Communication is simply the process of transferring information from one place, person or group to another. Every communication needs involves (at least) one sender, a message and a recipient. It sound simple, but communication is actually a very complex subject. By ‘communication’ is here meant what Birdwhistell (1967, p. 80) has called ‘the structured dynamic processes relating to the interconnectedness of living systems- a multichannel system emergent from, and regulative of, the influence able multisensory activity of living systems’. While this is one definition which invokes a distinction between ‘informational’ and ‘integrational’ communication which overrides the less productive dichotomy between verbal and nonverbal since it presumes that, in Birdwhistell’s own words, studying nonverbal communication is like studying a noncardiac physiology (Knapp, 1972, p. 3).
Although, frequently associated with speech, there is also a nonverbal facet of communication. Nonverbal signals include everything we wordlessly say, including sighs, eye contact, tone of voice, hand movements and body language. Nonverbal gestures are learned shortly after birth, practiced and refined throughout a person’s lifetime. We learn this gestures since our childhood phase, we as a children first learn nonverbal gestures by watching and imitating our surrounding. Young children know far more than they can verbalize and generally rely heavily on adults’ nonverbal cues. Later as an adult, we practice nonverbal communication in our day-to-day life, eventually we get engaged into nonverbal communication when we verbally communicate. In fact, you might have heard it before: “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” The irrefutable fact is that in every situation our body language or nonverbal communication always speaks louder than our words.
In light of this truth, learning to effectively read nonverbal cues can be an invaluable skill in countless business interactions. Whether you’re in a meeting, interview, pitch or presentation, understanding the full realm of what is being communicated will give you a tremendous edge, telling you when it’s time to pull back or if it’s safe to push on. And since the cues of nonverbal communication are universal, it only takes practice to hone your body language skills.
Humans use nonverbal communication for a number of reasons. First, words have limitations in expressing direction, shape and personality. Secondly, a nonverbal signal is more powerful often verbal messages deal with surroundings, whereas nonverbal messages convey inner expressions. For example, an individual may say something complimentary about a movie, but their nonverbal communication might identify the comment as sarcastic. Thirdly, nonverbal messages are more likely to be more genuine, based on the fact that nonverbal behaviors cannot be controlled as easily as spoken words. Lastly, a separate communication thread is necessary to help send complex messages a speaker can add enormously to a verbal message through simple nonverbal signals. (Kansas State University, 2003)
Reflecting to one’s day-to-day life in a work place, when you enter a room to speak with a valuable client or customer, your walk can speak volumes about you and what you have to offer. You keep your back straight and your head up to communicate and show that you are confident about yourself, your company and your product or service that is being delivered. But if you catch yourself walking hunched over, pick your head up, straighten your back, and walk like you are being held up by a string which is attached to the top of your head. This will help you to show you are friendly, prepared, and excited about the meeting that is held on, rather than appearing nervous or nonplussed. Ideas can be more clearly expressed when paired with nonverbal gestures.
In The expression of the emotions in man and animals (Darwin, 1872), he posed the question: Why do our facial expressions of emotions take the particular forms they do? Why do we wrinkle our nose when we are disgusted, bare our teeth and narrow our eyes when enraged, and stare wide-eyed when we are transfixed by fear? Darwin’s answer was that we do these things primarily because they are vestiges of serviceable associated habits — behaviors that earlier in our evolutionary history had specific and direct functions. According to Darwin’s intellectual heirs, humans do these things because over the course of their evolutionary history such behaviors have acquired communicative value: they provide others with external evidence of an individual’s internal state.
Culture plays a vital role while delivering message in nonverbal gestures. Culture values and norms make an influence on nonverbal gestures and determine what kind of nonverbal behavior is appropriate. On the other hand, nonverbal gesture can be said to be a mirror which reflect different cultures. Gestures can be said as the movement of fingers to communicate with each other and express their ideas and views. Actually, they sometimes can take the place of verbal language to start and stop communication, sometimes explain and strengthen what people express. Some researchers from Levy Bruhl, Lucien (Lucien, 2010) showed that at initial time, while tribes of Indian had different verbal languages, they could communicate and understand with each other through gestures. In modern society, gesture is still an effective and irreplaceable way of communication. In cross-culture communication, people with language barrier more often use gestures to express themselves. The use of gestures seems to be very flexible and full of different meanings, particularly in different cultures.
Imagine how the scenario would look like if you do not understand the meaning of a nonverbal gesture. Imagine that you are new to the organization where you got to work with North American culture and are interacting with a new colleague at work now and then. In the flow of conversation, your colleague suddenly stops talking, smiles, points his index finger in the air about 5 to 6 inches from his right ear, and very quickly in a circular motion twirls and twists his finger. Although you understand that s/he means something very specific in his/her culture by his nonverbal gesture, you are unaware of the meaning. You then feel awkward and uncomfortable, not only because you did not understand your colleague but also because you have the sense that your colleague assumes that you do since you are working in multicultural organization.
A major challenge for many individuals seeking to become competent in a foreign culture is learning its values and norms of interpersonal communication. Becoming an accurate diagnostician of cultural differences in interpersonal communication requires competence in the verbal language of the new culture. It also requires proficiency in its nonverbal language (Elfenbein & Ambady, 2002). Among the most important facets of nonverbal communication are nonverbal gestures (Efron, 1941; Ekman & Friesen, 1969; Kendon, 1994, 1997). Gestures are part of the lexicon of nonverbal communication and serve the purpose of furthering shared understanding and communication (Morris, D., Collett, P., Marsh, P., & O’Shaughnessy, 1993). In the world full of gestures, the best single piece of advice that can be given is to remember the two A’s – ‘Ask’ and be ‘Aware.’ If you see a motion or gesture that is new or confusing to you, ask it to a local person what it signifies. Then, be aware of different body signs and customs that are around you.
Nonverbal communication is a dynamic and continuous communication process where transmission of messages or signals occurs through a nonverbal platform such as eye contact, gestures, posture, facial expression and the distance between two individuals. Here commonly understood codes are used by the senders and the receivers. It is dynamic, which means it is continuous and an ongoing uninterrupted process. When we stop talking to someone, we use silence, frowns and avoiding eye-contact or staring, etc., to convey our displeasure or anger through nonverbal gestures.
Research shows that non-verbal communication occurs more than half of the time during human communication (Toastmakers, 1996). Also, Butterworth and Beattie (1978) found that, during speech, the amount of gestures used was more frequent during pauses of speech than while an individual was speaking. Furthermore, studies show that people use gestures more when face-to-face with individuals, implying that gestures are a form of social communication (Cohen & Harrison, 1972). Hand gestures have communicative reasons for being used, whether this is conscious or sub-conscious (Toastmakers, 1996). The impact hand gestures have on speech, people, and message deliverance, varies tremendously.
We human use nonverbal gesture as a part of communication in our day-to-day life. Nonverbal messages are more likely to be more genuine since nonverbal behaviors cannot be controlled as easily as spoken words, so nonverbal gesture are considered to be powerful one. Different people may encounter different meaning of nonverbal communication even they may or may not understand it. It is said that it just takes one-tenth of a second to judge people and create their first impression. Nonverbal communicator believes that first impressions are lasting impression which can be positive as well as negative. Nonverbal gestures have been ingrained in our gene since the beginning of human civilization and are considered to be an important tool in effective communication.
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