plot each week follows the same basic formula–a crime is committed, it’s covered up by its perpetrators and co-conspirators, Roth’s character is hired to sort out who’s lying and who’s telling the truth, and ultimately justice is served.
There’s a few reasons why I love this show (and why I’ll miss it when it’s gone.)
1. The tale is told using parallel storytelling techniques.
While you’re conventionally following the overt sequence of scenes and dialogue in order to understand what’s going on–much like you would during any show–the filmmakers have added a unique layer of subtext that plays out in the body language and facial expressions of the characters. To test the impact of this alternate tactic, I watched last night’s episode on mute for the first 15 minutes and made my assessment of who the guilty party was. I nailed it, not because I’m so wise and insightful, but because the story is so well told by the what the actors are saying with their bodies and faces. Really cool stuff.
2. The writers cleverly allude to well-known case studies from real world history.
Several times during each episode a character will make a gesture during which the camera freezes. Then they show a series of photos of famous people in infamous scenarios making the same face. For example, the ‘Governor’ character last night was confronted on a sexual indiscretion; he smirked, the camera froze, then they showed photos of Clinton, Edwards and a few others making the same face. It wouldn’t be so compelling if it was a photo of just one person–but the fact that they show multiple examples of the same body language is an incredibly revealing commentary on human communication.
3. Roth’s character never uses deception as a technique to find the truth.
Instead he asks brilliantly crafted questions and a (sometimes brutally) straight-forward approach to unearth the real story hidden behind the lies. In other words, he remains totally honest in conversation and passively allows the dishonesty to reveal itself.
The personal evangelism connection
So who cares, right? Well, the show has taught me a few things about being an effective communicator, particularly when it comes to sharing Christ.
1. We all tell stories using parallel techniques.
The account you give verbally doesn’t necessarily always match up with what you’re saying with your face and body. In times past, when I’ve relied upon a scripted method of evangelism that I’ve had to recall during times of sharing the Gospel, most of my attempts (specifically with people in my generation or younger) have failed. As I think back, I created a disconnect between my heart and my words by trying to recite a memorized script. I can only imagine how different the story was that my face and body were telling compared to the story I was verbalizing. When we engage in personal evangelism, we MUST allow the Holy Spirit to direct our words. We do that by paying attention to our ‘heart.’ Luke says, “…for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” I’m not saying evangelism tools that teach specific statements are wrong, but I am saying that using them at the expense of our own words can lead to confusion on the part of the person listening. I’ve seen unchecked body language end a lot of Gospel conversations.
2. Communication is defined by what is heard, not by what is said.
We are, in some ways, the sum of our experiences. You will never come across another human being who hasn’t created a ‘baseline’ for understanding body language and facial expressions. At some level, we all aggregate what we’ve seen other people do with their bodies and faces during conversations. We then apply what we’ve learned from past encounters to our present ones. If a friend told me something and gave me a distinctive look and then I found out later he was lying to me, I will inherently question the truth of what’s being verbalized the next time I see that look while in a conversation. Conversely, you can try as hard as you want to verbalize an idea, but if you’re body or face is saying something that your listener has seen in the past, they will interpret it to mean what they believe it means, regardless of your intentions. We MUST take great care in how we relate to others with our bodies and faces, or we risk unintentionally miscommunicating our ideas.
3. Sharing the Gospel is a collaborative experience.
Sometimes we convince ourselves that a good ‘presentation’ of the Gospel will yield conversion. The reality is that many people on the other side of the presentation are listening and thinking, “This sounds pretty canned… I wonder what his agenda really is…” He perceives the presenter as someone who’s hiding something or holding back or being deceptive in some way. This is the danger of sharing the Gospel through a monologue. You know you’re being totally honest and truthful, your intentions are pure, but you’re getting a closed-off vibe from the other person. The reason for this is that he wants to be heard as well! If we want to be perceived as honest in a conversation, then we need to be genuinely interested in what the other person wants to say. Sharing Christ ought to happen through a balanced dialogue–a conversation that validates and values both people. The only way to accomplish this is through your body and your face, which are both driven by your heart. They speak volumes more about your intentions than your mouth ever could.
So these are some of the things I picked up on while laying on my couch. If you want to blend mild entertainment with an interesting learning experience that might help you better understand body language and facial expressions, check out the show–before they cancel it.