series: what is nonverbal dialogue?

[too be added when I get my camera back: a game–guess this nonverbal emotion]

I think that for the most part verbal dialogue is easy to understand. An ongoing conversation that seeks to honor the other as much as oneself. (on a side note it is funny how much reading this winter I did mentioned in fair detail dialogue).

Nonverbal dialogue, however, is more important as verbal dialogue. As an artist, or at least as one who really, really enjoys art, I find much more information gathered through my eyes than my ears. Perhaps that is because I always hated those beep tests in elementary school. Sorry I digress.

I remember from my Psych 101 days, watching a film about how people’s bodies express their emotions. It has made me very self-aware of when I cross my arms, when in conversation I put one foot away from partner (psst: that means I am done talking with you), when I lean forward in anticipation, or when I do not look the other person in the eye because I do not respect them or the other way manner because I am intimidated by them.

Nonverbal dialogue is tremendously powerfully because it incorporates the entire body and multiple senses. That is why Jesus washed the disciples feet, it nonverbally showed humility and servitude. That is why he stooped on the ground to write in the sand when confronted by the Phariseeic mob and woman who was caught in a compromising position. The woman anointing Jesus with expensive perfume had a nonverbal dialogue with Jesus.

Nonverbal dialogue is far more intimate and personal than verbal dialogue.

It allows another person into our sacred space (in America, it is something like a 3 foot radius) because we recognize them as bearers of the imago dei (image of God; possessed by Christians and normal people).

I just returned from a retreat at an Episcopal Monastary. There I realized the value of multisensual worship. Icons were available, incense was burned, and the Eucharist was tasted. These were all important, nonverbal ways for me to dialogue with God in worship.

So, not only must our words be a verbal invitation to dialogue but also our nonverbal interactions which bring us intimately closer to other people and to God. And therefore open us up to be corrected, challenged and encouraged by the other and by God.

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