By Ori Manor ZuckermanDecember 28th, 2021

Communicating with impact: harnessing data from nonverbal cues

Few people will refute the notion that being able to exude confidence, charm, and competence is key to attaining social and material success. And while some individuals are naturally more attuned to implicit meanings conveyed by others in social circumstances, research supports that being “pragmatically intelligent” or “socially attuned” is a skill that can be developed and honed to a significant extent.

In his book “Silent Messages”, Dr. Albert Mehrabian discusses the fact that only 7% of the meaning in human to human communication is conveyed through words (syntax & semantics). The rest comes from nonverbal means of communication such as tonality (prosody), kinesic cues (facial expressions, hand gestures, stance, posture), proxemic cues, haptic cues and others . In essence, what this research highlighted is that without awareness of how others are coming across to you and how you come across to them, you’re missing out on most of the meaning conveyed through the interactions you’re participating in. Understanding these nonverbal cues and harnessing their power can help individuals communicate more efficiently and reach their goals more effectively. In other words, whether the “objective” is to close a new business deal, book a romantic date, or get a salary raise, the non-verbal signals conveyed along with the “formal message” are no less than outcome-defining

Back in 1936, Dale Carnegie wrote “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, an all-time best seller in the business and personal-development categories. People have always admired the confidence, charisma, and influence of who they perceived to be leaders of their generation in business, politics, religion, culture, music and even sports. Many wondered how they were able to command such respect? What is their secret? How do they showcase so much power and competence relative to others?

Showcasing competence, dominance and relaxed confidence are fundamental to our perception of a person’s ability to lead and overcome obstacles and are typically observed in the context of interpersonal conflicts and collisions of perspectives, also called frames. If you’re looking to move up the career/social ladder, gaining a deeper understanding of implicit social signals and how they are conveyed through nonverbal communication can give you an edge in society. 

But what if technology could help us do that by helping us “read” situations more deeply and understand the power dynamics and “true meaning” in high-stake situations? 

The idea of leveraging technology to measure and analyze emotion is an obvious one – especially as computer vision technologies evolve. In fact, Gartner highlighted thirteen different uses for emotion AI in technology. These range from Software that can help doctors with the diagnosis of diseases such as depression and dementia by using voice analysis, or technology that can be used during job interviews to understand the credibility of a candidate.

At Substrata, we have lined up some of the world’s top researchers in the fields of Language Pragmatics, Social Signal Processing and Nonverbal Communication to create a technology that helps business professionals become better dealmakers. Our platform, called Q (Beta) analyzes interaction data in email threads to help users understand what is the true sentiment of each message and who has the upper-hand in each situation along the relationship – and ultimately predict the prospect’s propensity to engage further or buy what the user is offering.

There used to be a huge blind spot between technology and social psychology. While software solutions that deal with human communications have traditionally focused on syntax (formal language), there is a huge opportunity in delving deeper into pragmatics, developing the  technologies that help us “read between the lines”. Think of the Sales Technology market: there are thousands of tools designed to help sales people prioritize, engage, earn, close, and upsell – from CRMs to management and Sales-Ops platforms. These tools help manage the structured data around the sales process, but shy away from focusing on the one thing that matters most – the seller-prospect human dynamics. Once the layer of social intelligence, intentionality and influence is added to these solutions, the entire landscape as we know it is likely to change.