Nonverbal communication is communication without words. You communicate nonverbally when you gesture, smile or frown, widen your eyes, move your chair closer to someone, wear jewelry, touch someone, raise your vocal volume, or even when you say nothing. The crucial aspect of nonverbal communication is that the message you send is in some way received by one or more other people. If you
DeVito, Joseph A.. Interpersonal Communication Book, The (Page 109). Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.
gesture while alone in your room and no one is there to see you, then, most theorists would argue, communication has not taken place. The same, of course, is true of verbal messages: if you recite a speech and no one hears it, then communication has not taken place. Your ability to use nonverbal communication effectively can yield two major benefits (Burgoon & Hoobler, 2002). First, the greater your ability to send and receive nonverbal signals, the higher your attraction, popularity, and psychosocial well-being are likely to be. Second, the greater your nonverbal skills, the more successful you’re likely to be in a wide variety of interpersonal communication situations, including close relationships, organizational communication, teacher–student communication, intercultural communication, courtroom communication, in politics, and in health care (Richmond, McCroskey, & Hickson, 2012; Riggio & Feldman, 2005). Principles of Nonverbal Communication 5.1 Describe the principles governing nonverbal messages. Perhaps the best way to begin the study of nonverbal communication is to examine several principles that, as you’ll see, also identify the varied functions that nonverbal messages serve (Afifi, 2007; Burgoon & Bacue, 2003; Burgoon & Hoobler, 2002; DeVito, 2013). Nonverbal Messages Interact with Verbal Messages Verbal and nonverbal messages interact with each other in six major ways: to accent, to complement, to contradict, to control, to repeat, and to substitute for each other. • Accent. Nonverbal communication is often used to accent or emphasize some part of the verbal message. You might, for example, raise your voice to underscore a particular word or phrase, bang your fist on the desk to stress your commitment, or look longingly into someone’s eyes when saying, “I love you.” • Complement. Nonverbal communication may be used to complement, to add nuances of meaning not communicated by your verbal message. Thus, you might smile when telling a story (to suggest that you find it humorous) or frown and shake your head when recounting someone’s deceit (to suggest your disapproval). • Contradict. You may deliberately contradict your verbal messages with nonverbal movements, for example, by crossing your fingers or winking to indicate that you’re lying. • Control. Nonverbal movements may be used to control, or to indicate your desire to control, the flow of verbal messages, as when you purse your lips, lean forward, or make hand movements to indicate that you want to speak. You might also put up your hand or vocalize your pauses (for example, with “um”) to indicate that you have not finished and aren’t ready to relinquish the floor to the next speaker. • Repeat. You can repeat or restate the verbal message nonverbally. You can, for example, follow your verbal “Is that all right?” with raised eyebrows and a questioning look, or you can motion with your head or hand to repeat your verbal “Let’s go.” • Substitute. You may also use nonverbal communication to substitute for verbal messages. You can, for example, signal “okay” with a hand gesture. You can nod your head to indicate yes or shake your head to indicate no. When you communicate electronically, of course, your message is communicated by means of typed letters without facial expressions or gestures that normally accompany face-to-face communication and without the changes in rate and volume that are part of normal telephone communication. To compensate for this lack of nonverbal behavior, emoticons were created. An emoticon or smiley is a typed symbol that communicates through a keyboard the nuances of the message normally conveyed by
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nonverbal expression. The absence of the nonverbal channel through which you can clarify your message—for example, smiling or winking to communicate sarcasm or humor—make such typed symbols extremely helpful. Not surprisingly, these symbols aren’t used universally (Pollack, 1996). The smiley face, after the ever-present :), is used frequently in western cultures to indicate the smile or smiling. But it is not used universally. For example, because it’s considered impolite for a Japanese woman to show her teeth when she smiles, the Japanese emoticon for a woman’s smile is (^ . ^), where the dot signifies a closed mouth. A man’s smile is written (^ _ ^). Nonverbal Messages Help Manage Impressions It is largely through the nonverbal communications of others that you form impressions of them. Based on a person’s body size, skin color, and dress, as well as on the way the person smiles, maintains eye contact, and expresses him- or herself facially, you form impressions—you judge who the person is and what the person is like. And, at the same time that you form impressions of others, you are also managing the impressions they form of you, using different strategies to achieve different impressions. Of course, many of these strategies involve nonverbal messages. For example: • To be liked, you might smile, pat another on the back, and shake hands warmly. See Table 5.1 for some additional ways in which nonverbal communication may make you seem more attractive and more likeable. • To be believed, you might use focused eye contact, a firm stance, and open gestures. • To excuse failure, you might look sad, cover your face with your hands, and shake your head. • To secure help, by indicating helplessness, you might use open hand gestures, a puzzled look, and inept movements.
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• To hide faults, you might avoid self-touching. • To be followed, you might dress the part of a leader or display your diploma or awards where others can see them. • To confirm your self-image and to communicate it to others, you might dress in certain ways or decorate your apartment with items that reflect your personality. Nonverbal Messages Help Form Relationships Much of your relationship life is lived nonverbally. You communicate affection, support, and love, in part at least, nonverbally (Floyd & Mikkelson, 2005). At the same time, you also communicate displeasure, anger, and animosity through nonverbal signals. You also use nonverbal signals to communicate the nature of your relationship to another person, and you and that person communicate nonverbally with each other. These signals that communicate your relationship status are known as tie signs: they indicate the ways in which your relationship is tied together (Afifi& Johnson, 2005; Goffman, 1967; Knapp & Hall, 2009). Tie signs are also used to confirm the level of the relationship; for example, you might hold hands to see if this is responded to positively. Of course, tie signs are often used to let others know that the two of you are tied together. Tie signs vary in intimacy and may extend from the relatively informal handshake through more intimate forms—such as hand-holding and arm linking—to very intimate contact—such as full mouth kissing (Andersen, 2004). You also use nonverbal signals to communicate your relationship dominance and status (Dunbar & Burgoon, 2005; Knapp & Hall, 2009). The large corner office with the huge desk communicates high status, just as the basement cubicle communicates low status. Nonverbal Messages Structure Conversation When you’re in conversation, you give and receive cues—signals that you’re ready to speak, to listen, to comment on what the speaker just said. These cues regulate and structure the interaction. These turn-taking cues may be verbal (as when you say, “What do you think?” and thereby give the speaking turn over to the listener). Most often, however, they’re nonverbal; a nod of the head in the direction of someone else, for example, signals that you’re ready to give up your speaking turn and want this other person to say something. You also show that you’re listening and that you want the conversation to continue (or that you’re not listening and want the conversation to end) largely through nonverbal signals of posture and eye contact (or the lack thereof). Nonverbal Messages Can Influence and Deceive You can influence others not only through what you say but also through your nonverbal signals. A focused glance that says you’re committed; gestures that further explain what you’re saying; appropriate dress that says, “I’ll easily fit in with this organization”—these are just a few examples of ways in which you can exert nonverbal influence. Gesturing even seems to help learning and memory (Dean, 2010). For example, children increase their learning when they gesture (Stevanoni & Salmon, 2005) and, among adults, those who gestured while solving a problem were quicker to solve the problem the second time (Beilock & Goldin-Meadow, 2010). Apparently, gesturing helps reinforce the message or activity in one’s memory. And with the ability to influence, of course, comes the ability to deceive—to mislead another person into thinking something is true when it’s false or that something is false when it’s true. One common example of nonverbal deception is using your eyes and facial expressions to communicate a liking for other people when you’re really interested only in gaining their support in some endeavor. Not surprisingly, you also use nonverbal signals to detect deception in others. For example, you may well suspect a person of lying if he or she avoids eye contact, fidgets, and conveys inconsistent verbal and nonverbal messages.
DeVito, Joseph A.. Interpersonal Communication Book, The (Page 112). Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.
Nonverbal Messages Are Crucial for Expressing Emotions Although people often explain and reveal emotions verbally, nonverbal signals communicate a great part of your emotional experience. For example, you reveal your level of happiness or sadness or confusion largely through facial expressions. Of course, you also reveal your feelings by posture (for example, whether tense or relaxed), gestures, eye movements, and even the dilation of your pupils. Nonverbal messages often help people communicate unpleasant messages that they might feel uncomfortable putting into words (Infante, Rancer, & Avtgis, 2010). For example, you might avoid eye contact and maintain large distances between yourself and someone with whom you didn’t want to interact or with whom you want to decrease the intensity of your relationship. You also use nonverbal messages to hide your emotions. You might, for example, smile even though you feel sad to avoid dampening the party spirit. Or you might laugh at someone’s joke even though you think it is silly. At the same time that you express emotions nonverbally, you also use nonverbal cues to decode or decipher the emotions of others. Of course, emotions are internal and a person can use emotional expression to deceive, so you can only make inferences about another’s emotional state. Not surprisingly, scientists working in a field called affective computing are developing programs that decode a person’s emotions by analyzing voices, facial movements, and style of walking (Savage, 2013). Table 5.2 summarizes these several principles of nonverbal communication. Channels of Nonverbal Communication 5.2 Explain the channels through which nonverbal messages are sent and received. Nonverbal communication involves a variety of channels. Here we look at: (1) body messages, (2) facial communication, (3) eye communication, (4) touch communication, (5) paralanguage, (6) silence, (7) spatial messages and territoriality, (8) artifactual communication, (9) olfactory messages, and (10) temporal communication. As you’ll see, nonverbal messages are heavily influenced by culture (Matsumoto, 2006; Matsumoto & Yoo, 2005; Matsumoto, Yoo, Hirayama, & Petrova, 2005). Body Messages In much interpersonal interaction, it’s the person’s body that communicates most immediately. Here we look at body gestures and body appearance—two main ways the body communicates.
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BoDy GEsTurEs An especially useful classification in kinesics—or the study of communication through body movement—identifies five types: emblems, illustrators, affect displays, regulators, and adaptors (Ekman & Friesen, 1969). Table 5.3 summarizes and provides examples of these five types of movements. Emblems Emblems are substitutes for words; they’re body movements that have rather specific verbal translations, such as the nonverbal signs for “okay,” “peace,” “come here,” “go away,” “who, me?” “be quiet,” “I’m warning you,” “I’m tired,” and “it’s cold.” Emblems are as arbitrary as any words in any language. Consequently, your present culture’s emblems are not necessarily the same as your culture’s emblems of 300 years ago or the same as the emblems of other cultures. For example, the sign made by forming a circle with the thumb and index finger may mean “nothing” or “zero” in France, “money” in Japan, and something sexual in certain southern European cultures. Illustrators Illustrators accompany and literally illustrate verbal messages. Illustrators make your communications more vivid and help to maintain your listener’s attention. They also help to clarify and intensify your verbal messages. In saying, “Let’s go up,” for example, you probably move your head and perhaps your finger in an upward direction. In describing a circle or a square, you more than likely make circular or square movements with your hands. Research points to another advantage of illustrators: they increase your ability to remember. People who illustrated their verbal messages with gestures remembered some 20 percent more than those who didn’t gesture (Goldin-Meadow, Nusbaum, Kelly, & Wagner, 2001). We are aware of illustrators only part of the time; at times, they may have to be brought to our attention. Illustrators are more universal than emblems; illustrators are recognized and understood by members of more different cultures than are emblems. Affect Displays Affect displays are the movements of the face that convey emotional meaning—the expressions that show anger and fear, happiness and surprise, eagerness and fatigue. They’re the facial expressions that give you away when you try to present a false image and that lead people to say, “You look angry. What’s wrong?” We can, however, consciously control affect displays, as actors do when they play a role. Affect displays may be unintentional (as when they give you away) or intentional (as when you want to show anger, love, or surprise). A particular kind of affect display is the poker player’s “tell,” a bit of nonverbal behavior that communicates bluffing; it’s a nonverbal cue that tells others that a player is lying. In much the same way that you may want to conceal certain feelings from friends or relatives, the poker player tries to conceal any such tells. Regulators regulators monitor, maintain, or control the speaking of another individual. When you listen to another, you’re not passive; you nod your head, purse your
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lips, adjust your eye focus, and make various paralinguistic sounds such as “uh-huh” or “tsk.” Regulators are culture-bound: each culture develops its own rules for the regulation of conversation. Regulators also include broad movements such as shaking your head to show disbelief or leaning forward in your chair to show that you want to hear more. Regulators communicate what you expect or want speakers to do as they’re talking, for example, “Keep going,” “Tell me what else happened,” “I don’t believe that. Are you sure?” “Speed up,” and “Slow down.” Speakers often receive these nonverbal signals without being consciously aware of them. Depending on their degree of sensitivity, speakers modify their speaking behavior in accordance with these regulators. Adaptors Adaptors satisfy some need and usually occur without conscious awareness; they’re unintentional movements that usually go unnoticed. Nonverbal researchers identify three types of adaptors based on their focus, direction, or target: self-adaptors, alter-adaptors, and object-adaptors (Burgoon, Guerrero, & Floyd, 2010). • self-adaptors usually satisfy a physical need, generally serving to make you more comfortable; examples include scratching your head to relieve an itch, moistening your lips because they feel dry, or pushing your hair out of your eyes. • Alter-adaptors are the body movements you make in response to your interactions. Examples include crossing your arms over your chest when someone unpleasant approaches or moving closer to someone you like. • object-adaptors are movements that involve your manipulation of some object. Frequently observed examples include punching holes in or drawing on a styrofoam coffee cup, clicking a ballpoint pen, or chewing on a pencil. Objectadaptors are usually signs of negative feelings; for example, you emit more adaptors when feeling hostile than when feeling friendly (Burgoon, Guerrero, & Floyd, 2010). Gestures and Cultures There is much variation in gestures and their meanings among different cultures (Axtell, 2007). Consider a few common gestures that you may often use without thinking but that could easily get you into trouble if you used them in another culture (also examine Figure 5.1): • Folding your arms over your chest would be considered defiant and disrespectful in Fiji. • Waving your hand would be insulting in Nigeria and Greece. • Gesturing with the thumb up would be rude in Australia. • Tapping your two index fingers together would be considered an invitation to sleep together in Egypt. • Pointing with your index finger would be impolite in many Middle Eastern countries. • Bowing to a lesser degree than your host would be considered a statement of your superiority in Japan. • Inserting your thumb between your index and middle finger in a clenched fist would be viewed as a wish that evil fall on the person in some African countries. • Resting your feet on a table or chair would be insulting and disrespectful in some Middle Eastern cultures. BoDy AppEArANcE Of course, the body communicates even without movement. For example, others may form impressions of you from your general body build; from your height and weight; and from your skin, eye, and hair color. Assessments of your power, attractiveness, and suitability as a friend or romantic partner are often made on the basis of your body appearance (Sheppard & Strathman, 1989).
DeVito, Joseph A.. Interpersonal Communication Book, The (Page 115). Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.