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Communication involves the exchange of messages between individuals and groups of people. Nonverbal behaviour and its meaning can modify or complement the verbal message as messages are communicated through the use of words. Body language tells a story, regardless of whether our actions are voluntary or not. Just like plants for example, they wilt when there's insufficient water, lose the green in their leaves when insufficient nutrients and turn brown at the edges when the weather gets too cold. These happenings can be observed by anyone.
Other than plants, human and animals have a higher repertoire when talking about body language. As us human beings, we can move from places just like animals. We do make faster and more visible gestures. Humans can modify or change our gestures as and when we like. These gestures include the change in breathing patterns, minute muscle movements and making voluntary movements. Interest or disinterest in a subject can also be told by our body movements.
Different cultures too have appropriate body languages for their people depending on gender, age and status. For instance, most Asian cultures do exercise greeting of an elder when coming into contact.
With sufficient exposure of another culture, we will be able to learn more about their body language. We will be able to see how they move or gesture, how they make eye contact, how they breathe, and their posture and eye movements as they interact. All the gestures would not tell us what they are thinking but only support their words, giving us second hand information to tell if their words and actions do compromise with each other. The subject matter of someone's thinking will remain private until it is described by their actions. By observing someone's body language then asking what it meant gains us reliable information. If we observe the same person in future applying the same body language, we can ask if it means the same as the previous time. By doing this, we calibrate the person in a particular context. By doing this, we can learn and educate ourselves more about our employers requirements, our partners' preferences and our pets' Idiosyncrasies with some degree of accuracy.
This article will show the analysis of how the role of nonverbal behaviour affects the communication process. There will be discussion about the process of communication and the details of nonverbal communication.
THE PROCESS OF COMMUNICATION
Communication takes place through a process whereby the message is encoded by the sender and then decoded by the receiver. This process requires the sender to determine what message they want the receiver to receive. A question, a query or maybe an instruction could be messages that are conveyed. The sender then selects the mode of communicating the message which could be made up of verbal or non-verbal messages or the combination of both. The receiver who receives the message then makes an attempt to decode it while understanding the meaning of the message. This communication process is then successfully completed when the message is understood. The challenge of carrying out
The communication process successfully takes the participation of the 2 parties.
Success in communication across a cross-cultural context is to learn and overcome the cultural differences that might impact the interpretation with the message between the sender and receiver. Misinterpretation of the messages can result in a failed message especially when a word or expression holds different meanings by the different parties.
Failed messages can hurt cultures or create cultural differences which then create cultural noises. This would cause negative impacts between communities. Parties are encouraged to use a feedback loop when it comes to overcoming noise. Instead of ending the message at the receiver's end, this feedback loop allows the receiver to confirm the meaning of the message with the receiver by elaborating and continuing to communicate. This ensures that the message is clear. If the feedback loop indicates that the message did not reach the receiver as intended, it then provides an opportunity for the sender to amend the message and re-send it. This process would continue till the meaning of the message is delivered to the receiver as was intended.
Nonverbal communication consists of a part of message that is not encoded in the words. It is carried out through gestures, the tone of voice and other micro forms. It makes up a significant part of all communication although nonverbal messages are usually accompanied with a verbal message. 65% of communication comes from nonverbal part of the message whereas 35% of it come from the verbal part, according to Birdwhistell (1970) Therefore, we tend to communicate more with body language than we do with words. Globalization, in turn not only affects our daily lives but also communication, making it much more important than in the past. This brings with it a challenge with miscommunication because of the differences in the way the different cultures interpret certain words and messages. Dwyer (2005) states that if the verbal part of a message does not match the nonverbal part then there is a tendency to believe the nonverbal part.
Definition: "nonverbal communication involves those nonverbal stimuli in a communication setting that are generated by both the speaker and his or her use of the environment and that have potential message value for the source or receiver (Samovar et al). Basically it is sending and receiving messages in a variety of ways without the use of verbal codes. It is both intentional and unintentional. Most speakers / listeners are not conscious of this.
TYPES OF NONVERBAL BEHAVIOUR
Nonverbal behaviour can be identified along three different types:
1. Behaviour personal to the individual
Nonverbal behaviour is unique to the individual and it is not common to any other individual or group. Therefore it is difficult if a third party to understand the exact meaning of the msessage.
2. Behaviour common to a group of people or culture.
The second type of nonverbal behaviour is one that is common to a group of people who share a similar culture. Nonverbal cues and behaviour are therefore shared and understood by majority of the people from similar cultures. For example, the "thumbs up" sign is understood by Americans, British, Indians and many other nationalities to demonstrate a positive emotion. But in Greece the same sign is seen as a rude gesture and frowned upon.
3. Behaviour universal to mankind.
This type of behaviour includes actions and gestures that is commonly used throughout the world regardless of cultural background. Examples are like smiling which expresses happiness and pleasure. These kind of non-verbal behaviour are understood by people all around the world and is often displayed in movies, television programmes or any kind of media communication.
MEANS OF NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION
Nonverbal messages are communicated through a number of different means. Some of these include:
1. Body movements or kinesics.
2. Vocal qualities or paralanguage.
3. Touching Behaviour, Use of space or proximity.
1. Body Movements or Kinesics:
Kinesics refers to nonverbal messages communicated through body movements such as those of the hand, head, feet and facial expressions (Birdwhistell 1970)
Kinesics is closely related to the spoken word and can help reinforce the message being sent. For example a nodding of the head is a sign of approval and complements a verbal agreement (Kendon 2004).
Cultural differences can change the way a message is being brought. In the case of
Japanese and American negotiators, there have been instances where the American negotiators took the Japanese negotiatorsâ€Ÿ head nodding to mean an acceptance of their offer, whereas the Japanese side merely wanted to indicate that they had understood what the American side had said but had not given their agreement or approval (Graham & Sano 1999).
2. Vocal qualities or Paralanguage:
Paralanguage refers to voice qualities that affect the way something is being said rather than what is being said (Deresky 2006; Dwyer 2005). Paralanguage can reinforce or contradict a verbal message. For example, a person speaking in an excited manner about his/her exciting holiday would confirm their verbal message and its meaning, whereas a salesperson's verbal message when spoken too quickly is greeted with suspicion (Dwyer 2005).
3. Touching Behaviour, Use of Space or Proximity:
Proximity refers to nearness in place (Dwyer 2005; Hodgetts, Luthans & Doh 2006).
Many cultures practices close contact and are comfortable with greeting each other with hugs. The other cultures prefer personal space; therefore hugs are replaced with handshakes. The touching behaviour sends a message of closeness and an intimate relation between the parties. Using this characteristic, cultures can be divided into a high contact versus low-contact cultures (Hall & Hall 1990). High-contact cultures are those that are comfortable with close contact between individual, and hugging while greeting each other is considered a norm. The Arab nations are considered to be high contact cultures. Low-contact cultures respect a personâ€Ÿs individual space and thus physical contact is kept to a minimum. The British culture is considered to be a low contact culture (Wildetal 2007).
Artefacts can be explained as objects used to convey nonverbal messages (Deresky
2006; Hodgetts et al 2006). Artefacts/ objects such as the style of dressing, uniforms or even hair can convey messages. The design of a business card too can convey a strong message.
5. Environmental Factors:
This includes punctuality, design of work, the view on certain things and so on. Being late for appointments is defined as unpreparedness and disrespectful in many cultures. Hall and Hall (1990) divided countries up according to the emphasis placed on time. Cultures can either be monochromic or polychromic (Palmer & Schoorman 1999). Monochromic cultures believe in undertaking one task at a time and believe in punctuality. This punctuality is considered to be a nonverbal cue about the individual being disciplined and in control of himself. Western nations are considered to be monochromic in nature. This would mean that Asian countries practices polychromic cultures whereby there is a believe in strict adherence to time.
Nonverbal message, when used in the properly, can be extremely useful in situations where it is difficult to completely explain feelings and emotions in words (Larson & Kleiner 2004).
For example, silence during business negotiations can be uncomfortable for people from countries like the United States, where the Japanese negotiators tend not to speak out of turn (Graham & Sano 1999). Hall and Hall (1990) state that one of the reasons for the problem is that some cultures tend to clearly state the meaning of their message through words and are very explicit in the message being sent. Such cultures are classified as low-context cultures.
THE IMPORTANCE OF NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION
It is one of the key aspects in communication, especially in a high context culture.
Used to indicate message when verbal tone assists the message in terms of seriousness. Tone is used to indicate the meaning of the words. A same word can have many different meanings depending on the tone.
Used to complement the message. For example; A nod would indicate the acceptance of the message. It can also contradict the message.
It helps to regulate interactions.
Used to repeat the message. For example; point at direction while stating directions.
"Action speak louder than words"
This phrase itself tells us the importance of non-verbal communication. It is especially significant in intercultural situations. Probably non-verbal differences account for typical difficulties in communicating.
CONFIRMING THE SUCCESS OF A MESSAGE:
It is very important to follow a few suggested steps to ensure that the receiver of the message. According to Dwyer (2005) the receiver should check with the sender the meaning of the nonverbal behaviour if any doubts exist. The overall message can be understood by following a four-step process:
LISTEN to the words.
See the non-verbal behaviour.
Check the meaning with the sender when the verbal and on-verbal messages are different.
Consider the context or setting.
By following these steps, the sender and receiver will be allowed to utilise both verbal non-verbal messages during communication and help reduce the chances of misinterpretation which may otherwise exist due to verbal cues only. Following these steps will help to overcome issues relating to cultural communication. Therefore the detailed method helps to remove misunderstandings. The process although is lengthy, it does not guarantee a success immediately. This is where the third step comes into play. It is used to seek clarification which will force the sender to repeat the message for a clearer understanding.
We use nonverbal communication every day without realizing it, and with awareness we can use it to our advantage. Nonverbal communication can be broken down into 7 main sections: the use of time, appearance, posture, eye contact, facial expression, gestures and touch, and the physical environment in which one is communicating. Use of time or chronemics regards how humans use and structure time while communicating. Pausing while speaking, creating silence while waiting for someone's response, and the tempo and rythm of one's communication are all nonverbal cues that also convey meaning. Appearance is a form of nonverbal communication that is often on our minds in today's culture, but it is important to note that a put-together, clean, and neat appearance sends the message of a put-together, respectable, organized individual. Posture is equally as important; the way that one holds their body can express a strong message. In business communication, one should appear confident and responsible - and sitting up straight is an excellent starting point. Eye contact can carry meanings such as interest, trust, boredom, admiration, or confidence among many others. It is important to maintain proper eye contact when communicating, appropriate to the situation. Facial expression is a prominent form of nonverbal communication which is practically unavoidable to express. These expressions can be intentional or unintentional; therefore a level of facial control should be maintained to have control of one's sent communication. Gestures often act as a visual aid to accompany vocal communication, and can also be voluntary and involuntary. Gestures can act as emblems, illustrators, affect displays, regulators, and adaptors. Touch should be used as an Non-verbal Communication tool respectfully and appropriately, but can convey significant meaning within. Appropriate physical proximity can be categorized by a social space and a personal space, which should be respected for comfortable communication. Interior design and spacial arrangements can create focus on one person, or encourage mingling, without any spoken communication encouraging focus or socialization.