Keywords: Nonverbal communication, human interaction, emotion
Nonverbal communication is defined as anything that is communicates without words which is commonly referred to as body language and these things can include subtle face movements, proximity to someone, the clothing that people wear, and volume and pitch (DeVito, 2010). Nonverbal communication can also be vocalized sounds that are not considered words. These different ways of communication affect how we express ourselves to the world around us and can affect how people interpret day to day interactions.
Types of Nonverbal Communication
There are two forms of nonverbal communication Paralinguistic features and physical behaviors (Rashotte, 2002). Paralinguistic features have to do with speech patterns and elements of the human voice. A person’s tone of voice, volume, pitch, or nonfluencies can communicate a person’s feelings or intentions behind a speech (Rashotte, 2002).
Physical behaviors are the most commonly thought of form of nonverbal communication and are actions done with the body that can show a person’s feelings. Physical behaviors typically called body language are things such as facial expressions, hand movements, positioning of bodies and, use of space (Rashotte, 2002).
Uses of Nonverbal Communication
Nonverbal communication can be used in congruence with verbal communication in six different ways: Accent, complement, contradict, regulate, repeat, substitute. The use of these different types of nonverbal messages helps to get a meaning across in face-to-face communication (DeVito, 2010).
Nonverbal communication can also be used to portray superiority, a couple ways would be the distance between the speaker and the receivers or the timeliness of a person. One common way that people use distance to nonverbally communicate status is the arrangement in which people sit around a table, it is commonly thought that the leader assumes the position of the head of the table (Lunenburg, 2010).
Another way that people communicate nonverbally is through our appearance, a common saying is to dress for success, this is because people make judgements based off a person’s presentation of themselves. Before anyone has a chance to engage in verbal communication the person has already made assumptions about the speaker based on their appearance and how they hold themselves (Lunenburg, 2010).
Emotions Effect on Nonverbal Behaviors
Emotions have a direct link to body posture facial expressions and changes in voice patterns. Researchers have been able to prove than across the globe common feelings expressed on faces and bodies are easily recognizable and were originally intended to serve psychological functions but as civilizations evolved the facials expressions evolved with them to serve as another form of communication (Randles et al, 2015). It has been studied that these expressions of emotions through nonverbal cues directly influence the way that people perceive and treat others. “To take one example, studies have demonstrated that, upon seeing a pride expression, observers across diverse cultures automatically perceive the displayer as deserving an increase in social rank. They respond to that message by treating proud individuals as leaders and a source of cultural wisdom, and they show a bias toward copying and learning from them (Randles et al, 2015).”
Responses to emotional nonverbal communication
Responding to and identifying emotional nonverbal cues starts from infancy, children observe and copy their parent’s responses to stimuli. Over time these responses are ingrained and that they cause automatic responses in adulthood to similar stimuli. It has been noted that expressions caused by emotions can influence the thinking and response of others such as, an influential person’s nonverbal responses to a political candidate can impact others willingness to vote for them (Randles et al, 2015).
Nonverbal Behaviors in Social Interactions
It has been noted in many studies that while verbal communication is the most common way to get across information the majority of the message being received is through nonverbal forms of communications, this means that nonverbal communication can affect the impact of the message being given (Preston, 2005).
When engaging in a conversation with another it is important to be aware of any nonverbal cues you could be giving. For instance, eye contact is key in acknowledging another person and many consider it a sign of respect (Preston, 2005). Eye contact also shows that you have given the other person your undivided attention and allows the sender to monitor feedback. People also judge a person’s trust worthiness based on their eye contact, it is a general perception that if a person is making eye contact then they are being honest are confident about what they are saying. The same goes for if a person is avoiding eye contact, people infer in this situation that a person is untrustworthy or that they incompetent in their ability to express themselves (Nolen, 1995). Prolonged eye contact can also have negative effect on the other person, if it is unflinching or intense it can give off a feeling of hostility (Lunenburg, 2010).
Touching and posture
Touching and posture also play a large role in communication and can portray interest or a person’s attitude toward the topic of conversation. If the audience is actively leaning in or angling their body towards the speaker it is a good indicator that they are interested and engaged in the conversation. Touching also can be used to show agreement or approval of what is being discussed, it can also be used to show condolence or reassurance (Lunenburg, 2010). While people may not consciously notice these things according to Givens (2000), ‘When we speak (or listen), our attention is focused on words rather than body language. But our judgment includes both. An audience is simultaneously processing both verbal and nonverbal cues. Body movements are not usually positive or negative in and of themselves; rather, the situation and the message will determine the appraisal.’
Gestures can also affect people’s interactions according to their culture and where they grew up. In some countries it would be considered rude to shake hands and the firmness of the handshake can be offensive. Some places share the same sign, but it has different meanings, for example the peace sign of two fingers is acceptable in many counties but in France or in the United Kingdom it is considered an obscene gesture. It is important to consider who your audience is and to be aware of the nonverbal gestures or cues you are using (Foley & Gentile, 2010).
An important factor to consider when communicating with some one is your proximity to them. People tend to be closer to people they like and feel comfortable with and put distance with those who they are uncomfortable with (Nolen 1995). Being closer to someone can show that you have positive feelings towards them and what they are saying, but it is also important to consider that some people have a need for personal space and to judge your audience accordingly.
Tempering Your Communication
When communicating the most important part is gauging your audience’s reactions and editing your own to better match the tone of the conversation. The best way to avoid drawing any unwanted reactions from your audiences is to keep your voice relaxed, your body still, avoid any aggressive or dominant postures or expressions, avoid unnecessary hand movements, avoid touching yourself unnecessarily, and do not let your facial expressions show to much of your underlying emotions (Preston, 2005). By following these basic rules, you can connect with your audience without loosing their attention and you can still maintain a level of professionalism.
Nonverbal communication affects every aspect of human communication from your vocal nuances to the communication done through body language. It is important to understand that dressing and holding yourself with confidence can directly affect not just your mood but the mood of your audience. Successful nonverbal communication can be achieved through practice and monitoring of the positive and negative reactions through day to day exchanges.
- DeVito, J. (2010). Human Communication: The Basic Course, 12th Edition. [ECPI]. Retrieved from https://ecpi.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781323144091/
- Foley, G., & Gentile, J. (2010). Nonverbal Communication in Psychotherapy. Psychiatry (Edgmont), 7(6), 38-44. Retrieved March 4, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2898840/.
- Givens, D. (2000). ‘Body Speak: What Are You Saying?’ Successful Meetings
- Künecke, J., Wilhelm, O., & Sommer, W. (2017). Emotion recognition in nonverbal face-to-facecommunication. Journal of Nonverbal
- Behavior, 41(3), 221-238. http://libproxy.ecpi.edu:2125/10.1007/s10919-017-0255-2 Retrieved from http://libproxy.ecpi.edu:2048/login?url=https://libproxy.ecpi.edu:2463/docview/1922823014?accountid=142826
- Lunenburg, F. (2010). Louder Than Words: The Hidden Power of Nonverbal Communication in the Workplace. International Journal of Scholarly Academic Intellectual Diversity, 12(1), 1-5. Retrieved March 2, 2018, from http://www.nationalforum.com/Electronic%20Journal%20Volumes/Lunenburg,%20Fred%20C%20Louder%20Than%20Words%20IJSAID%20V12%20N1%202010.pdf
- Nolen, W. (1995). Reading people. Internal Auditor, 52(2), 48+. Retrieved from http://libproxy.ecpi.edu:2374/apps/doc/A17003168/ITOF?u=lirn55593&sid=ITOF&xid= c441b521
- Preston, P. (2005). Nonverbal communication: Do you really say what you mean? Journal of Healthcare Management, 50(2), 83-6. Retrieved from http://libproxy.ecpi.edu:2048/login?url=https://libproxy.ecpi.edu:2463/docview/206728725?accountid=142826
- Randles, D., Steckler, C., & Tracy, J. (2015). The nonverbal communication of emotions. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 3, 25-30. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cobeha.2015.01.001
- Rashotte, L. (2002). What does that smile mean? the meaning of nonverbal behaviors in social interaction. Social Psychology Quarterly, 65(1), 92-102. Retrieved from http://libproxy.ecpi.edu:2048/login?url=https://libproxy.ecpi.edu:2463/docview/212711491?accountid=142826