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Non-verbal Communication is just as important as verbal communication. Discuss why the knowledge of non-verbal communication is important in our daily lives.
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The definition and difference of Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication is stated. In addition to that, the importance of non-verbal communication in our daily life is discussed also and the reasons why it is just as important as Verbal Communication.
What is ‘Communication’?
‘Communication’ is the form of interaction, socializing, getting and giving information for the purpose of jobs, education as well as socializing. Merriam-Webster Dictionary online has a few definitions for this word, namely –
An act or instance of transmitting information – verbal
A process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs or behavior
There are two forms of “communication”, namely Verbal Communication and Non-Verbal Communication.
Verbal communication is the usage of sounds and language – oral and written to convey a message or to give information – emotions, thoughts, feelings, opinions, ideas and it is also an important tool for teaching and learning.
There are two basic types or verbal communication – interpersonal communication and public speaking. Professor Robert M Krauss, of Columbia University states that signs and symbols make up the major signals of a verbal communication.
The functions and purpose of verbal communication – to convey a message to others, it is vital in teaching and learning and also it helps in forming bonds and relationships with others.
Verbal communication has six principles as listed in the next page:
Definitions and meanings of messages are in people
Different individuals have different and unique perspective as well as thinking therefore they will interpret a certain message differently.
Message meanings and definitions are denotative and connotative
For example, the word ‘Love’. Everyone has their personal definition and opinion on what it is (connotative), however, the dictionary would have its definition on the word (denotative).
Message meanings and definitions vary in abstraction
The word ‘abstract’ is defined as something that is unreal, for example: feelings and hobbies. When a group of people is asked about what their hobbies are, many would have similar and/or different answers.
Definitions and meanings of messages can be deceiving
People communicate and interact with each other for various reasons and the messages that they convey have different motives and reasons, therefore it can be deceiving – to achieve some good, to make oneself (usually the speaker himself of herself) look good, to protect self from danger and harm and/or to harm and insult others
Message meanings and definitions vary in assertiveness
In any conversation, there are bound to be some disagreements and arguments, therefore some harsh words might be said, however, respectfulness is still maintained by both parties in a conversation.
Message meanings and definitions vary in politeness
There are different kinds of politeness level – directness, online (netiquette) and gender. When we tend to be direct and straight in a conversation, the language, rate, tone and volume of voice plays an important role in maintaining the politeness within the conversation. Netiquette is observed in emails, instant messaging rooms as well as online discussion forums. Even when a conversation is being carried on between a man and a woman, there will also be a certain level of politeness (usually on the man’s side) so that no feelings will be hurt and the friendship and/or relationship will still be maintained.
This form of communication is easily understood as the process of communication through the sending, receiving and conveying of wordless cues and signs – gestures, touch, body language, posture,
In other words, nonverbal communication is “communication without words” and it actually conveys more meanings than verbal communication. In addition to this, many nonverbal communication signs- facial expressions, body language, eye contact are universal and easily detectable by everyone, no matter what culture they are from or which country they are from.
Signals – blushing, dropping jaw, trembling during a nonverbal communication are sometimes sent and received simultaneously and spontaneously. During an ongoing verbal communication for example, one may drop their jaw to say express an emotion of surprise or blush when embarrassed.
The Functions of Nonverbal Communication
There are six main functions of nonverbal communication which are listed below:
They integrate, complement, accompany and support speech and verbal communication – both the speakers and listeners would engage and be involved in a complex sequence of body gestures, body language and signs which are closely synchronized with verbal communication and they play an important part in it.
Form self-impression towards others – self presentation is usually achieved by appearance and to a lesser extent, by voice.
Expressing of emotions – nonverbal communication is conveyed through facial expression, touch, eye contact, body language so all of this takes us to understanding the human heart and feelings
Defining relationships – this form of communication helps to define a relationship between two individuals, for example, the holding of hands between two young individuals might indicate that they are involved in an intimate relationship and the nod of heads might indicate respect for the other individual due to the fact that one is an employee while the other is the employer.
To enhance interpersonal communication – friendships and relationships are maintained and established through nonverbal signals such as tone of voice, proximity , touch, gaze as well as facial expressions
Rituals – for example, shaking hands during an introduction
The Channels of Nonverbal Communication
There are 10 channels of nonverbal communication which are easily identified and decoded.
Emblems – body language that directly translates into words or phrases such as: “okay sign” & “V” which means “peace” or “victory”
Illustrators – usually culture specific and it complements verbal messages so that memory will be increased
Affect Displays which shows and portrays emotions and feelings
Regulators which are used to keep the conversation ongoing and interesting
Adaptors – self, object and alter which are mainly used to benefit self during an ongoing conversation
Body & Physical Appearance
Usually the physic of an individual do play a vital role in communication – general attractiveness, race and ethnic and also usually the tall individual is favoured more compared to a shorter individual in the working world especially
Helps in expressing emotions and feelings – facial management
Facial feedback – produces and heightens feelings and it also influences physiological arousal
Culture and facial expression
Eye Avoidance which helps in maintaining privacy during a conversation
Edward T. Hall starts that these messages are also known as proxemics which are categorized into social, public, intimate and personal. These can also be territorial according to the public, primary or secondary
These are messages conveyed through objects and man-made arrangements and can be subdivided into:
Space decoration – the class and status of an individual can be seen through the way they decorate a space. This also shows the individual’s interest and personality.
Clothing and body adornment – tattoos and body piercing
Colour communication which usually influences perception and behaviour
Touch Messages / Tactile Communication
Most primitive and old fashioned method of non-verbal communication
Portrays usually most positive feelings and playfulness
Its task related as well as ritual related – bowing, shaking of hands
This consists of one’s rate and tone of voice and it usually conveys judgements about people’s communication effectiveness
Can act as a ‘weapon’
It helps to stop or prevent unwanted communication
A form of response to anxiety, shyness and threats
It portrays and conveys important meanings and also serves important functions
It gives one ample time to think, formulate and organize his or her conversation
Time Messages / Temporal Communication / Chromemis
This consists of the conversation that displays the past, present or future.
Smell Messages / Olfactory Communication
People are somehow attracted to a certain smell and ordour. In addition to this, smell helps in identification of a certain food, taste as well as it enhances memory.
Decoding and encoding nonverbal communication
Below are the ways to decode (no. 1-6) and encode (no. 7-10) nonverbal messages:
Pay attention, be attentive and do not jump to conclusions
Consider alternative judgements
Awareness that messages comes from different and several channels
Consider the possibility of any inaccuracy
Consider all factors
Consistency must be observed
Monitor the way the conversation is being conveyed
Avoid any extremes and monotony
Take the current situation into consideration
Types of Nonverbal Communication
There are 6 main types of nonverbal communication which will be discussed below.
We as human beings are highly visual characters and therefore visual data is the most immediate information which we will receive about someone – we have the ability to recognize someone out from a crowd, those who are tall are mostly ‘wanted’ by employers and clean and neat people have a better chance of being liked and/or employed.
Between two individuals (one wearing dirty and torn clothes and the other wearing new and clean clothes), the cleaner one will somehow make us more comfortable and also we are willing to be around him or her. The way of dressing up could in fact affect evaluations as well as potential promotions that might be given – especially when one is applying for a job or going for a business meeting.
This is where proximity comes to play and it also displays the relationship that the speaker and listener have between each other and the four levels are as stated in the table below:
Usually for embracing, touching or whispering – 0 inches to 18 inches
Interactions between good friends or family members – 1.5 ft to 4 ft
Interactions among acquaintances – 4ft to 12 ft
Public speaking – 12 ft to 25 ft
Unknown to us, posture can in fact be used to send messages or to read another person’s intent and this nonverbal communication type includes arm position, leg position, general sitting posture and body orientation. For example, during a meeting or a discussion with a manager or someone of higher position than we are, face to face communication is preferred, for to do otherwise would be a defiance or anger act. Another example would be, when one is caught in a situation where another individual is having their arms crossed in front of them, it means that that particular individual is showing a defensive posture.
Little did we know, the face is the most expressive area of communication for nonverbal communication and in fact, we spend a great amount of time looking at a person’s facial expression during a discussion. One very obvious facial expression – eye contact. During an ongoing conversation, the speaker and the listener would look at each other in the eye – hard stare indicates aggressiveness, anger and / or defensiveness. When a listener is looking down at the floor while he or she is being accused of something, it usually indicates that he or she is guilty of the crime. We tend to look away from the speaker when there is an issue of shame and embarrassment in the picture. However, we must be aware that different cultures has different perspectives and interpretations – Spanish: looking down is a sign of respect. In addition to this, eye contact (especially if its prolonged) indicates disagreement and challenging the speaker’s authority.
Gestures made by other parts of our body, for example – hands can actually be as expressive as the expressions made by our face. An angry feeling can be enhanced and indicated with a fist or even a stab of the middle finger into someone’s chest. When one throws his or her hands and arms into the air, this indicates exasperation, hands placed on hips means confidence and the wringing of hands shows nervousness.
The Importance of Nonverbal Communication
Based on the statement made by most social psychologists, nonverbal communication actually makes up 66% (two-thirds) of all communication between two or more people. A message can too be conveyed verbally and with the proper body language and body signals which is inclusive of both fixed and unfixed physical features, the gestures and signals which are sent unconsciously or consciously and also the proximity of the conversation.
A first impression can be enhanced and strengthen through nonverbal communication, especially in situations or attracting a partner or in an interview. This is where the saying “you have less than 10 seconds and realistically close to 4 seconds to make a good impression on those with whom you come in contact” comes to play. First encounters and meetings will usually affect an individual’s lifestyle for people are more likely to believe that the first things they learn and know are the truth. Usually, all our 5 senses are used in a nonverbal communication – Sight (83%), Taste (1%), Hearing (11%), Smell (3%) and Touch (2%).
Nonverbal communication is one of communication’s key aspects and it is extremely and specifically important and vital in a high-context culture. This form of communication is used to repeat a verbal message (for example – pointing at a certain direction while stating the certain direction) and also it is able to replace and substitute verbal messages (for example – nodding indicates a ‘yes’ and a finger to lips indicates a ‘keep quiet’ gesture.
“Action speaks louder than words” – a perfect proverb to describe or to state why nonverbal communication is as important, or at times, more important than verbal communication. A person can say anything through his or her mouth but it is useless and worthless if whatever is said is not done or acted upon.
Communication and interaction is vital for all living things. Even though verbal communication is the easiest to use and interpret, we should be aware that nonverbal communication does have its important role to play too and we should try to understand this form of communication as it is interpreted differently by people from different cultural background and also for those who have different beliefs.
Remland, M.S. (2009). Nonverbal communication in everyday life. USA: Pearson Education Inc
DeVito, J.A. (2011). Interpersonal messages – communication and relationship skills. USA: Pearson Education Inc
Importance of Nonverbal Communication. Retrieved on 20th October 2012 from http://www.cod.edu/Course/Mgt100/mgtcomm.htm#NC-Importance
Proxemics. Retrieved on 20th October 2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proxemics
Non-verbal Communication. Retrieved on 15th October 2012 from http://www2.andrews.edu/~tidwell/bsad560/NonVerbal.html
Verbal Communication. Retrieved 10th October 2012 from http://www.livestrong.com/article/150573-what-is-verbal-communication/
Communication. In Merriam-Webster Dictionary online. Retrieved 9th October 2012 from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/communication
Nonverbal Communication. Retrieved 15th October 2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonverbal_communication
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