September 11, 2014 Leave a comment
Nonverbal expressions, like words (see Facilitate Meaning, Not Words), connote multiple messages. After you finish this article, you will be strongly tempted to embrace the FAST recommendation—ie; keep your elbows tucked in, your hands below your heart, and keep them open, facing up. Some would call this approach, keeping your hands to yourself.
For example, extending the index and little fingers upward, with a fist shaped as a “V” (with the middle and ring fingers tucked down into the palm, along with the thumb) can signify victory or good luck in the Americas while it is considered a vulgar insult in Italy.
A single thumb up, commonly used to express “all right” in the United States, counts as the number one in Germany, the number five in Japan, and is seen as a vulgar insult in Afghanistan, among other places (akin to the middle finger prone upward in the United States).
Scuba divers universally acknowledge the clasping of the thumb and index finger into a circle (or, “AOK”) as the buddy signal that all is fine. The same signal may be seen as a vulgar insult in Brazil, Russia, and Italy while it signifies to “pay me” in Japan and displays a sense of “worthless” in France.
Even a simple nod of the head from side to side typically signifies “no” or “I’m not in agreement” in the United States, may signify “yes” or “no problem” in India and elsewhere. The slight vertical nod of the head up and down signifies “yes” or “I’m OK with it” in the United States, but it may signify “no” or “I don’t see it” in Greece and elsewhere.
While nonverbal cues are intended to simplify understanding, it is rather apparent that they can obfuscate consensus in a multi-cultural setting. As with everything, context is critical to understanding, and the role of the facilitator is to police context on behalf of the participants—so be careful, and keep your hands to yourself.
Let us know what you think by commenting below. For additional methodology and team-based meeting support for your change initiative, refer to “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need.
Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills
The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).
Do not forget to order Change or Die if you’re working on a business process improvement project. It provides detailed workshop agendas and detailed tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective—daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.