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Nonverbal Communication

How much of communication is really nonverbal?

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Understanding how men and women communicate

Is body language really over 90% of how we communicate?
Nonverbal communication in the workplace, dating, and social interaction
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The influence of sex and gender differences begins early in life and effect the communication style of the individual into adulthood. Studies show that differences in language can be observed as early as preschool.

Through childhood, girls tend to make more requests, use more words, and use language to create harmony while boys are more inclined to make demands, use more actions than words, and create conflict. These gender stereotypes encourage men to be more aggressive and competitive, and male children are more encouraged to play with toys like guns and swords. Gender roles are established heavily and early. There are several differences in the way that men and women communicate nonverbally.

Tannen continues to say that the majority of our communication skills are learned from childhood and that boys and girl are often taught vastly different lessons. For example, men are often more aware of personal space and tend to be withdrawn rather than bodily engaged, whereas women use bodily contact more frequently and are much warmer in their communication Schmidt. Men also desire more personal space, usually only touch each other when engaged in playful aggression, and have the tendency to move around more when they are uncomfortable.

Women, on the other hand, tend to align their bodies to face the other person, use more hand gestures, and typically sit still. Further, women have shown to be more fluid in their gestures while men have been observed to have sharp, direct movements Merchant There are differences in posture, as well; while women are more likely to keep their arms near their bodies and cross their legs, men often have wider postures and stand with their arms further away from their bodies and their legs apart.

Clearly, the body language of men and women are highly different and can make communication between the genders a bit cloudy.

There are also marked differences in the way that men and women communicate via their facial expressions. Tannen, men use more head movements while women often move their heads less frequently Schmidt. Furthermore, women are more inclined to express their emotion through their facial expressions and they smile more often.

Conversely, men attempt to conceal or control their emotional displays through their facial expression and smile less than women do. Gender portrayal in advertisements is a good example of the different facial expressions gender facial communications. Men are seen working on a task. Typically, the only emotions conveyed are agitation or interest.

Women, on the other hand, display a wide range of emotions through their facial expressions, including joy, passion, confusion, etc. Another difference in nonverbal communication between the sexes is that men tend to be more visually dominant than women, which is defined as the ratio of the time spent maintaining eye contact while talking to the time spent maintaining eye contact while listening Reiman Nonverbal communication also differs between men and women in their positioning during communication.

The way men and women communicate through their facial expressions are opposites, making nonverbal communication a bit difficult.

Gender roles are usually defined in the workplace , and the way men and women communicate can affect the way they interact in the workplace. Women, for example, tend to focus on building up relationships with each other by sharing experiences. Men, though, tend to share experiences as a way to one-up each other. In addition, women attempt to build relationships with the people they work with while men attempt to assert their status and dominance in the workplace hierarchy.

This can cause an issue in communication because while a woman might think she is building rapport with a man she works with, he may perceive the situation completely differently Leigh The differences in the way that men and women communicate nonverbally can have an effect on dating behaviors and social situations and relationships.

As previously stated, when a woman is attempting to connect with someone, she is more likely to face them and touch them in an attempt to establish a rapport and relationship. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to interpret the physical contact as an attempt to establish dominance or claim or express sexual interest Merchant While women see the contact as an attempt to cooperate while men may see it as a more aggressive or assertive move.

Another way that dating and social relationships can be affected by differences in nonverbal communication between the sexes is that way that men and women interpret nodding. As noted earlier, men usually nod to show that they agree with something Lieberman. Women, however, nod to show that they are listening. Modern communication can have an effect on social and dating situations is the ways men and women interpret proximity.

For example, women are likely to stand closer to each other as a way of attempting to create a sense of closeness and intimacy. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to see close proximity as aggressive or confrontational Carnes Similarly, men are more likely to associate physical contact with sexual intentions, while women use physical contact to communicate sympathy or friendship. Likewise, if a man is standing close to a woman to establish his interest in her, she might think he is merely trying to connect with her, causing another lapse in communication between them.

It cannot be denied that men and women communicate differently. Several of these differences in communication occur in nonverbal communication.

In the workplace, people may use touch to communicate nonverbally. The functional-professional touch is businesslike and impersonal. The touch that a physician uses when conducting a physical examination is a functional-professional touch. However, touch is not a part of most professions, and thus, this type of touch is not used often in business settings. The social-polite touch, such as a handshake, is much more common.

This type of touch is used to recognize other individuals. It is an expected touch in many business settings. Finally, the friendship-warmth touch shows that one values another as a person.

A pat on the back or a hug is a friendship-warmth touch. In most workplaces, the social-polite touch is the only necessary touch, and most managers and employees are encouraged to avoid using touch particularly the friendship-warmth touch in the workplace. While many people see a hand on a shoulder or a pat on the back as a useful touch to convey encouragement or concern for another's well-being, sexual harassment fears have made many avoid all types of touch beyond handshakes.

Often considered part of nonverbal communication, paralanguage involves the sounds and pitch of speech during social interaction. Paralanguage affects many business functions, such as meetings, conference calls, and personal evaluations. Constantly speaking in a shrill voice, for instance, is more likely to provoke irritation and annoyance no matter what is said. An important aspect of nonverbal communication is the environment which the subject has control over.

Most workers have a workspace that they can change, add items of their own, or organize to their liking.

Many managers can decorate their offices and move furniture such as desks and chairs in whatever ways they want. Managers can control communication by controlling the surroundings in which they conduct interviews, meetings, and so forth. This in turn changes the comfort levels of people in the environments. In addition to using the environment, bizmove. The silence between phrases, the silence when waiting for questions, and the silence before responding are all examples of how silence can affect communication.

Many people interpret silences as signs of emotional states. Does a silence show hesitance, thoughtfulness, or ignorance? This depends on the situation and the speakers. Silence should be considered in all business communication.

Across the United States , most body language is consistently understood. However, in other nations and cultures, what is considered to be appropriate body language in one place, may be seen as highly inappropriate in others. Similarly, other types of gestures and body movements may convey unwanted negative meanings. Therefore, care should be taken before using gestures in other countries or with business partners from other parts of the world. Body movements can also be misinterpreted based on culture.

Norms and expectations regarding facial expressions and eye contact also differ across cultures. Because different cultures have different norms for respect, eye contact that is seen as relationship-building and respectful in the United States may be seen as challenging and disrespectful in other cultures.

Personal space and touch are used differently in different nations. Americans tend to prefer larger amounts of personal space than do some Latin Americans, Italians, and Middle-Easterners. Germans, Chinese, and Japanese prefer larger amounts of personal space, similar to what Americans prefer. Thus, when conducting business with people from other cultures, it is important to understand and respect their personal space needs.

However, many instances of nonverbal communication are considered to be nearly universal. Paul Ekman, in his book Emotions Revealed , discusses an experiment he helped conduct, in which a series of nine Pidgin speakers who had limited experience in other languages made a series of facial gestures. These gestures were in time with a story, the main character of which they were to mirror using nonverbal communication to describe emotion.

These gestures, filmed, were then shown to American college students, who tried to define the emotions correctly. Overwhelmingly, the college students were able to perceive the emotions of the Pidgin speakers without flaw. Some of the emotions Ekman found to be easily understood included anger, enjoyment, sadness, and disgust. This study suggests that certain basic nonverbal communications are shared by most cultures throughout the world.

Nonverbal Communication in Human Interaction. Fort Worth , TX: Nonverbal Communication in Internal Auditing. Ribbens, Geoff, and Richard Thompson. Barron's Educational Series, Segall, Jeanne, and Jaelline Jaffe. The Hidden Language of Emotional Intelligence. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. Retrieved September 11, from Encyclopedia. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia. By virtue of a series of discoveries and conceptual departures in the social sciences, our understanding of the process of human communication has been expanded to include nonverbal communication. This entry discusses key ideas from the vast research literature on nonverbal communication NVC.

Nonverbal behavior NVB is usually divided into several categories. One category is paralanguage , which refers to the content-free vocalizations and pauses associated with speech. Research conducted by Starkey Duncan and Donald Fiske shows how paralinguistic behaviors serve as regulators of social interaction. Another category is facial expressions. A third category is kinesics or body language.

The research reported by Ray Birdwhistell in Kinesics and Context is an example of the value of detailed recording of gestures and bodily movements. A fourth category is visual behavior , which includes gazing. The study of spatial behavior or proxemics is another aspect of NVB research. Each of the nonverbal channels is understood in terms of both interpretation — referred to as decoding — and communication, known as encoding.

These functions are related: The knowledge generated by research provides a tool for agents of influence such as advertising executives and politicians. Certain NVBs have been shown to provide a window into emotions and intentions: For example, in her article, Christine Harris shows the NVBs and muscle activations that indicate the feeling of embarrassment in succession — eyes down, smile control, head away, gaze shifts, face touch ; and, in their book on Nonverbal Communication , Daniel Druckman, Richard Rozelle, and James Baxter show that deceivers displayed more frequent leg movements, less time looking at the interviewer, and more fidgeting with objects than honest and evasive role-players in their experiments.

It would seem then that the research findings provide useful information for managing impressions. However, the research also suggests that the process may be more difficult than it seems. In a chapter, Bella DePaulo and her colleagues review evidence on the impact of controlling NVBs in order to perpetrate a lie. Pointing to a phenomenon referred to as leakage , these findings show that when certain nonverbal channels, such as facial expressions, are orchestrated to hide an intention, other channels, subject to less conscious control, can be revealing.

Words and facial expressions have been found to be easier to control than body movements and such paralinguistic behaviors as tone of voice. These researchers also show that highly motivated liars may be easier to catch than their less motivated counterparts: When the stakes for pulling off a lie are high, more-difficult-to-control nonverbal channels are more revealing than verbal clues; less motivated liars are more likely to give themselves away with words.

Thus, both context and channel are important for diagnosis. Another issue is the extent to which the findings are universal. Culture has been shown to influence expressions: Cultural influences are referred to as display rules. These rules serve to control expressions that would be inappropriate in certain settings. Numerous studies have found differences among cultures in each of the NVB channels: Many of these studies focus on preferences for spacing or interaction distances; some show differences between cultures in gazing behavior, while others examine paralinguistic behaviors.

However, while the cross-cultural comparisons are informative, the studies provide limited insight into the situations that arouse such feelings as guilt, shame, or stress within cultures. Cultural interpretations of situations — for example, as social transgressions — are central to the idea of display rules and have implications for the way we diagnose leaked NVBs. Professional cultures also influence expressions and their interpretation.

For example, when considering the field of international politics, four questions can be asked: To what extent do the statements made by national representatives reflect actual policies? How committed are representatives to the positions put forward?

Clues about what to look for are provided by NVC studies. A furrowed brow and raised eyelids together with change in vocal tone and heightened pitch suggest pain; deviations from baseline NVBs may indicate deception; an increase in the amount of NVBs expressed in several channels may signal strong commitment; and spatial behavior may provide clues to political status.

These indicators direct attention to relationships between nonverbal channels, abrupt changes in expressions, and the intensity of nonverbal displays. They provide a structure for focusing attention on relevant details — that is, they suggest where to focus attention and what to look at. But they can also be misleading. Professional politicians are adept at masking intentions and feelings, particularly in the channels that are easier to control facial expressions, spatial behavior.

For this reason, knowledge about professional socialization and norms provides a broadened appreciation for the meaning of communication. For more on NVC in the context of international politics, see the chapter by Gordon and his coauthors. Proxemics, Distances, and Movement. In Thinking Space , ed. Mike Crang and Nigel Thrift, 54 — Rules for Social Relationships in Four Cultures. Australian Journal of Psychology 38 3: Essays on Body Motion Communication. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Deceiving and Detecting Deceit. In The Self and Social Life , ed. Schlenker, — Druckman, Daniel, Richard M.

Rozelle, and James C. Survey, Theory, and Research. Duncan, Starkey, and Donald W. Dynamic Patterning in Conversation. American Scientist 67 January-February: Facial Expression of Emotions: New Findings, New Questions. Psychological Science 3 1: Non-Verbal Behaviour as Communication: Approaches, Issues, and Research. In Handbook of Communication Skills , ed.

Owen Hargie, 73 — A Form of Social Pain. American Scientist 94 6: The question of nonverbal communication involves two distinct areas of epistemology whose theoretical and clinical characteristics have, as of , yet to be articulated: Understanding facts often begins with an understanding of the final state of their onto-genesis and it is only afterwards that we can retroactively investigate the roots, foundations, and precursors of the object of study.

And although it is true that linguistics has followed this sequence in its development, it is just as true that the child follows the opposite sequence. Today it is obvious that work on the development of language in children essentially involves an investigation of its corporeal roots, whether these are found in the work of pragmatists John Austin , Jerome Bruner , cognitivists C. Trevarthen , or those interested in suprasegmental elements of the speech chain Ivan Fonagy.

All of them attach great importance to deepening our understanding of the preverbal communication that precedes the development of verbal communication, but which accompanies it, shadowlike, throughout life. In terms of psychoanalysis, the history of research on nonverbal communication is superimposed on the history of the concept of counter-transference to the extent that the latter is essentially grounded in a more or less archaic level of emotional communication.

From this point of view so-called preverbal communication refers as much to bodily communication, mimicry and behavior, as it does to the unencoded element of language. It was primarily Melanie Klein who exposed this field of study by her introduction of the concept of projective identification. The importance that the post-Kleinian movement accorded to the process of counter-transference is well known.

For rather than being considered an obstacle to therapy, counter-transference was treated as a fundamental tool for working with the patient, regardless of his or her age. Wilfred Bion, through concepts like the "mother's capacity for reverie" and the "alpha function," did much to improve our understanding of these primitive levels of communication, which come into play in group dynamics and in the minds of psychotic subjects.

Bion's model was then used for investigating the development of the mental life of the infant. Julia Kristeva studied the suprasegmental elements of the language of depressive patients.

Guy Rosolato, through his concept of "metaphoric-metonymic oscillation," tried to take into account the modalities of the transition between representations of things and representations of words, or, ultimately, between unconscious systems and preconscious-conscious systems, modalities that would clarify the different levels, analog and digital, of communication. At present it is in the investigation of analytic therapies for very young children or patients presenting archaic pathologies that the work of developmental psychologists Daniel N.

Stern and psychoanalysts finds common ground. Nonetheless, research on non-verbal communication has become a central part of therapy for all patients, even adult and neurotic patients. Alpha function; Amae , concept of; Counter-identification; Empathy; Identification; Infans; Infantile psychosis; Infant observation direct ; Maternal reverie, capacity for; Primary object; Projective identification; Telepathy.

A Theory of Thinking. Reprinted from International Journal of Psycho-Analysis , 43 , , La conception psychanalytique de l'affect. Presses Universitaires de France. Notes on Some Schizoid Mechanisms. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 27 , Depression and melancholia Leon S. Original work published Nonverbal communication — such as facial expressions, gestures, posture, and tone of voice — is an important component of most human communications, including, of course, business communications.

Most people use nonverbal signals when communicating. Even the blind use nonverbal communications to aid in both sending and receiving messages since nonverbal techniques includes such things as tone of voice and physical proximity.

Understanding nonverbal communication techniques can help a small business owner to get a message across or successfully interpret a message received from another person.

On the other hand, nonverbal communication can also send signals that interfere with the effective presentation or reception of messages. Murphy and Herbert W. Hildebrandt noted in their book Effective Business Communications. In fact, studies have shown that between 60 and 90 percent of a message's effect may come from nonverbal clues. Therefore, it is important for small business owners and managers to be aware of the nonverbal messages they send and to develop the skill of reading the nonverbal messages contained in the behavior of others.

There are three main elements of nonverbal communication: In oral forms of communication, the appearance of both the speaker and the surroundings are vital to the successful conveyance of a message. For example, a speaker's clothing, hairstyle, use of cosmetics, neatness, and stature may cause a listener to form impressions about her occupation, socioeconomic level, competence, etc.

Similarly, such details of the surroundings as room size, furnishings, decorations, lighting, and windows can affect a listener's attitudes toward the speaker and the message being presented. The importance of nonverbal clues in surroundings can be seen in the desire of business managers to have a corner office with a view rather than a cubicle in a crowded work area. Body language, and particularly facial expressions, can provide important information that may not be contained in the verbal portion of the communication.

Facial expressions are especially helpful as they may show hidden emotions that contradict verbal statements. For example, an employee may deny having knowledge of a problem, but also have a fearful expression and glance around guiltily. Other forms of body language that may provide communication clues include posture and gestures. For example, a manager who puts his feet up on the desk may convey an impression of status and confidence, while an employee who leans forward to listen may convey interest.

Gestures can add emphasis and improve understanding when used sparingly, but the continual use of gestures can distract listeners and convey nervousness. Finally, the tone, rate, and volume of a speaker's voice can convey different meanings, as can sounds like laughing, throat clearing, or humming. It is also important to note that perfume or other odors contribute to a listener's impressions, as does physical contact between the speaker and the listener.

Silence, or the lack of sound, is a form of nonverbal communication as well. Silence can communicate a lack of understanding or even hard feelings in a face-to-face discussion. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, May Facial gestures and hand signals can often give messages to another person without a word being said. Most such forms of communication, including rude gestures, are culturally specific in their meanings.

Nonverbal communication has been referred to as " body language " in popular culture ever since the publication of Julius Fast's book of the same name in However, researchers Mark Knapp and Judith Hall , p.

However, determination of the exact boundaries of the field is a point of contention among scholars. Nonverbal communication is an area of study that straddles many disciplines—sociology, psychology, anthropology, communication, and even art and criminal justice. Each of these fields tends to focus on a slightly different aspect of nonverbal communication.

For example, psychology might focus on the nonverbal expression of emotions; anthropology might focus on the use of interpersonal space in different cultures; and communication might focus on the content of the message. However, there is more overlap among these fields than divergence. It appears that all cultures have written or oral traditions expressing the importance of nonverbal communication to understanding human beings. Over thousands of years, Chinese culture has developed a set of rules about how to judge the character and personality of an individual by observing the size, shape, and relative positions of the nose, eyes, eyebrows, chin, cheeks, and forehead.

Someone with wide-set eyes would be a "broadminded" person, while someone with a high forehead would be a "smart" person. Although there does not seem to be much scientific evidence that facial characteristics predict personality, modern people still believe this to be valid. Ancient Greek culture has also relied on non-verbal communication to understand people.

The playwright Theophrastus created a list of "31 types of men" that he made available to other playwrights to assist them in the creation of characters for their plays. Theophrastus relied on insights gleaned from nonverbal communication to describe these personalities; the penurious man does not wear his sandals until noon, and the sanguine man has slumped shoulders.

Humans still rely on nonverbal insights like these to judge the personalities and emotions of other people. In India, the sacred Hindu texts called the Veda , written around B. Late-twentieth-century research based on North Americans shows that people still concur with the Veda on this description of a liar. Research into African history has shown that one of the characteristics of an effective tribal chief was his ability to move his subjects with the power of his speeches, made particularly potent by the heavy use of nonverbal communication.

This legacy is apparent in the traditions of the African-American church in America. These same principles of strong body language and voice tone accompanying speeches has now been adopted in various forms by the rest of American society and politics because of its ability to persuade above and beyond well-crafted words.

Nonverbal communication serves a number of functions. It can define communication by providing the backdrop for communication—a quiet, dimly lit room suggests to people that the communication that occurs within that environment should also be quiet and hushed as in a religious venue.

Brightly lit rooms, with active colors such as yellow and orange, communicate active, upbeat activities. Nonverbal communication can also be connected to the behavior or dress of others in the room. If others are moving calmly, crying, and wearing formal clothes, that sends a nonverbal message that is quite distinct from a room full of people moving with a bounce in their step, laughing, and wearing Hawaiian-print shirts.

Nonverbal communication can also regulate verbal communication. Much of people's conversations are regulated by nonverbal cues so subtle that the average person does not notice them.

People nod and smile at particular moments during a face-to-face conversation. This signals the talker that the listener understands and that the talker should continue talking.

When the talker is finished, he or she will drop his or her voice tone and loudness to let the listener know. If the talker wishes to continue talking, he or she will fill the pauses that occur with a louder voice, with many "umms, ahhs," and so on. People have learned these rules so well that they adhere to them almost unconsciously.

The use of these subtle clues accounts for why people can have conversations without constantly talking over each other, or having to utter the word "over"—like the astronauts—to let the other person know when one is finished speaking. This rule can be tested by violating it. If a person tries to remain motionless while engaged in a conversation with a friend, that person will find this is not only hard to do, but it will cause the friend great consternation.

Finally, nonverbal communication can be the message itself. A frown indicates unhappiness. A wave of the hand signifies "good-bye. Raising the index finger to the lips signifies "shhh," or "be quiet," yet raising the index finger into the air in a thrusting manner may mean "we're number one. Note that most of these meanings are culturally determined which is discussed below in detail. Paul Ekman proposed that there are six ways in which verbal and nonverbal communication relate.

He suggested that nonverbal communication can substitute for verbal communication, as well as repeat, contradict, complement, accent, and regulate verbal communication. What Ekman meant by substitution is that nonverbal communication can be substituted for verbal communication. If asked whether another helping of mother's wonderful pasta is wanted, a person can shake his or her head up and down to signify "yes," rather than attempting to utter the word "yes" through a mouthful of spaghetti.

Nonverbal communication can also repeat verbal communication. People can simultaneously speak the word "no" and shake their heads side to side. Repeating and substitution seem like the same idea, but substitute means someone does not speak the word or phrase represented by the non-verbal gesture, whereas repeat means he or she does speak the word or phrase. Sometimes these simultaneous verbal and non-verbal signals will contradict each other. Someone might utter the phrase "this will be fun" and yet display a facial expression of disgust as they speak those words.

This is sarcasm; the words seem positive, yet the facial expression is negative. Nonverbal communication can also complement verbal communication. Someone might say the phrase "I've had a tough day" with their shoulders slumped and their feet dragging.

Note that slumped shoulders and dragging feet can express a number of things e. Sometimes nonverbal communication will simply accent a particular part of a spoken verbal communication. Someone might say, "It is important to punctuate your speech with nonverbal gestures," while rhythmically moving one hand up and down on each syllable in the word "punctuate.

Finally, Ekman proposes that nonverbal communication can regulate verbal communication. As discussed above, there are various unspoken rules that regulate conversations.

Listeners provide backchannel communication e. In order to communication meaning, nonverbal messages must be rule bound, similar to speech. The sentence "Floats otter the on sea the" does not make much sense because it does not conform to certain rules applying to word order. Nonverbal communication has similar properties, and when the rules are violated, they change the meanings. In North America , there are rules that guide how close people stand next to each other when talking—usually between eighteen inches and four feet.

When one person stands too close to another when talking, the other feels compelled to move away to reestablish what they feel is a comfortable distance.

The violation of this rule causes one person to feel that the other person is too pushy or aggressive, and the other person to feel that the other is too unfriendly or standoffish.

People assume that the vast majority of spoken communication is intentional; they choose the words they speak. Likewise, most nonverbal communication is intentional. People deliberately wave to others or give an insulting finger gesture. However, scholars such as Peter Andersen and Joseph Capella have argued that it appears that a greater proportion of nonverbal communication is unintentional.

For example, some people may intend to communicate calmness and maturity about the death of their cat, and yet they often unintentionally communicate sadness through their voice tone and facial expression. Similarly, people are also less aware of their non-verbal communication compared to their verbal communication. Except for unusual circumstances, people can hear all that they speak. People are usually aware of their nonverbal communication e.

For example, when lying, a person may feel afraid and yet feel they were able to hide that fear. As scholar Bella DePaulo has shown, despite their beliefs, liars are often unaware that in fact they are expressing clear signs of fear in their face, posture, or speech.

Verbal communication is more overt, and non-verbal behavior is more covert. People are formally trained in their verbal behavior in the schools. Nonverbal communication is less obvious, as in subtle facial expressions and barely perceptible changes in voice tone, and people are not typically formally trained in their nonverbal communication.


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In the communications and presentations industry there are generally just two research studies that are quoted when talking about the importance of nonverbal. This sample essay explores differences in nonverbal communication between genders, including a look at dating, workplace communication, and sexual interests.