The Power of Small

Rolled eyes. Slammed doors. Heavy sighs. Shaking heads. Stomping off.

What we do is louder than what we say–it’s common knowledge. Yet when challenged, we don’t admit to our nonverbal messages. “What?! What did I say? I didn’t say that.”

Not all nonverbals are negative. We wink, nod, smile, lean forward, gesture, and make eye contact. All of these behaviors, both positive and negative, are “micromessages” with real, immediate impacts on their recipients.

This morning I attended MicroInequities: The Power of Small taught by Stephen Young of Insight Education Systems. The four-hour class considered the power of micromessages. It was billed as “diversity training,” but that classification limits the course’s true scope. Although micromessages expose our attitudes, those attitudes can be based on more than diversity issues. Witness our microinequity problems with our spouses, with our children.

The class introduces the concept of micromessages and gives a less emotionally charged vocabulary to discuss them than the old standby, “I don’t like your tone, young man.” Young should be an actor; he’s able to entertainingly demonstrate multiple micromessages in a single sentence or transition from unspoken “hi” to full-body leer.

Young concludes the training with the proposition that as observers of microinequities, we have the power and the responsibility change our behavior and attempt to influence the behavior of those around us.

If MicroInequities is available to you, I recommend your attending. According to Young, a book having the same title will be available this April.

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