Here I sit, seat 13D. My wife and daughter are in the row in front of me. It’s 8:45 am, Friday, all is quite. A subdued indistinguishable voice comes from several rows behind me. I can hear a baby in the back of the plane crying, the sound is surprisingly not irritating. The jet engine warms up as the big 747 sits waiting on the tarmac for his turn to charge down the runway. Next to me the lady is sending beacon laden signals of, “don’t even think about talking to me.” I am doing my best to comply but it’s hard. Her nose is buried in her book. I cannot ascertain the title but its chapter heading is ‘Shattered.’ Her exaggerated leaning away from me seems to broadcast catastrophe if our elbows were too actually touch. I just noticed I am exaggerating my lean to the left in an effort to ease her subconscious worry. These few lines represent some of our complexity – I would bet her conscious mind is not even aware of how her subconscious mind is staving off some unnamed, unknown potential horrible bad contact with the stranger sitting to her left. ‘He is male – therefore he is a high risk; if I lean far away, I will be safe.’
I wonder if the airlines will understand the uptick in their profit margin I am providing for them today with my 23 pound weight loss. It is no small thing to lessen the load for 3,115 miles of travel by 23 pounds. That has to be a considerable net bonanza of unrealized savings. If you and I were smart people, and if we had a little data, and of course if you had remembered your slide rule, I am pretty sure we could figure out the exact increase the fuel savings brought to their bottom line. Let’s just try it…. 735,000 pounds (The weight of the plane) + passengers and cargo weight minus 23 pounds, times the horsepower, divide by 10,000 RPM’s, times 4 jet motors, times gallons of fuel burned per hour, plus head winds of 15 miles per hour for x minutes, hmmm…I guess even with your slide rule it is beyond our calculating and proper formula abilities – But my rough estimate of savings is 1 gallon of jet fuel. Hmmm…that doesn’t sound that great considering our world uses 84 million barrels of oil per day worldwide – Sorry Delta, I tried to help!
The lady next to me is relaxing – I guess she feels her defensive posturing has been effective and it is safe to lower her guard. Should we do an experiment and try talking to her to see if her defense position re-postures? Sure, lets go for it. “Lady would you like me to turn the reading light on for you?”
“No, I am fine.”
Hmmm…firm and direct but kind - I guess that is a no! Opps, her left arm just tucked into her side, her feet shuffled, that sigh, what does that mean? I guess she’s back to defense position #1. I notice she is onto a new chapter in her reading. The heading at the top of the page is as before, ‘Shattered,’ that must be the name of the book and not a chapter heading. A mystery….what has been shattered or who has been shattered. I certanily will not be asking her, who or what has been shattered! I guess I will have to buy the book if I really want to know. She seems very into it; maybe the book is just that good.
I guess this all sounds a bit creepy, me noting the stranger to my right and all her non-verbal’s. In defense of my own creepiness, I have heard only 7% of all communication is verbal, so just because I am writing and making note of her non-verbals – I know a secret everyone has these thoughts. Now don’t start thinking, “I don’t,” because that would just be a lie.
Well maybe next time I will tell you about the other people around me.
What is the lesson here? Not really a lesson but you might want to recognize that your non-verbals are screaming reams of information to those in the room. If you are aware of your non-verbals and it is intentional because of the creepy old guy sitting next to you – They are working.