8.1 You cannot ‘not communicate’
The idea that you cannot ‘not communicate’ (Watzlawick et al., 1967, p. 51) when other people’s attention is directed your way may seem obvious, but many management theorists overlook its implications.
When people expect you to do something, ‘nothing’ may mean ‘something’ – for example, a moment’s hesitation or failing to answer a crucial email can speak volumes. If you fail to cancel your holiday when a crisis looms, your inaction might be seen as significant. Good managers have to be like good detectives. If something that should happen does not happen, they might ask ‘why?’
According to research by Sophie Scott (The Life Scientific, 2013), laughter signals that you like and understand each other.
If you become consciously aware that you’re laughing with other people, you may infer that you agree on something; and even if you cannot put into words the exact thing that you agree on, the sense that you have communicated could provide a foundation for the development of trust and mutual understanding.
Moreover, laughing could communicate more when you’re able to laugh face-to-face as your unconscious is able to process colossal amounts of information that is detected by all your sense organs all the time. When you’re in the same physical space, interacting face-to-face, your brains have more information to work with.
You will consider face-to-face interaction in more detail next.