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Listening Between the Lines: Words and gestures working together

Listening Between the Lines: Words and gestures working together
on June, 20 2013

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”
– Peter Drucker

Every expert in the field of effective communication says that it pays to listen more in both personal and business interactions. Oftentimes it is difficult enough to hear what’s being said. This makes trying to listen to what’s not being said so much more challenging.

Management consultant and management education leader Peter Drucker, like most successful professionals, know what effective communication is about. There are many techniques to effective communication and there’s no shortage of resources on the subject. Coaches and so-called experts are always ready to offer powerful strategies and secrets of the trade. There are various methods of listening effectively, asking the right questions, and responding properly, among others. But there’s not enough said about listening between the lines and hearing what’s not being said. Reading between the lines is about picking up on hidden cues to determine meanings not explicitly expressed. Listening between the lines is not so different.

Listening between the lines

Listeners that are at the top of their game are effective because they have the capability to find valid information using listening habits they have developed and nurtured through the years. The ability to listen effectively saves people time and businesses money. “Listening between the lines” give people a competitive edge. But what’s not being said is that half of the listening concerns non-verbal messages.

Half of human communications happen non-verbally. Every public speaker knows that they will be judged not based on what they hear but also on what they see. Listening between the lines is also about reading the message sent visually through appearance, manner, and physical behavior of the speaker.

The body as an instrument of speech

The most effective communicators know how to use every tool at their disposal. Body language can give clarity to the words being spoken. Body language can also provide helpful elements to convince the recipients of the message of the speaker’s sincerity and truthfulness. However, body language can also be a person’s downfall. If the verbal message and physical actions do not complement each other then there would be failure in communication. Simplified, the speaker’s purpose would not be achieved.

Effective communication is about knowing how to use and deliver words and how to use one’s posture, gestures, facial expression, and movements to downplay or stress part of the message being expressed. Being aware of the person’s gestures and what they really mean, especially in the context of what’s being said, could help fill in the gaps.


Gestures and speech are integrated together and help each other in language comprehension. When they convey the same information then the message is easy to understand, but when they conflict with each other, they do not facilitate understanding. These are not just important tips that could make or break a business transaction. These have important implications in everyday interpersonal interactions as well.

When words are coordinated with gestures and hands and words do the talking together, then people may have an easier time understanding each other.

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

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