I fidget, it is a way that I help stay focused due to my ADHD. I could be doodling during a meeting, swinging my feet or when at a standing desk moving side to side. These actions are some ways that allow me to focus on a meeting, a task or a thought. What I never thought about is someone who does not know me, and what they might think are the nonverbal cues I might be giving them. 

I often heard the saying that ninety percent of all communication is nonverbal. I have repeated that statement. There are some classic books about Body Language and how to read people for use in interviews, lectures and even dating. I am not sure the authors ever considered that sometimes body language can be confused with strategies for those trying to concentrate. 

The ninety percent, or the ninety three percent number was based on a study in the 1960s by professors at UCLA including Albert Mehrabian. I will leave it to you to read his study, but he broke it down to 7% Actual Verbal Communication, 38% Vocal Liking, and 55% Facial Liking. Since only 7% were verbal, the other 93% must be nonverbal. Yes, I do know that Charles Darwin wrote about it in 1872 but did not put a number to it. And over time the details of the study were mostly not discussed, and people drifted towards just using 90% as a number. Of course, in the 1960s ADHD was not even a diagnosis yet, nor did people trying to find strategies to help focus. 

I have stated before I have not yet started taking medication for my ADHD, it is not that I do not believe in it, but I do not take it and I use the words ‘yet.’ I have worked on multiple ways to manage and help me focus. If I know I do not need to take notes at a video-based meeting (not in person) I like to stand. I can sway side to side, and it allows me to focus in on meetings. If I am home, or when I have an office, I can pace back and forth, and this has the same effect. Some in person meeting I choose to have my iPad with me or a notebook and write a lot. Many of the notes are about the meeting but there are sidebar notes of other thoughts that come up. The simple fact of writing them down means I do not need to dwell on them and can refocus on the meeting. There are plenty of articles written about fidgeting and focus

While I was focused on myself and being able to get the work done, what I did not think about is how other people are affected by my fidgeting. Does the person across from me in a meeting think that my swinging my foot shows that I am nervous? What about going on a date, does changing my arms from folded to open and then to figuring out what to do with my hands show that I am not paying attention. The goal of all that was to help me focus on the conversation at hand, but I could be giving the other person nonverbal cues that I do not like them. What is even funnier, in any face-to-face conversation if the other person beings to  mirrors my movements without thinking, thus my fidgeting makes them fidget. This could be my kids, my boss, my friends, anyone.  

I do think of myself as good at reading a person’s nonverbal cues. The inflection in a friend’s voice this week let me know how much pain they were in yet trying to hide it, the glow someone had as they were super happy, the enjoyment someone had playing music live and at a concert seeing the body language as he struggled to sing with a cold. By no means am I an expert as sometimes I have no clue. Now looking at a few of them I am wondering if the nonverbal cues I was giving made them adjust, altering what would have been their norm. Sometimes the best way is to either ask or bring it up in the conversation in a playful way. Eric Martin of Mr. Big joked Friday night as he struggled to sing at one point asking the audience to sing their biggest hit as he could not hit the notes. I wrote last week about the power of words and the effect they have on the mind. Today I am talking about the power of nonverbal communication, but the caveat is one should confirm the latter. And personally, I need to verbally show that my fidgeting did not mean I was not listening.  

I am sorry if you misread me, I will try to do better.  

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them. 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information.Images without notes are created using and AI tool that allows me to reuse them.