Preaching and Nonverbal Communication

nonverbal communication and preachingOn a recent Sunday our Parish Associate was preaching on the topic of prayer. It was a theologically sound sermon and very well researched. She used the massacre at the mall in Kenya as one of her examples and this was relevant to her because her husband is from Kenya. There was something a bit disturbing concerning her delivery of the example and it was not the content concerning this horrific event. It was her nonverbal communication.
I didn’t say anything to her after the sermon even thought our Pastor has designated me as her speech coach. We have a group of Breakfast Clubbers who meet after the service. The unanimous response was, “Why was she smiling when she was talking about the massacre?” It was something I thought and had not said anything about it.
Psychologist Albert Mehrabian from Stanford University conducted studies years ago and discovered that over half the meaning of a message involving emotion is through nonverbal communication.  He also stated that when the nonverbal contradicts the verbal, people believe the nonverbal message.
In a sense, pastors need to be a bit like newscasters. When you are reporting about a tornado ripping through a town the tone and nonverbal is serious, but when you are reporting about puppies and babies you lighten both the vocal and nonverbal aspects.
My Parish Associate is young, full of energy, and has a great mind. I have talked to her about this and she will get better. We all will.

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