She stood in the middle of the conference room, pointer in hand. When she paused mid-sentence to single me out in front of everyone, I was stunned. She had a smile on her face, but her eyes were boring a hole into my head.
“Lisa, if you’re not comfortable you can just leave,” she said. Every head in the room turned toward me. I wanted to sink into the carpet.
How could she have known? I hadn’t said a word. But she did know, and she had no hesitancy in calling me out.
With twenty other slack-jawed students staring at me, I could feel my blood turning cold. I stumbled through a reply, shoved my notebook into my backpack and hastily left the conference room, tripping over the door jam on my way out.
I rushed out of the building so embarrassed I could barely breathe. By the time I made it to the sidewalk, the ice in my veins turned to fire and my face was beet red. I was halfway back to my dorm before I could even process what had just happened.
That afternoon twenty-five years ago was so emotionally jarring I can still remember it in vivid detail today. I was in college and had signed up to attend a “meeting” about summer jobs paying big bucks. In hindsight I should have known it was a pitch. But this was in the days before Internet scams and I was broke. Anything to do with the prospect of making more money was appealing.
I entered the conference room eager and open-minded. Yet as the perky young woman began her presentation, I quickly realized she was pitching us the same door-to-door book selling gig my friend wasted an entire summer on. He spent ten miserable weeks knocking on doors in Detroit, and came home with less than $500.
I was less than delighted when I realized I had sentenced myself to an hour listening to her pitch “a business opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs.”
These other kids may have been naïve college students with dollar signs in their eyes, but I knew better, or so I thought at the time. But I was raised with good manners, I stayed put in the front row and kept my opinions to myself.
Or so I thought.
Imagine my mortification 5 minutes in when the twenty-two-year-old book sales recruiter read my inner thought track and called me out in front of the whole room.
Was she some kind of mind reader or a psychic? How could she have possibly known what I was thinking? Furthermore how dare she embarrass me in front of everyone?
When I called my dad to tell him, he laughed saying, “Oh, she knew what you were thinking all right and she wanted you out of that room even more than you did.”
I assumed I was wise to her agenda. Turns out, she’s the one who could see through me. She knew what I was thinking, without me even saying a word.
She’s not alone. Research reveals when we’re interacting with others 93% of what people respond to is our body “presence” the body language and tone that reveal our thoughts.
So if you’re politely asking your boss about the time for tomorrow’s conference call while thinking “I’m dreading wasting two hours listening to that man,” the internal dialogue is what he’s going to respond to.
We can delude ourselves into believing other people don’t know what we’re thinking. On a conscious level that might be true. But on a subconscious level, you’re transparent.
We all are.