Trivium Pursuit

How We Send Emotional Messages by Ernst Beier

This excerpt was taken from Your Family God’s Way: Developing & Sustaining Relationships in the Home by Wayne A. Mack.

In an article entitled “How We Send Emotional Messages,” Ernst Beier graphically illustrates how easily we can mistake the messages people are conveying nonverbally.

We asked several people to act out six different moods on videotape. The moods were anger, fear, seductivity, indifference, happiness and sadness. Then we let our subjects review their portrayals and eliminate any that they felt were unrepresentative. When we played these videotapes to large audiences to discover if they could decode the moods intended, we found that everyone appears to send out misinformation… I shall never forget two examples of this discordance. One girl, who tried like everyone else to appear angry, fearful, seductive, indifferent, happy and sad… appeared to her judges as angry in every case. Imagine what a difficult world she must have lived in. No matter where she set the thermostat of her emotional climate, everyone else always felt it as sweltering hot. Another girl in our experiment… invariably impressed her judges as seductive. Even when wanted to be angry, men whistled at her.

Nonverbal communication is continuous, powerful, and easily misunderstood…

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