I love Tuesdays. It’s the one day of the week where the awful northern line commute is made marginally more bearable by reading Timeout. As I was flicking through a couple of weeks ago, one thing in particular caught my eye – silent speed dating.
I have to say I have never been speed dating but I’ve always been slightly intrigued by it. At points in life when I’ve been unlucky in love, for a millisecond I’ve considered giving it a try then quickly rejected the idea at the thought of trying to figure out what to say in order to encapsulate my personality in 1 minute, (without trying to blow my own trumpet or sound like a complete cliché). I imagine silent speed dating is therefore a far more attractive option for people like me. In this situation there’s no awkward or forced conversation and no danger of falling into a deathly silence.
In this instance silence is not deathly – it’s golden, adding a whole new dimension to speed dating. It’s a similar situation in research as so often silence can be more valuable than any answer a consumer gives you. Of course verbal communication is important, but regardless of whether it’s speed dating or consumer research, when you take that capability away from someone, your understanding comes less from what people say and more from how they behave. Whether we realise it or not 85% of communication is non-verbal, but as the article’s author points out, it’s not often you get the chance to really look at somebody’s face without freaking them out or being escorted away by security.
When I’m looking at human behaviour, I’m probably one of the lucky few who does get to (subtly) take a closer look at whether a person’s verbal communication matches their non-verbal. In real life we are quick to give precedence to the verbal whilst ignoring the different story their body language might be telling us. My mum, for example, is a stickler for people sitting up straight and to be honest it really used to annoy me, until, that is, I went for my first job interview. Then I was eternally grateful to her because whilst what was coming out of my mouth may have been good, a slouched posture in an interview immediately says ‘I’m not that interested.’
That’s why I was particularly drawn to the idea of silent speed dating, because it has the potential to really uncover how two people feel about each other in a matter of seconds, in the same way that someone’s physical reaction to a piece of research stimulus can be more telling than just what they say.
We could learn a lot about consumers from silent speed dating.
What people say and what they mean are often two different things.
Removing verbal communication forces us to look closer, lean in further and pay more attention to the things that really matter. It’s as simple and real as that.