The Power of the Unspoken Word

One of my favorite parts of the movie “Hitch” is his explanation of nonverbal communication. Released in 2005, the movie follows the love life of several couples through the eyes of a male dating coach. The story takes place before dating coaches were popularized, and so Alex Hitchens does most of his work behind the scenes and without publicity.

Part of his job is to teach his male clients how to interact with women. Most of the film is about nonverbal communication and the different ways that men and women interpret the actions of others. In the movie, Hitch says, “60 percent of all communication is nonverbal, 30 percent is your tone. That means 90 percent of what you’re saying ain’t coming out of your mouth.”

In other words, the people you’re talking to are reading more from what you aren’t saying than what you are saying. This means the power you want – in relationships, at your job, and with your children – isn’t coming from the words you’re using (although there IS power in the words!) – but instead from how you’re saying it.

Your nonverbal communication is communicating power while your words are communicating knowledge and feelings. What you say is as important as HOW you say it. Most of the time we don’t remember this. Especially in a time when quite a bit of communicating happens digitally.

Nearly every digital communication device has a way of adding facial expressions in order to let the recipient “read” body language. But this body language is chosen by the sender, where the body language you communicate during a face to face conversation is nearly always unconscious.

Most people learn to read body language as a child. It’s a process that humans and animals use. Dog whisperers and horse whisperers learn to read the body language of animals to understand actions and reactions. In order to gain greater power in your life, it’s important that you learn to read the subtle cues of others in your life, and learn to control your own body language.

At the end of the day, you’ll be judged by how others perceive you, and your knowledge by the results you produce. You do the same thing with your friends, family, boss and children. You know instinctively when your children are lying, your friends are hiding something and your boss is going to make a decision you don’t like. You know it because you’re reading body language. You might not be able to verbalize HOW you know it – but you know it.

Use It

At the same time you learn how to project power through body language, you’re learning how to read someone else’s language. And, you may recognize that while this subtle language seeks to project something about the other individual, you don’t HAVE to accept what that is.

In other words, just because the person sitting across from you is projecting power, you don’t have to accept they are powerful and continue along the path you desire. In some cases, they’ll back down and recognize you have more power than them. In other cases, they won’t. When and how you use this tactic is important. Use it against your boss, you could be packing up your desk and be on the street by evening.

Use it with your children or a friend, you may get what you want – but in either case you’ll pay a price.

There is a cost to be paid when you project power. The other person may be intimidated and back down, or they may rise to the occasion and challenge you. Both changes may be subtle, but both will affect the long-term results of the relationship. It might be the friend calls you less, or that your child feels more intimidated than loved – but either way there is a cost to be paid.

Learn It

There are several ways to learn the subtleties of body language. One of my favorites is to watch successful sales people. They have learned how to get you to do what they want – and it’s an art form. Tony Robbins comes to mind.

You don’t have to buy any of their products, you just have to spend time watching their videos.

Several years ago I was learning how to write sales copy – written and video sales letters. One of the things I did was to watch and study infomercials on television. These are masterfully written and produced 30 minutes of television designed to do one thing and one thing only – get you to pick up the phone/visit a website and pull out your wallet.

If I focused on studying the infomercial and taking notes, I was able to learn a few things. But, if I was a bit more informal and watched one while on the treadmill or elliptical trainer, I was more inclined to BUY the product instead of learn from the sales copy.

I tell this story because the videos of these sales people, who have body language down to an art form, are SELLING. Remember to pay attention to how they are saying it; the way their eyes meet the camera, how you feel about that person and their knowledge, their shoulders, hands, arms and feet. When you pay attention to HOW they do it, you’ll be less inclined to pull out your wallet to buy what they’re selling.


In order to experience greater success, better relationships, improved business performance and get what you want, you have to take action. Knowing what is important and how to learn it, is only half the battle. The next steps are to actually DO IT. And have fun while you’re doing it – fun is the important part. Because when you are having fun, you’re more likely to learn it, use it and take action.

  • Watch some videos of people you admire, want to emulate or great sales people.
  • Practice in front of a mirror.
  • Practice in front of a camera.
  • Practice with friends.
  • Make it a part of your everyday routine.

All in that order!


Have fun!

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