A few years ago, I was speaking at a MOPS group (Mothers of Preschoolers) in a small Midwestern town. As I learned to do from the wonderful speaker and writer Liz Curtis Higgs, I had picked out my “balcony people” in each quadrant of the room—those women who were nodding and smiling and giving me positive feedback with their body language. Speaking to just those four people would keep me encouraged, but make it appear I was speaking to the entire room. Unfortunately, just a few minutes into my talk on “Building a Lasting Marriage,” one of the middle-aged women who’d been helping check the young moms in at the door plopped down right in front of my front left quadrant “cheerleader.” And this woman was not a balcony person. With arms folded across her ample bosom, she aimed a sour glare at me. Though the young moms seemed to be engaged and enjoying my anecdotes, it seemed the more I talked, the tighter Miss Grouch’s brows knit. I finally had to just quit looking at that quadrant of the room.
When I finished speaking, I made my way to the back of the room, relieved to greet the young women at my book table and to hear that they’d really related and been blessed as I shared the things God has taught Ken and me about marriage. Finally, the crowd thinned as moms left to pick up their babies from the nursery. I began packing the remaining books into boxes. But hearing a noise, I looked up to see Miss Grouch stomping up the aisle toward me, her brows now in a full knot. She shook a pointed finger in my face and growled, “I have just one thing to say to you: I hope they recorded your talk because I have four married children who need to hear every blessed word you said!”
You could have knocked me over with a feather!
But here’s the thing: the disconnect between Miss Grouch’s demeanor and her words forever changed the way I look at my audiences when I speak…and at people in general. Now, when I’m met with a hair-singeing glare, I just assume the person wearing the glare is hanging on my every word, thinking how much their loved one desperately needs to hear the message. It has truly changed the way I approach speaking and the way I see hurting people. Mostly, it has freed me from caring too much about what others think. Because you never really know what someone is thinking until they tell you to your face!
Have you ever misread someone’s body language and been surprised to learn what they were really thinking? Has anyone ever misread your true feelings because what was on your face apparently didn’t match?