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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California


The Fourth Signal: Head Nods

That is the happiest conversation where there is no competition, no vanity, but a calm quiet interchange of sentiments.


Head nodding is another powerful technique in listening and appearing charming to others. Some people tend to nod instinctively; some don't nod very much at all. If you watch the reactions of people when they are listening, you will see how valuable head nods can be. When they are absent, the listener's charm and energy are dramatically diminished.

Adding "Noddies" to Your Listening Technique

A television reporter once interviewed me in my home. She arrived with a cameraman in tow who took over my office to set his lighting. In the meantime we chatted, and she gave me a sense of what questions she might ask. Then the interview began.

As we talked, I realized that the cameraman was keeping the camera focused only on me and never once on her. I thought, "If this continues, I'll end up being a talking head. It'll be all me and just her voice in the background." That idea didn't please me at all.

When we finished, she proceeded to get the cameraman to film her doing a variety of reactions. I watched curiously and then I asked, "Why did you record your reactions separately?" She replied, "I wanted to do the interview in your office and I couldn't get two cameras, one to be on you and one on me. Now I can add them to the original videotape when I'm editing."

I must have looked puzzled, so she continued, "If I can't get both of our reactions, I have no choice but to record them separately." She smiled and said, "We call them 'noddies.'"

I said, "Noddies? But won't they come across as phony?"

She laughed and said, "No, not if they're done well. I can promise you, the viewers won't be bothered by them in the slightest."

Confession: I saw the interview myself and I must say I was surprised at how authentic her "noddies" looked.

Three Ways to Nod

Head nods are strong indicators of how intensely you are listening and what you are thinking and feeling. There are actually three different kinds of head nods -- the slow, the faster, and the very fast. Each has its own special meaning and usefulness. Most people will recognize them.

First, there is the very slow head nod, which means, "I'm following you; I'm thinking about it." The slow head nod does not necessarily mean that you agree.

Second, there is the slightly faster head nod, which says, "You're right, I agree."

Third, there is the much faster head nod, which says, "I agree and I'm excited by what I'm hearing."

Try them out on your friends and see the results.

Your Tools for Charming Others

Nodding signals to other people that you are warm, friendly, and paying attention. It's an important element of charm. Develop the habit of nodding and acknowledging other people when they are speaking. When you forget to nod and just listen without moving, it can be disconcerting to most speakers.

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