Friday, February 19, 2010

Winning Body Languished

So, on my last post, The Word and the Nonverbal, I got a rather nice comment from Mark Bowden (click on the good ol' link and scroll down to the bottom to read it), who is a communication consultant and trainer.  He also started to follow me on Twitter, from his profile called truthplane.  And I reciprocated.  That's how things go out here on the social media frontier.

I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about folks in this line of work, at least the ones who act as if they and they alone hold the secret to effective communication, when that's exactly what we teach (or used to teach) in Communication 101 courses.  And there are others who do the same thing in regard to basic anthropology, or general semantics, or media ecology.  I have trouble with that kind of misrepresentation.  But Mark is not one of that ilk, not one of those types, I hasten to add.

Now, maybe this has something to do with the fact that I heard a colleague at a recent faculty meeting talk as if getting paid to be a corporate consultant is inherently evil, a position I find to be absurd in its absolutism.  And maybe it has something to do with the fact that I attended a memorial gathering this week for an old colleague here at Fordham University, Edward Wakin, who did quite a bit of corporate consulting in his day, as well as being the only faculty member we had who really focused on getting students jobs after graduation.   People are entitled to earn a living, after all.

Or maybe Mark is just that good in his nonverbals, I can't rule that out, his emphasis is on projecting an impression of trust.  But after reading his comment on my post, and going to the URL he left there and watching his YouTube video, I was impressed with his open and modest presentation of his area of expertise, and decided to write this follow-up post on his behalf.  We have had no direct communication, I just find him to be the kind of communication professional I can readily endorse.  So here, take a look at the video:

I also rather like the way this was done, from an aesthetic point of view.  So from there, I went on to check out his website, TruthPlane, and found another interesting video there:

I think this video is very helpful as a starting point, and kudos for all the connections to the animal kingdom--nonverbal communication is the aspect of communication that we share with other species, whereas verbal communication is ours alone, for good and for ill.  

And I like the bit about the verbal being the spaghetti sauce and the nonverbal the spaghetti.  It reminds me of how my colleague at Fordham, Ed Wachtel, once wrote an email spoofing Marshall McLuhan, with an Italian theorist who said that the macaroni is the message.  That inspired me, in turn, to declare on every Passover holiday that the matzoh is the message.  Hey, what can I say, food is an often-overlooked element in the study of orality and literacy.  Walter Ong misses it, although Jack Goody does say something about writing and recipes.  But all this talk is making me hungry, so I'd better wrap this up soon.

Mark does speaking engagements too, and appears to do a great job of demonstrating nonverbal techniques, as can be seen from this video:

There also are some other videos on his YouTube channel, and I'll leave it to you to check them out if you care to.  And he's written a book, entitled Winning Body Language: Control the Conversation, Command Attention, and Convey the Right Message without Saying a Word.  That's a title that fits right in in the Self-Help Section of the bookstore, but I can't help but find it a little over-the-top, and couldn't resist having a little fun with it in the title of this blog post.

The thing is, I had a telephone conversation earlier today with general semantics expert Sanford Berman, who has a PhD in Communication, and studied with S. I. Hayakawa and Irving Lee.  Sandy was criticizing contemporary Communication departments for abandoning the teaching of effective communication, which, on the verbal side, included a good, strong dose of general semantics.  And he has a point, it's much like English departments abandoning the teaching of literature in favor of theory.  Understanding verbal and nonverbal communication will serve students much better in life than teaching them about Foucault, Derrida, Baudrillard, Zizek, and company.

So, I wish the best of luck to Mark Bowden, I'll admit to having learned some new tricks from his videos (old dog that I am), and more importantly this has given me food for thought (but now I need to go get some dinner).


robbwindow said...

Thanks Mr Strate. I have met Mark six years ago at a Holistic fair in Chelsea. He did a guided meditation session. I ended up seeing a Star Wars character in that world he took us all. I think it was Darth Vader, can't be sure though it was a few years ago. These vids are great I have subscribed to his channel.


Mark Bowden said...

Thanks for this very flattering write-up Lance. I really do appreciate your well thought out and balanced understanding of how I am approaching and developing communication for corporate and political clients.

You are right about the book title: my publishers McGraw-Hill gave it the title that they thought would straddle the business and self-help shelves and reap a double reward financially--a feat of acrobatics that perhaps leaves the book rightly prone to a poke: ouch!!!

However, I hope you and your readers might find the content insightful and of real practical value.

It will publish worldwide next month, but I've put up the introduction for you and all your readers to download at this link and if you might choose to comment on it via this site--I am all ears.