Communication is a verbal process. When most people, whether they are top management or have just taken an entry-level position, think about communication, they think chiefly about words - written or spoken. They rarely focus on the relevance of the nonverbal aspect of communication. Yet much of communication is nonverbal. In fact, when we talk to someone, our verbal communication is always accompanied by nonverbal messages. How we say something and how we act is as important as what we say, and often more important. Nonverbal actions often contradict verbal messages, and when they do, most people believe the nonverbal over the verbal. Thus, the process of communication is both verbal and nonverbal.
Nonverbal behavior and communication
Organizational communication for survival
Making work, work
Do Virginia Peck Richmond and James C. McCroskey
Copyright 2009,2005,2001,1991 Pearson Education, Inc.
Nonverbal behaviors have an significant impact on human communicaton. In fact, it has been estimated that approximately two-thirds of the perceived meaning in any communication situation is likely to be stimulated by nonverbal messages. Mehrabian and Ferris ( 1967 ) estimate that, on an avergage, 93 percent of meaning in interpersonal communication comes from nonverbal meassages. Although this estimate may appear high, scholars and practitioners agree that much of the meaning a person receives from a message comes from the available nonverbal messages. Sometimes, the outcome of communication is entirely the result of nonverbal meassages.
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Even if a person is not visible to another, ( for example, using the phone), the person's voice will send nonverbal cues as to what the person is thinking or feeling. Many people have had the experience of clling an organization for information and getting a person with a voice that is monotone, harsh, and/ or unpleasant sounding. Usually, these types of vocal tones result in a negative reaction and do not encourage a person to carry on a conversation or to call back for more information. Our negative reactions ( to the oerson on the phone, and the organization he/she represents) can be entirely produced by the nonverbal messages we receive.
Nonverbal communication is the process of a person or persons ( such as a manager ) stimulating meaning in the mind of another person or persons ( such as an employee) by means of nonverbal messages. Nonverbal communication is that communication produced by all available behaviors and cues other than the words we use. Of course, in talking to people in organizations, using words mandates that we use at least one set of nonverbal messages-vocalic cues, for it is through vocalic cues that words are conveyed to others.
Significance of Nonverbal Communication in Organizations
There are six reasons why we belive nonverbal communication is extremely important in organizations. Each is a sufficient reason to try to better understand nonverbal communicative meassages.
The first form of human communication was nonverbal communication. Before the development of formal oral languages, and many additional millennia before such recent developments as writing, sign language, and e-mail, the human species used nonverbal messages as their only form of communication. Gestures, facial expressions, and vocalic noises were used to convey meaning. We see such communication continuing today in our nearest relatives, other primates. Nonverbal communication is a core behavior of humans ( as it is in other primates ) that surrounds our verbal communication efforts. Our inadequacy to communicate how we feel solely by verbal communication is manifest today evne in our most technically advanced communication methods. Who has not been so concerned that they will be misunderstood, that they have used a happy face in their e-mail? Organizations are made up of human beings ( regardless of what we might think some of them descend from). And humans are, first and foremost, nonverbal communicators. The receptionist who smiles at us when we enter the door often counts for far more in determining how we feel about the organization than all the lofty slogans the bureaucrats bleat in its name.
Many people fail at communication because they are nonverbally illiterate. It is amazing the number of people who disregard the impact of nonverbal communication on relationships in organizations. Quite simply, many managers and employees fail to become effective communicators because they do not understand that nonverbal communication is an integral and critical part of the total communication process. While people work to perfect the verbal, they disregard the impact of the nonverbal. But we are hesitant to place blame on individuals in this regard. Our educational system places almost exclusive emphasis on verbal communication, and 99 percent of that on written communication. While every student in primary school and secondary school has been inundated with information about verbal communication ( often in multiple languages), less than one percent of college graduates have ever had an opportunity to take a class devoted to the study of nonverbal communication made in organiztions are nonverbal ones.
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Nonverbal messages are always present. Many communication scholars and practitioners realize that nonverbal communication continues even when the verbal communication has ended. The idea that " a person cannot communicate",refers to the idea that nonverbal messages are ever present. People can communicate with each other nonverbally, even when they are not speaking. For example, a severe look or a welcoming gesture may say more than words, and may do so in the complete absence of words.
Verbal and nonverbal messages usually work together. It is virtually impossible to find a verbal message that does not have a nonverbal component. Even computer language, e-mail, and other nonhuman technologies carry a nonverbal component. The symbols used, size of words, and so on are all nonverbal components of a verbal language. For the most part, as we will discuss in the following pages, verbal and nonverbal messages function together rather than separately.
Nonverbal messages often are more important than the verbal ones. In some organizational situations, the verbal messages can be more important than the nonverbal, but in most situation the nonverbal is more important than the verbal. It is arguable, for example, that in tedious and critical briefings focusing on new information, the verbal messages may be the most important. The verbal messages have their biggest impact in terms of learning content, and this is a content-focused context. However, nonverbal messages better convey the affective component of communication. Consequantly, they have their biggest impact on the way people feel about their interation and about the people with whom they interact.
Nonverbal communication is believed. In meetings, both managers and employees look for the "true" meaning behind the words. Most importantly, if nonverbal messages and verbal messages are in conflict, adults overwhelmingly believe what they perceive the nonverbal messages to be communicating. While research indicates that humans are terrible lie-detectors ( actually being wrong more often than they would be by flipping a coin in many cases) , if a person feels like another person is not telling them the truth ( a feeling which usually comes from nonverbal messages), that person will believe the other is not telling the truth-even if they are. The verbal message will be rejected, and nonverbal messages accepted.