Chapter 1 Lecture:
Forms of Nonverbal Communication, continued
Eye Contact. Often described as the "windows of the soul," eyes are the most expressive element in face-to-face communication. Among North Americans, individuals who maintain direct eye contact are usually considered to be open, honest, and trustworthy. "Shifty" eyes suggest dishonesty; and a downward gaze may be interpreted as a sign of submission, inferiority, or humility. In this culture it's difficult to have confidence in a speaker who is unable to "look you in the eye." It must be remembered, of course, that the interpretation of much nonverbal communication is culture dependent.
Posture. The way you stand and hold your body also sends messages about your self confidence. Stooped or bowed shoulders may signal that you are burdened, self conscious, lacking confidence, submissive, beaten, guilty, or afraid. A straight back with squared shoulders typifies strength and responsibility. Hunched shoulders suggest anxiety or weariness.
Gestures. Some hand gestures are recognized and easily interpreted.
For most North Americans a circle formed with the index finger and thumb signals satisfaction, shaking the index finger indicates a warning, and showing the palm symbolizes a peaceful greeting. Other gestures are not so easily translated. Do crossed arms mean "I will not let you in"? Does rubbing the nose with a finger represent disapproval? Does
patting the hair mean approval? Does forming a "steeple" with the fingertips indicate superiority? The interpretation of these gestures and others depends greatly on the situation and also on the culture.
Image—How Appearances Influence Communication. The image an individual projects and the objects surrounding that person can communicate nonverbally. Clothing, for example, tells a great deal about an individual's status, occupation, selfimage, and aspirations. A researcher testing the perceptions of individuals conducted an experiment in which two men dressed in inexpensive and expensive clothing on alternate days. Their task was to enter stores of all types and select merchandise. When it was time to pay, they searched their pockets and announced that they had left their wallets at home. Then they tried to pay by check. When dressed in expensive clothing, the men were able to cash twice as many checks as they did when wearing inexpensive clothes. Clothing apparently communicated a nonverbal message indicating worth, integrity, and trustworthiness. Appearances definitely affect perceptions. If you look successful, you are often perceived to be successful.