Over the past three months, I've been reading Stephen Covey's classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I'm now in the final chapter, rounding the corner to the finish line, and I feel like I've slowly ingested a deeply satisfying 7-course meal. It's classified as a business book, yet Covey references family life often throughout the pages; I've been surprised by how universally applicable and pertinent his principles are, to people of all vocations and life stages. Clearly others found this to be true, given its enduring influence and 25 million + copies.
In the chapter, "Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood," Covey shares an interesting fact:
"Communications experts estimate, in fact, that only 10 percent of our communication is represented by the words we say. Another 30 percent is represented by our sounds, and 60 percent by our body language."
Anyone around children knows the resounding truth of this statement! I'm envisioning a pre-teen in the throes of an emotional roller coaster, needing a major attitude adjustment. Body language is our loudest, clearest, most powerful communication—how we stand, how we hold our head, where we look with our eyes. Second, the sounds we emit—agitated grunts, sarcastic sighs, understanding moans, excited gasps. And very last place, the words we say.
That's why when we just say sorry, our words can be empty. A silent, apologetic hug, a long embrace without words after an offense, means more than a quick I'm sorry. A soft, remorseful stare can also communicate I'm sorry (I've had this happen with a child). We've been trained and we train others to say the right things: Thank you, Please, I'm sorry. This quote reminds me that we most powerfully communicate the spirit of Thank you, Please, I'm sorry without words. Without words, imagine that.
This is one small nugget of wisdom from a great book. I recommend taking the time to read it at an unhurried pace and apply its insights to your life. It will help you ripen and mature for ultimate effectiveness, quite like this fuyu persimmon I photographed this morning.