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Communication is a process in which people verbally or nonverbally share information and ideas. Nonverbal communication is information that is communicated without words and is a lot of it is unintentional. Nonverbal communication is 93% of our communication with 55% being given through gestures, facial expressions, and posture. Thirty-eight percent of nonverbal communication is given through tone of voice. There are many types and functions of nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication has been an overlooked component of communication, but when it is understood it can be of better use. Interpersonal communication is affected by this type of communication because of a difference in gender and cultures. Some forms of nonverbal communication are barriers for communication and some are helpful in communicating.
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I conducted my own observation of nonverbal communication in a restaurant which is done on a daily basis. Nonverbal rules may differ according to the situation, and each situation determines its set of rules. The restaurant is located in Waynesboro, Ms, where I live. The patrons of the restaurant consisted of all types of cultures and class of families. The distinctive patterns of the customers were very noticeable. Different types of patrons had very different yet distinct sets of nonverbal communication behaviors. I observed three different groups, the older adults, the younger adults, and the children. I observed them differently to determine the differences that age and gender play a role in nonverbal behavior rules. Many different types of nonverbal communication were observed such as body language, hand movement, facial expressions, and eye contact.
There are four important functions of nonverbal communication. These functions can complement, regulate, substitute for, or accent a verbal message. In addition to the functions, there are many types of nonverbal communication. Those different types include paralanguage, body movement, facial expressions, eye messages, attractiveness, clothing, body adornment, space and distance, touch, time, smell and manner. There are cultural and co-cultural variations in each case of what are acceptable and unacceptable practice (Hybels & Weaver, 2007).
In describing the functions with complementing, one might use body language in an effort to support or add credibility to your words, and if that body language is seen as genuine then the overall message is strengthened (Hybels & Weaver, 2007). If the body language is perceived as fake or misleading, however, then it moves into the category of conflicting. In regulating, the body language serves the function of pacing and regulating communication (Hybels & Weaver, 2007). For instance, in a group of people, there are a number of non-verbal cues indicating when one person is finished speaking and it is another person’s turn. The function of substituting uses body language to replace verbal communication (Hybels & Weaver, 2007). For example, if you are caught in a conversation with someone who just keeps talking and talking, it is difficult to come out and tell that person you are tired of the conversation. Instead, you might substitute body language such as glancing away or stepping away. The last function of accenting is a type of body language that emphasizes, accentuates, softens, or otherwise enhances your verbal communication (Hybels & Weaver, 2007). You might point your finger to direct attention to the subject of your words, or you might reach out and touch the hand of a child whom you are correcting or disciplining.
Paralanguage refers to the non-verbal elements of communication used to modify meaning and convey emotion. Paralanguage may be expressed consciously or unconsciously, and it includes the pitch, volume, rate, and the quality. Sometimes the definition is restricted to vocally produced sounds. The study of paralanguage is known as paralinguistic cues. Body movements or kinesics are referred to all forms of body movements are important part of non-verbal communication behavior. The transport of body movement has many specific meanings and the interpretations that may be a bound of culture. When many movements are displayed at an unawareness level, the body movements carry a risk of being misinterpreted in a different culture communications situation. Some related words for body movement may be emblems that are substitute for words and phrases, illustrators accompany or reinforce verbal messages, display of feelings show emotion, regulators controls the flow and pace of communication, and adaptors release physical or emotional tension (Hybels & Weaver, 2007).
Facial expressions can show happiness, sadness, fear, and anger that are easily identifiable across cultures. In addition, facial expressions play an important role in closeness. Eye messages are messages given only with the eyes. In the American culture, eye contact is a sign of honesty, credibility, warmth, and involvement. Other cultures require eye contact. Conversations without eye contact represent disinterest, inattention, rudeness, shyness, or deception. Eye messages show connection to others, attentiveness, involvement, immediacy but prolonged stares show negative and intimidating expressions. Eye messages have a delightful and wondrous aspect in the rolling of the eyes because it is known for flirting (Hybels & Weaver, 2007).
The perception of nonverbal communication started during the first year of life, when we learned how to communicate without words as infants. Infants learned very early the difference between a scowl and a smile and they soon learn how to convey their own feelings through non-verbal communication. The way nonverbal cues are perceived and interpreted in relationships can make all the difference between a positive and a negative impression. Paralinguistic enforces the old adage; it is not what you say, it is how it is said. No matter the rate of speed, the faster the communicator speaks, the more competent they may appear. The speakers with a high and varied pitch come across as more competent; a constant low pitch voice is associated with strength and maturity, while a constant high pitch voice signals tenseness and nervousness. Those who speak loudly are generally seen as aggressive and domineering, and speakers with soft voices are perceived as timid and polite. How individuals perceive nonverbal communication is often based on how they see themselves. If an individual takes everything personally, they may take offense to some nonverbal cues that are being used, whether they are intentional or unintentional. To avoid miscommunication, it is essential that speakers become more aware of the nonverbal cues that are used (Hybels & Weaver, 2007).
The workplace performance can be productive with effective communication skills. Verbal language is used but nonverbal communication is a big part in the workplace in today’s society. Most professional greet with a handshake. This makes a good first impression that would fall in the positive category. Handshaking skills are more commonly seen in men rather in women. When on greet or dismiss with a handshake, it should be strong but not overpowering. Touching in the workplace is discouraged because of mixed messages. Handshakes are used and accepted and encouraged in many workplaces. Eye contact can be seen as a positive or negative in the workplace. Some places prefer eye contact others find it intimidating or offensive. Normally in common workplaces eye contact shows that a person is honest and is showing sincerity in the United States. An invitation to open communication can be done with eye contact. This nonverbal communication lets the recipient know that feedback is needed. In contrast, avoiding eye contact signals distrust, suspicion, or lack of interest; similarly, prolonged eye contact or a stare signifies aggression or flirting (Henman, 2009). Where I work, my employer requires us to dress professionally. The proper attire, personal hygiene, and light cologne are the proper way to dress professionally. Time is a big issue with employers in the United States. Certain business cannot be productive or successful when it is not started in a timely manner. Success will be the result in businesses if all involved be aware of theses nonverbal clues.
Relationships can be strengthened or developed through nonverbal communication. In some cases relationships can be destroyed by nonverbal communication. A relationship can be regulated by nonverbal communication because it can support or replace verbal communication. Humans do not show their pure emotions because of a variety of quantities and the strength of emotions. Some factors that play a big part of nonverbal communication in interpersonal relationships are being able to receive and send proper communication, perception of the proper clues, and the desire to have an interpersonal involvement. In relationships, if all that are involved are not familiar with the types of nonverbal cues it can make it hard for them to communicate nonverbally. If the perception of the receiver is not of the social norms for the particular situation could cause problems also. All the people involved must want the interaction to occur for reciprocal communication to be successful. Facial expressions can compel one to communicate interaction with another. Facial expressions can cause negative feelings if the other is evoked by them. Introduction and management rely on nonverbal communication in interpersonal relationships. Through research, interpersonal relationships have been successful through nonverbal clues (Dunn, 1999).
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Nonverbal communication has an impact with gender and cultural differences. There are different views from society of males and females. Males are portrayed as aggressive, controlling, and having a take-charge attitude. Women are seen as sensitive, emotional, and passive. There is a difference how males and females communicate verbally and nonverbally. Women are more expressive when they use non-verbal communication, they tend to smile more than men and use their hands more. Men are less likely to make eye contact than women are. Men also come off as more relaxed, while women seem tenser. Men are more comfortable with close proximity to females, but women are more comfortable with close proximity with other females. In terms of interpreting non-verbal signals, women are better than men are (Coggins, 2006).
Culturally, there is a world of differences in nonverbal communication. In comparing the United States with Latin America, we can see many differences. The hand gesture we use to tell someone to come here is the hand palm up with the index finger extending out three or four times is different in Latin America. In Latina America, this hand gesture means you are romantically interested in a person and it is considered solicitation. To tell someone to come here in Latin America the palm is extended down and move all four fingers in and out together three or four times. When traveling on buses in Latin America the elders will hold their hand sideways with all four fingers extended to let one know there is a pickpocket nearby. In the United States, when visitors come to our country, we usually do not greet them personally. Latin Americans give hugs and the men greet the women with “besitos” meaning they touch the cheeks and make a kissing noise with lips (Institute of Languages, 2011).
Some barriers to nonverbal communication include cultural differences, deceptive gestures, inappropriate touching, negative nonverbal communication, and perceptual filters. The different cultural differences are ethnocentrism, stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination along with the hand gestures, touching, and facial expression. Ethnocentrism shows that one culture fill their group is superior to all other cultures. Stereotypes show the distorted or oversimplified views of different races of cultures. When a culture is prejudice towards another culture or group, a negative attitude is shown based on little or no experience. To avoid or exclude oneself from another culture or group discrimination is shown (Hybels & Weaver, 2007).
Different gestures often have vastly different meanings to people of different cultures. Nonverbal gestures can lead to misinterpretation. Touching can cause many problems in communicating if it is done incorrectly. It is okay to touch the other person during a conversation and move close to them but some people find touching as an invasion of their personal space. This is a barrier for all communication. People have a hard time communicating when they are uncomfortable. When a person displays negative nonverbal communication, it can also act as a barrier. For example, slouching, rolling of the eyes, moving quickly or slowly, or performing a variety of other negative physical behaviors, makes it difficult to communicate with them at all. This is because the person is creating a negative situation and when people feel uncomfortable they are unwilling to communicate. Facial expression can show frustration, anger, embarrassment, or uncertainty. People can say one thing, but their facial expression can show a difference in what they are really saying (Hybels & Weaver, 2007).
It is very important to learn how to improve nonverbal communication now that we have discovered that a communicator’s nonverbal communication can influence another’s perception of a message and that of the communicator. One must first monitor our own nonverbal communication skills. We should pay close attention when we are involved in everyday conversations with others. It will help us to be aware to what we are doing and what kind of impression we are giving others. We need to make sure we are allowing personal space, make the proper eye contact, make appropriate facial expressions for the type of conversation and be sure to use the correct tone of voice. These few things can help us along the way to improve our nonverbal communication skills.
In addition to those skills, we also must learn to be good discriminative listeners. It is relatively simple to hear a message, but we also need to be aware of nonverbal cues from others. We often get so preoccupied by what we are saying and what we are going to say as a response, that we are not sensitive to others needs. People often these express needs through their nonverbal communication, as opposed to what they are saying. Overcoming cultural barriers is another important step in communicating effectively. It is important to understand all aspects of communication (Hybels & Weaver, 2007). “Successful communication between people across cultures requires not only an understanding of language but also of the nonverbal aspects of communication that are part of any speech community” (Ha, 2008). It is more important to understand the non-verbal aspects of communication when people do not speak the same language verbally.
In conclusion, communication is a process in which people generating meanings, and the world depends it on for success. Nonverbal communication is used by many cultures and plays an important role in today’s society. Insight is given to others feelings, emotions, and sincerity and truthfulness can be shown. There are many different types of nonverbal communication in conjunction to it four main functions. Verbal communication can be replaced or added to, relationships can be enhanced, and different cultural values are reflected by nonverbal communication. The symbolic meanings of nonverbal communication can be different in cultures and gender and can be intentional or unintentional. People can benefit from effective nonverbal communication with interpersonal relationships, careers, and different cultures. When the barriers of nonverbal communication are identified and corrected people can communicate in ways that will increase verbal communication and decrease or eliminate misunderstandings.
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