All people use nonverbal communication during a conversation. For the most part, many of us, when unsure whether to consider the speaker’s verbal or nonverbal cues, will pick nonverbal cues. This is due to how our nonverbal messages are natural, spontaneous, and unconscious.
Nonverbal cues share the speaker’s real feeling and intentions and typically never fails to do so. The use of nonverbal communication transfers many things. It regulates our spoken conversation and gives critical information to the narrator; it is the foundation that builds relationships and tells about the truthfulness of a statement (Cuddy, 2012). It modifies what was said in words in various ways (Salovey & Mayer, 1991). Our body language cues have five significant roles. The first cue is using repetition; this is when we repeat what a person said nonverbally, such as smiling or nodding while talking about how happy an event made them feel. The second cue is contradicting. One can oppose what they are trying to convey by giving an opposite message with their bodily gestures such as shaking your head while the other person is speaking (Cuddy, 2012). An example would be twisting your face into a look of distaste while complimenting someones clothing choices. Substitution is one of the forms of body language that plays a significant role in any interaction. When somebody is deeply troubled, they don’t need words to show their sadness because it can be seen in their eyes and the way they hold their facial muscles. Facial expressions, gestures, paralinguistics, body language and posture, proxemics, eye gaze, appearance, and touch are all part of how we communicate nonverbally (Burgoon, Floyd, & Guerrero, 2010). While it may not be something we are conscious of, social interactions rely heavily on nonverbal communication between people (Salovey & Mayer, 1991). A quick interaction as you pass someone on the street all the way onto an involved conversation with a coworker or friend all send information back and forth to those involved in the discussion and even to those in the vicinity, through nonverbal cues. The sending side and the receiving side of nonverbal communication all have patterns that appear to be a product of natural selection (Salovey & Mayer, 1991). While cultural differences do have bearings on nonverbal communication, different cultures use different body language, and specific nonverbal cues mean different things in different cultural settings.
The use of nonverbals includes managing impressions, expressing intimacy, providing information, and causing influence. In a social context using the nonverbal interactions can help with specific goals as we go after an attempt to create contact with other people (Sprowl, 2010). Humans are incredibly social, we are born into a group (family), we work in groups, and we play in groups. Due to this, we interact with a wide variety of people in many kinds of situations. While we do engage verbally, which is an essential aspect of communication, the nonverbal cues and interactions provide a more significant impact on how we think and feel about other people, and often, how we get along with them. When engaging in a verbal conversation that is not the only communication happening. An entire discussion or flow of commentary can be changed or stopped by one person’s facial expressions; a speaker can give a different meaning to words by using gestures, the tone of voice, and face movement (Burgoon, Floyd, & Guerrero, 2010). If we think about it, a lot of our interactions with our friends, people we work with, and family, these times is not always filled with verbal conversation. The activities that we share, such as playing a game, eating meals together, going for a hike, involve frequent times where people are not speaking to each other.
However, even though we are quiet, nonverbal, we are still having interactions with our partners (Burgoon, Floyd, & Guerrero, 2010). These interactions are happening on a silent, nonverbal level. There are many settings in a society where doing something as simple as sitting in a restaurant or walking through a busy park involves the use of small behavioral adjustments due to how close other people are to us. While we have no intention of talking to those around us we are having interactions with our body language. Communication cannot always be directly observed; it can, however, be inferred from other things that happen that are observable (Cuddy, 2012). Due to this, communication is very much like personality, or attitudes, what we cannot see, or touch. Communication can help us understand events that happen directly to us, as well as indirectly about another person (Burgoon, Floyd, & Guerrero, 2010).
Nonverbal cues play a significant role in my work life, my interactions with behavioral rehabilitation and foster children, young boys age six to thirteen, starts with building relationships and much of this is based on my nonverbal communication. My facial expressions, body language, use of touch and the way I move and hold my hands reassures the children, and I have built my success with de-escalation around using nonverbal techniques. The concepts involved in the nonverbal communication is something that I am developing a training program around for the facility that I work at. Much of how we interpret nonverbal cues is based on our past experiences.
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