Engaging in Nonverbal Communication
I. Definition: Nonverbal communication is all aspects of communication other than words themselves.
A. Nonverbal communication includes gestures, body language, voice inflection and volume, environment, and objects.
B. Nonverbal communication is estimated to account for 65% to 93% of the total meaning of communication.
II. There are 5 principles of nonverbal communication.
A. Nonverbal communication can be ambiguous.
1. Meanings vary over time.
2. Meanings vary according to context.
3. Nonverbal communication is guided by rules
a. Constitutive rules tell us what counts.
b. Regulative rules tells us what is appropriate or inappropriate.
B. Nonverbal behavior can interact with verbal communication in five ways.
1. Nonverbal behaviors may repeat verbal messages.
2. Nonverbal behaviors may highlight aspects of verbal messages.
3. Nonverbal behavior may complement or add to words.
4. Nonverbal behaviors may contradict verbal communication.
5. Nonverbal behaviors can substitute for words.
C. Nonverbal behavior can regulate interaction.
D. Nonverbal behavior can be a powerful tool in establishing relationship-level meanings.
1. Nonverbal behavior can express responsiveness.
2. Nonverbal behaviors are keen indicators of how we feel about others.
3. Nonverbal behavior can be a means to exert control and negotiate status.
E. Nonverbal communication reflects cultural values.
1. We learn nonverbal behaviors in the process of being socialized into our culture.
2. Different cultures teach distinct values and nonverbal behaviors to express them.
III. There are nine types of nonverbal communication.
A. Kinesics refers to body position and body motion.
1. Body posture and gestures can communicate moods.
2. Body posture and gestures can reveal how open we are to interaction.
3. We use facial expression to signal how we feel.
4. Our eyes are particularly important in signaling complex meanings.
B. Haptics refers to physical touch, which may express power and liking.
1. Touching can reveal how we feel about others.
2. Touching communicates power and status.
C. Physical appearance is how people look and the cultural meanings attached to looks.
1. Cultures prescribe ideals for physical forms.
2. Physical appearance includes both physiological characteristics and the ways that we manage our physical appearance.
D. Artifacts are personal objects.
1. Artifacts announce our identities and personalize our environment.
2. Artifacts express gender prescriptions.
3. Artifacts express cultural and ethnic identity.
4. Artifacts announce professional identity.
5. Artifacts define our personal settings and territories.
E. Proxemics refers to personal space and how we use it.
1. Space expresses status.
2. How we arrange our space lets others know if we want interaction.
F. Environmental factors are aspects of settings that affect how we think, feel, and act.
G. Chronemics concerns how we perceive and use time to define identities and interaction.
1. Chronemics expresses cultural attitudes toward time.
2. Chronemics reflects our priorities.
3. The way that we are expected to use time is influenced by social norms.
H. Paralanguage is vocal communication but without words.
1. Paralanguage signals how others should interpret our communication.
2. Paralanguage signals how we feel.
3. Paralanguage affects how others perceive us.
4. Our use of paralanguage is influenced by gender and culture.
I. Silence is the absence of communicated sound.
1. Silence can symbolize contentment or disapproval.
2. Silence can communicate awkwardness.
3. As with other forms of communication, the meaning of silence is culturally linked.
IV. There are two guidelines that are useful for improving nonverbal communication.
A. Monitor your nonverbal communication to increase the likelihood that others will perceive you and your communication in the ways you intend.
B. Be tentative when interpreting others’ nonverbal communication.
1. Be aware that nonverbal behavior is ambiguous and varies among people.
2. Be aware that nonverbal communication is affected by the contextual factors.