Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nonverbal communication

Nonverbal communication includes any and all methods used to communicate, except for language—written or spoken (Martin & Nakayama, 2005, p.149). Nonverbal communication encompasses a wide range of forms of communicating. It consists of, among other things, gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, time orientation, and paralanguage, which includes the tone, pitch, and volume of voice. When coupled with verbal communication, it can either contradict or reinforce the verbal message. By themselves, nonverbal messages can simply substitute for a verbal message. How do we learn nonverbal behaviors and how we know which expressions mean what? All forms of communication are learned, but nonverbal behaviors are learned more subconsciously and gradually. According to Riggo and Feldman (2005), "People of all cultures learn to use nonverbal behaviors…as part of their communication repertoire." A few paragraphs later, they go on to say, that "if this is the cas e, it is no wonder that the cultural rules of nonverbal behavior are well ingrained in us by the time we are adults, and that we use them without much second thought" (p. 260). Each culture possesses its own "rules" for nonverbal communication, based on the values and beliefs of that culture. As we grow up, using nonverbal behavior becomes like second nature to us; it is not usually necessary to think about which nonverbal message we are going to send next. We learn nonverbal behaviors through watching and observing others. For example, how do we learn that when someone is being sarcastic they mean the opposite or something different from what the words they use mean? Newman suggests that when "someone says something sarcastically the tone is different to that used in a sincere remark. Children learn to understand this tone and therefore to pick up on sarcasm and humour" (2004, p. 98). If no one is there for a child to learn from, he most likely will not lea rn anything. One thing that a child might learn from its pa! rents is to put their hands on her hips when saying something like "I'm right and you're wrong." It is likely that nobody has told the child to specifically bend their arms at the elbow and place their hands decidedly on their hips to more clearly get their point across. As stated, nonverbal behaviors are learned unconsciously; we imitate others all the time without even knowing it.



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