Chapter 1 Lecture:
Forms of Nonverbal Communication
As we have seen from the discussion of the communication process and its barriers, communication involves more than spoken or written words. For example, when Lois Lane arrives punctually for a job interview wearing a conservative blue suit and when she leans forward to answer questions in an animated voice, she is sending messages to the interviewer. These nonverbal messages will be observed and registered, just as her words are interpreted and processed, by the interviewer. Learning to recognize and to control nonverbal cues is important to the successful communicator.
Some authorities consider nonverbal signals to be even more important than words. In experiments testing the communication of feelings (such as approval or disapproval of another individual), psychologist Albert Mehrabian found that body movements and tone of voice conveyed 93 percent of a message. The actual words conveyed only 7 percent. Whether you are communicating feelings or ideas (and most messages contain both), a number of nonverbal factors are at work.
Paralanguage—How the Voice Communicates. The way in which a message is spoken is often as important as what is said. Paralanguage describes the vocal qualities, such as tone, inflection, volume, emphasis, and pitch, of a spoken message. Notice how the significance of the following message shifts according to the word emphasized:
Although the words are the same, the receiver perceives different messages when voice emphasis changes. Paralanguage often reveals the emotions, conscious and unconscious, underlying our words. Dynamic speakers and successful business leaders capitalize on paralanguage to reinforce their words. Because their voice patterns complement their words, they avoid sending conflicting messages.
Kinesics— How the Body Communicates. Body Language, the bestselling book by Julius Fast, popularized the concept of nonverbal communication. It would be inaccurate, however, to suggest that specific positions and movements are infallible indicators of underlying motivation. Such simplicity, of course, belies reality. Although we may not be able to catalog every body movement and indicate its hidden meaning, we should be aware that facial expression, eye contact, posture, and gestures exert a significant effect on viewer perception.
Facial Expression. Experts estimate that we can make and recognize nearly 250,000 distinct facial expressions. The most common expressions are interest, enjoyment, surprise, distress, shame, contempt, anger, and fear. In conversations, facial expressions are a principal source of feedback. Alert communicators display and interpret facial expressions accurately; they modify their messages to produce the effect they intend. For example, the appearance of frowns, yawns, or smirks on the faces of listeners in the audience should signal Clark Kent, a sales representative, to alter his presentation because he's not obtaining his desired result.